The Badgering of Bob Dylan, Or, Tell Us You Love Obama, Bob! Please!


Rolling Stone features another of its many mega-cover story interviews with Bob Dylan--a character always valuable, or at least amusing, to listen to. (The interview is not yet online, but appears in the Sept 27 issue of Rolling Stone, with a riverboat gambler looking Dylan on the cover.)

Dylan talks about his new album, a bit about his apparent belief that the soul of a dead Hell's Angel named Bobby Zimmerman (Dylan's own birth name) took over his body in the 1960s (really, and I can't explain it either), Dylan's annoyance with people who attack him for using lines from other poets in his songs, and many other interesting things.

But around 10 percent of the interview is dedicated to a bizarre performance from interlocutor Mikal Gilmore seeming desperate to get Bob Dylan to say that he thinks criticism of Barack Obama is based on racism, say he voted for Obama, or say he really likes Obama.

Dylan leads into it with an impassioned and intelligent discussion of how the stain of slavery shapes this nation. "This country is just too fucked up about color….People at each others throats because they are of a different color. It's the height of insanity, and it will hold any nation back--or any neighborhood back….It's a country founded on the backs of slaves….If slavery had been given up in a more peaceful way, America would be far ahead today."

This gives Gilmore his hook: didn't Obama change all that? And isn't it so that people who don't like him don't like him because of race? Gilmore takes five different swings at getting Dylan to agree. Some of Dylan's responses: "They did the same thing to Bush, didn't they? They did the same thing to Clinton, too, and Jimmy Carter before that….Eisenhower was accused of being un-American. And wasn't Nixon a socialist? Look what he did in China. They'll say bad things about the next guy too." On Gilmore's fourth attempt, Dylan just resorts to: "Do you want me to repeat what I just said, word for word? What are you talking about? People loved the guy when he was elected. So what are we talking about? People changing their minds?"

Gilmore then tries to get Dylan to say if he votes. Dylan won't, though he is browbeaten into a generic public service announcement declaration that "We live in a democracy. What do you want me to say? Voting is a good thing."

bob dylan cover 1166

Then Gilmore gets more direct: what does Dylan think of Obama? Dylan first deflects with: "You should be asking his wife what she thinks of him." It's great Dylan--sly, human, trying to focus from the fuzzy big picture to what matters: man and woman, husband and wife. Then: "He loves music. He's personable. He dresses good. What the fuck do you want me to say?"

Gilmore wants you to say you love your president, Bob. Gilmore follows that up with: "Would you like to see him re-elected?" Bob: "I've lived through a lot of presidents. You have too! Some are re-elected and some aren't. Being re-elected isn't the mark of a great president."

Gilmore thinks he's got him. Dylan, on the night of Obama's inauguration, was performing and said from stage: "It looks like things are gonna change now." Remember that, Bob? Stop being such a churl! Admit you love Obama!!

Dylan won't have it. Sure, he said that, but: "Did I go down to the middle of town and give a speech?….I don't know what I could have meant by that. You say things sometimes, you don't know what the hell you mean….I'm not going to deny what I said, but I would have hoped that things would've changed. I certainly hope they have."

Gilmore gives up with a final: "I get the impression…that you're reluctant to say much about the president or how he's been criticized." That's the mark of a perceptive journalist!

It all feels peculiarly quasi-totaitarian--you must praise the Great Leader!--as well as sad and childish, like Gilmore can't get through a meeting with one of the major cultural forces of his time without getting that force to ratify Gilmore's political beliefs, like Dylan's his cultural dad whose approval must be sought for a political love that maybe even Gilmore is seeing is based in little concrete. (Jann Wenner also spent an inordinate amount of time trying to get Dylan to endorse fear of global warming in a past interview.)

It's the kind of pigeonholing for a political cause Dylan has been resisting ever since 1965 or so, and it's amazing Gilmore didn't get that when it comes to praise for his president, it ain't Bob he's looking for.

I wrote a review essay for Reason in 2001 on the wonderful inauthenticity of Bob Dylan.

