Bob Dylan on music, creativity, faith and entertainment

Bob Dylan – Azkena Rock Festival. Creative Commons.

Bob Dylan has always been a bit of an enigma — a genius cloaked in many shades of mystery. His recent interview with the Wall Street Journal is regarding his recent book “The Philosophy of Modern Song.” The discussion can be found HERE.

Dylan fires missiles like this: “You need a solar X-ray detector just to find somebody’s heart, see if they still have one. What’s the gold standard for a song these days? What song will walk off with the trophy? ‘Paint it Black’ is black as black can be, black as a crow’s head, a galvanizing song. ‘Paperback Writer’ sounds good, too. The biographer, the ghost writer, doing it long hand. I can visualize that song; see it in my mind’s eye. ‘Strangers in the Night,’ that, too. A couple of people who don’t know each other on the dark side of things. I don’t know which one I’d vote for. I have sympathies for them all.”

Dylan on entertainment and faith: “I’ve binge watched Coronation Street, Father Brown, and some early Twilight Zones. I know they’re old-fashioned shows, but they make me feel at home. I’m not a fan of packaged programs, or news shows, so I don’t watch them. I never watch anything foul smelling or evil. Nothing disgusting … I’m a religious person. I read the scriptures a lot, meditate and pray, light candles in church. I believe in damnation and salvation, as well as predestination. The Five Books of Moses, Pauline Epistles, Invocation of the Saints, all of it.”

Or this: “I think a great song has the sentiments of the people in mind. When you hear it, you get a gut reaction, and an emotional one at the same time. A great song follows the logic of the heart and stays in your head long after you’ve heard it, like ‘Taxman,’ it can be played with a full orchestra score or by a strolling minstrel, and you don’t have to be a great singer to sing it. It’s bell, book, and candle. Otherworldly. It transports you and you feel like you’re levitating. It’s close to an out of body experience.

“A great song mutates, makes quantum leaps, turns up again like the prodigal son. It crosses genres. Could be punk rock, ragtime, folk-rock, or zydeco, and can be played in a lot of different styles, multiple styles. Bobby Bland could do it, Gene and Eunice, so could Rod Stewart, even Gene Autrey. Coltrane could do it wordless.”

Dylan on creativity: “Keypads and joysticks can be like millstones around your neck, or they can be supporting players; either one, you’re the judge. Creativity is a mysterious thing. It visits who it wants to visit, when it wants to, and I think that that, and that alone, gets to the heart of the matter.”

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