Having staged a live concert in China last month, folk icon Bob Dylan walks down memory lane during a telephonic chat.

“Protests need not always come out on the streets or shooting with the gun,” says Bob Dylan, the folk icon, as he answers a long distance call from California. “I appreciate and admire the folklore of this glorious sub continent that has one of the richest cultural heritages.” Last month saw his first performance in China, where he was earlier forbidden or never invited.

Speaking of his China tour, Bob Dylan grows excited. “This was the concert of a lifetime. I admired the Red Revolution and China is a nation to look up to.

When President Lyndon Johnson stated that he was moved to tears by Bob Dylan's numbers, he conveyed the feelings of countless people across the world. Elaborating on folk songs, Bob Dylan states, “A country or folk song is very different from a popular one. If the lyrics do not have the essence of the birth place's soil, wind and waters, it is not a folk song at all.”

Songs like Blowin' in the Wind, The times they are a Changin' and albums like “Things Must Pass” and “No Direction Home” are legendary favourites. Yet, he confesses, “My personal favourite is I will be working in Maggie's farm no more. Through this I brought out the plight of a deprived and exploited peasant in the American countryside who was ignored by Hollywood and the world. This song, I feel, is the hymn of farmers and peasants through the globe. Even Paul Robeson complimented me for my creation.”

More heart than craft

Of the current synthetic genre of music, Dylan says, “Synthetic music requires more heart than craft to be everlasting. But the majority of numbers don't appeal permanently as they lack simple emotions.” What did he think of the Beatles? “Their lyrics are said to be as popular as the Bible. They even outclassed their predecessors, Rolling Stones. Though I do not think along the same lines of all their songs, I must admit some of them like Yellow submarine, Michelle and I wanna hold your hand are fabulous. A second Beatles can never be born."

Bob Dylan confesses, “The greatest singer to musically convey the voice of people the world over is Paul Robeson. Sometimes I feel like a motherless Child is an evergreen number. The resonance in his voice is incomparable. Pete Seeager also was very effective in Where have all the flowers gone. I would be biased if I do not mention Dalia Lave, the greatest revolutionary female singer, who oozed emotions in her famous number My world can be yours.”

No comparisons

He does not believe in comparing himself with any of these greats and knows that his style and trend are unique and different. In fact Pat Boon once said if Bob Dylan rendered Anastasia it would have been far more effective than his own. Nancy Sinatra was keen to render a duet with the inimitable Dylan after he praised her haunting duet with Lee Hazlewood, Strawberries, cherries and angel's Kiss in spring.

The poetry of Dylan Thomas is the Bible for Bob Dylan, who feels that a combination of guitar, bass, drums and piano accompanied occasionally with horn sections and violins can create magical effects.

Recollecting his joint performance and appearance with George Harrison for his Bangladesh concert in 1971, Bob Dylan states, “I was determined to musically greet the survivors of a bloody battle and convey my musical condolences to those noble souls who lost their lives to liberate their nation. George Harrison was on an objective mission and how could I not support his cause?”

Grammy awards don't mean anything for this revolutionary singer. According to him, the content of a song is best with imagination and protest against all forms of despotism and wrongdoing.

He signs off, “The U.S. may be a super power but not all the wars it has fought are just; nor are all its policies. I am a writer, singer and musician and my protests are conveyed through my music.”

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Sunday MagazineJune 28, 2012