NEXT: Frenchman Fined For Illegally Downloaded Songs

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. It ain't me babe. No, no, no, it ain't me babe. Well put.

  2. It's called a Profession Of Faith.
    Sorry, Bobby.
    No one expects the Spanish Inquisition.

    1. NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our chief weapon is surprise...surprise and fear...fear and surprise.... Our two weapons are fear and surprise...and ruthless efficiency.... Our *three* weapons are fear, and surprise, and ruthless efficiency...and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope.... Our *four*...no... *Amongst* our weapons.... Amongst our weaponry...are such elements as fear, surprise.... I'll come in again.

  3. Rolling Stone....what is that?

    1. It was a magazine that once upon a time published funny anti-establishment pieces by one certain pj o'rourke. The mag was worth buyin back then. Now it is not.

      1. Ran pieces by Dr. Thompson as well.

        1. Wenner wouldn't want to offend the advertisers. His first concern.

          1. Imagine the question, "What do you think of all the warmongering by a Peace Laureate?"

  4. "Then Gilmore gets more direct: what does Dylan think of Obama?"

    "You should be asking his wife what she thinks of him.
    He loves music. He's personable. He dresses good. What the fuck do you want me to say?"

    Wonder how many people tried to get Dylan to lay off the godawful harmonica and also failed.

  5. Why is Obama giving Dr. Strangelove a massage?

  6. Dylan just resorts to: "Do you want me to repeat what I just said, word for word?"

    It's a writer typist for Rolling Stone, Bob. You gotta break out the finger puppets for them

  7. they've been trying to pigeonhole him for years. he drove em nuts when he went electric. and then he totally threw em for a loop when he went born again

    stay cool, bob


    thank god for people videotaping cops. or we would miss out on such treasure as...


    1. The cop went overboard alright, but dumbshit thought it was cute to not stop his bike when he clearly should have. He could have easily avoided that confrontation.

      1. i'm not seeing any overboard. i'm just seeing a lot of earthquake (shaky) footage. guy on bike refused to stop, cop made simple takedown. no muss or fuss.

        the drama is hilarious though. i would have thought this was actually fake footage by the lizard guys who made super troopers if i didn't know nimrods like this actually exist

        1. Looks like a couple of nimrods to me....nimrod...good choice.

          The guy wasnt fighting there was no need to pin him down by the neck or to bang into his bike with the cruiser. Pull ahead, block his path.

          1. But what fun is having the monopoly on initiating force if you don't use it when you have an excuse?

          2. Why did the cop pin him down by the neck?

            Because he could. And besides, it's fun.

            1. Close.

              The real reason is FUCK YOU, that's why.

  8. Yes, making a joke about his vocals. Sir, that is so obtuse that you can't even count that for satire.

  9. My respect for Bob Dylan has increased 10000 fold. Excuse me while I buy every album he ever put out. Pissing off an Obama-bot deserves to be rewarded.

    1. ^^^this. I had the same exact thought. Good for Dylan for not joining the sycophantic mob. I don't care what his political leanings are; he's a musician, not a policy-maker.

      1. Musician? Really? Dude sucks. Can't sing or play.

        He is a hell of a songwriter though.

        1. Well, he definitely can't sing now, but I think he used to better than he let on.

        2. Dylan really should have kidnapped the original members of The Byrds and forced them to sing all his songs.

          1. He did manage to rope all those famous guys into the Traveling Wilburys. Some of them could croon, some of them could play, all Dylan needed to do was add a bit of a gravel bass.

    2. You're talking a major setback there. I own enough of his recordings and seriously to buy the rest of them I'd have to have Obama or Romney's millions to rationalize it.

  10. Bob must not actually read Rolling Stone these days.

    1. Who does? I mean except other journalists?

      1. Obama's campaign manager?

  11. A couple years ago I got a year's subscription after purchasing some tickets through Ticketmaster. What a fucking joke. If you didn't know better you'd think it was a parody of liberalism, but they're serious!
    Too funny.

