You don’t have to be a long-time Bob Dylan fan to be blown away by Jonathan Cott’s recently published compilation of interviews with the poet/rebel/sage (“Bob Dylan: The Essential Interviews“).
Any student of the heart, any devotee of creative thinking will adore this book. This morning, I sat at a noisy airport gate (enroute to see my Dad in South Carolina) so engrossed in this 450-page tome that I had to close the book to catch my breath and pause to take it all in. You learn that Robert Allen Zimmerman (who later created the stage name Bob Dylan) ran away from his home in Minnesota numerous times, worked years for a carnival, and was so impressed at an early age with Woody Guthrie’s songs of social protest, that he picked up a guitar and began to play. But the playing was always a spiritual practice. While Dylan professes to follow no organized form of religion today, the interviews take him through times when he was a born-again Christian, reader of the Bible, and student of mystical Judaism.
There are many funny, gorgeous bits (including an old Dylan interview playwright Sam Shepard recorded for Esquire). Here’s an exchange in 1966 between Dylan and journalist Nat Hentoff.
Hentoff: How do you get your kicks these days, then?
Dylan: I hire people to look into my eyes, and then I have them kick me.
Hentoff: That’s how you get your kicks?
Dylan: “No. Then I forgive them; that’s where my kicks come in.
Here’s Dylan talking about music and meditation with Robert Hillburn of the Los Angeles Times in 2004:
“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.”
And here are words of encouragement spoken to Mikal Gilmore of Rolling Stone in 1986:
“If I’ve ever had anything to tell anybody, it’s that: you can do the impossible. Anything is possible. And that’s it. No more.”