April 29, 2004

The 10-Minute Anthem That Changed the World

An excerpt from Robert Hilburn's extensive and fascinating interview with Bob Dylan:

Dylan leans over and picks up the acoustic guitar.

"Well, you have to understand that I'm not a melodist," he says. "My songs are either based on old Protestant hymns or Carter family songs or variations of the blues form.

"What happens is, I'll take a song I know and simply start playing it in my head. That's the way I meditate. A lot of people will look at a crack on the wall and meditate, or count sheep or angels or money or something, and it's a proven fact that it'll help them relax. I don't meditate on any of that stuff. I meditate on a song.

"I'll be playing Bob Nolan's 'Tumbling Tumbleweeds,' for instance, in my head constantly %u2014 while I'm driving a car or talking to a person or sitting around or whatever. People will think they are talking to me and I'm talking back, but I'm not. I'm listening to the song in my head. At a certain point, some of the words will change and I'll start writing a song."

He's slowly strumming the guitar, but it's hard to pick out the tune.

"I wrote 'Blowin' in the Wind' in 10 minutes, just put words to an old spiritual, probably something I learned from Carter Family records. That's the folk music tradition. You use what's been handed down. 'The Times They Are A-Changin' is probably from an old Scottish folk song."

Pointer thanks to Outer Life which, strangely, "resisted Bob Dylan for a long time."

Posted by Vanderleun at April 29, 2004 5:21 AM
Bookmark and Share



"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Funny. I just so happen to be wearing a Dylan shirt that I got last time I saw him play.

Thanks for the pointer to the interview.

Posted by: growler at April 29, 2004 9:22 AM

So on the one hand Bob Dylan freely admits that he depends on the public domain, and describes how he bases his HUGELY derivative art directly on other people's works whose copyrights have expired or on creative works that were never copyrighted.

On the other hand, he is front and center on the "copyrights should last forever" bandwagon, which seeks to make it illegal for the next generation of songwriters to do what he takes for granted. He actually went to Washington to lobby Congress to make it illegal for future songwriters to practice his own craft, an effort which came to pass in the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998.

Then he lionizes the very "folk tradition" that he is so openly in favor of extinguishing. Apparently Dylan sees no disconnect between the fact that he has the right to write new songs to Carter Family songs and make money on them without being sued, and the fact that because of his efforts some future genius songwriter who thinks up and records new words to a Dylan song will only be able to do so at the risk of being sued by Dylan's grandchildren's copyright lawyers.

Fucking Hypocrite. Bob Dylan is NOT one of the good guys.

Posted by: jms at April 29, 2004 8:19 PM