    1. I had a year long subscription a few years back too. Don't remember how or why, pretty sure I didn't pay for it. I'd like to think I didn't, anyway. So, they started coming in and I'd look at the covers - one issue it's the kid from Twilight shirtless, the next one it's Clapton and Beck, then Rhianna or Lady Gaga, followed by Roger Waters. Who the hell is their target audience? Pre-teens reading with their grandparents?

  12. Mikal Gilmore's brother Gary was the infamous murderer executed by firing squad in Utah. Sooooo, he changed his name from Michael to Mikal and left his last name the same. We should be surprised that he writes garbage?

    1. What a totally irrelevant comment.

      1. Whatever. It's as good an excuse as any to post this...


  13. dylan knows all you need is three chords, a guitar and the truth

    they have ALWAYS tried to own him and fit him into their cubbyholes, and he, being an iconoclast has always resisted their bullshit

    1. "they have ALWAYS tried to own him and fit him into their cubbyholes"

      Agreed. This is almost as good as when he broke out the electric guitar at the Newport in '65 to purposely piss off the condescending folk (faux) fans of music. He's like F**k You pretentious a**holes.

  14. In his autobiography, "Chronicles," Dylan actually appeared to be much more right wing than anyone knew. He chastised the anti-war movement, and said his only responsibility was to his family, not to anyone else. One quote when speaking about what he owed to the 'progressive' movement:
    "My family was my light? That was where my dedication was first, last, and everything in-between. What did I owe the rest of the world? Nothing. Not a damn thing."

    Almost Randian.

    1. I get the feeling Dylan's a left-libertarian. He wants progress, peace, equality and justice but, unlike the modern Left, he understands the government is a den of murderous crooks and phonies and thus won't bring any of the above.

    2. That's a great qoute

  15. Rolling Stone is the magazine version of the slightly pathetic upper middle aged guy desperately trying to stay young and hip.

  16. That was great. Bob is definitely one of those guys who, while I don't ever really want to listen to their music much, I have to admit is pretty awesome. I wish more artists would be more tight-lipped about their political opinions (or lack thereof).

  17. Is it just me, or is Dylan slowly transforming into Vincent Price?

  18. Shorter Gimore: "Please, Bob! Validate my vapid delusional love for the Dear Leader. Please? I need this. Why won't you just admit that you love Obama and want to suck his cock as much as I do?"

    What a dipshit. I think at this point Dylan's pretty much sick of being looked at as the "voice of the 60's" or whatever and would rather people just stop trying to tie their stupid political causes to him.

  19. "He loves music. He's personable. He dresses good. What the fuck do you want me to say?"

    I believe Bob just set a new standard for "Damning with faint praise." Well played, sir. Well played, indeed.

    1. You read a lot into that. Not sure that refusing to wade into politics is the same as "damning with faint praise."

  20. I may not respect him as a musician or vocalist, but damn that some sweet, sweet irreverence right there.

    But still, his singing voice makes my dog howl in pain.

  21. There will be no love, except the love of Big Brother.

  22. Rolling Stone? Can you still clean your doobie on that? Can anyone still afford their doobie under Oama?
    Can any one afford Rolling Stone under Obama? Buzzy

    1. Besides, the Obama DEA SWAT teams are dedicated to busting down the doors of filthy dirty criminal potheads....oh FUCK!!

      Way to go, ROLLING STONE magazine. Thanks for your support.

  23. Wanna buy some mandies, Bob?

  24. Awesome. I have read a few interviews of artists like this, although this one takes the cake. Journalists often have no clue about how a lot of artists work. For instance, the guy interviewing Bob Dylan was probably thinking "ooh, the 60s were all about political change! 60s artists were all political! Bob Dylan was big in the 60s and so he must love Obama because the 60s were great for change!" ...not realizing that it was journalists and intellectuals that largely put the political spin on everything in the 60s. Most artists have always just been about making art.

  25. Why does everybody insist that we live in a Democracy? Did eveyone miss their civics/history clases? No wonder nobody knows what hell is going on.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.