“Billy [James, head of publicity for Colombia records] asked me who I saw myself like in today’s music scene.  I told him, nobody.  That part of things was true, I really didn’t see myself like anybody.  The rest of it, though, was pure hokum-hophead talk.”

“My mind was strong like a trap and I didn’t need any guarantee of validity.”

“What was not a mistake was the ghost of Billy Lyons rootin’ the mountain down, standing ’round in East Cairo, Black Betty bam be lam.  That was no mistake.  That’s the stuff that was happening.  That’s the stuff that could make you question what you’d always accepted, could litter the landscape with broken hearts, had power of spirit.”

[Dave Van Ronk]  “He was passionate and stinging, sang like a soldier of fortune and sounded like he paid the price…He was what the city was all about.  In Greenwich Village, Van Ronk was king of the street, he reigned supreme.”

“Actually, I wanted to play for anybody.  I could never sit in a room and just play all by myself.  I needed to play for people and all the time.  You can say I practiced in public and my whole life was becoming what I practiced.”

“The madly complicated modern world was something I took little interest in.  It had no relevancy, no weight.  I wasn’t seduced by it.”

“There were a million stories, just everyday New York things if you wanted to focus in on them.  It was always right out in front of you, blended together, but you have to pull it apart to make any sense of it.”

“If you told the truth, that was all well and good and if you told the un-truth, well, that’s still well and good.  Folk songs had taught me that.”

“Sometimes you just want to do things your way, want to see for yourself what lies behind the misty curtain…You want to write songs that are bigger than life…You have to know and understand something and then go past the vernacular.”

“If anything, I wanted to understand things and then be free of them.  I needed to learn how to telescope things, ideas.  Things were too big to see all at once…You might be able to put it all into one paragraph or into one verse of a song if you could get it right.”

“As for me, what I did to break away was to take simple folk changes and put new imagery and attitude to them, use catchphrases and metaphor combined with a new set of ordinances that evolved into something different that had not been heard before.”

“The thought occurred to me that maybe I’d have to write my own folk songs, ones that Mike [Seeger] didn’t know.  That was a startling thought.”

“I did everything fast.  Thought fast, ate fast, talked fast and walked fast.  I even sang my songs fast.  I needed to slow my mind down if I was going to be a composer with anything to say.”

[New York City]…was like some uncarved block without any name or shape and it showed no favoritism.  Everything was always new, always changing.  It was never the same old crowd on the streets.”

“Being true to yourself, that was the thing.  I was more a cowpuncher than a Pied Piper.”

“After a while you learn that privacy is something you can sell, but you can’t buy it back.”

“Like Joe Tex, I’d never been much in the mainstream.  I thought about how much more I was like him than like Carson.  I shut the TV off.  Outside I heard a woodpecker tapping up against a tree in the dark.  As long as I was alive I was going to stay interested in something.”

“A song is like a dream, and you try to make it come true.  They’re like strange countries that you have to enter.”

“I liked the night.  Things grow at night.  My imagination is available to me at night.  All my preconceptions of things go away.  Sometimes you could be looking for heaven in the wrong places.  Sometimes it could be under your feet.  Or in your bed.”

[about the album, Oh Mercy] “I can’t say if it’s the record either of us wanted…and getting what you want isn’t always the most important thing in life anyway.”

“I felt right at home in this mythical realm made up not with individuals so much as archetypes, vividly drawn archetypes of humanity, metaphysical in shape, each rugged soul filled with natural knowing and inner wisdom…Folk music was all I needed to exist. Trouble was, there wasn’t enough of it.  It was out of date, had no proper connection to the actualities, the trends of the time…”

“Guthrie divides the world between those who work and those who don’t and is interested in the liberation of the human race and wants to create a world worth living in.  Bound for Glory is a hell of a book.  It’s huge.  Almost too big.”

“I had a primitive way of looking at things and I liked country fair politics.  My favorite politician was Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, who reminded me of Tom Mix, and there wasn’t any way to explain that to anybody.”


Copyright 2004 by Bob Dylan

bob dylan website: https://www.bobdylan.com

photo: everett/alamy