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Bob Dylan: Our 1985 Cover Story

(Credit: Aaron Rapoport/Corbis/Getty Images)

This article originally appeared in the December 1985 issue of SPIN.

Bob Dylan, poet laureate, prophet in a motorcycle jacket. Mystery tramp. Napoleon in rags. A Jew. A Christian. A million contradictions. A complete unknown, like a rolling stone. He’s been analyzed, classified, categorized, crucified, defined, dissected, detected, inspected, and rejected, but never figured out.

He blew into mythology in 1961 with a guitar, harmonica, and corduroy cap, a cross between Woody Guthrie and Little Richard. He was like the first punk folksinger. He introduced the protest song to rock. He made words more important than melody, more important than the beat. His smokey, nasal voice and sexy phrasings are unique. He can write surreal songs with a logic all their own—like a James Rosenquist painting or a Rimbaud prose poem—and simple, straight-from-the-heart ballads with equal ease. He can take the dark out of the nighttime and paint the daytime black.

He probably could have been the biggest sex symbol since Elvis, had he chosen to. Then Mick Jagger came along. The Stones, the Beatles, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, all paid him their due. The radical Weathermen took their name from him. He caused a riot at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival when he went on stage and played electric rock. The folk faction thought he sold out. Later, during the height of “flower power,” when everyone was getting into Eastern religion, Dylan went to Jerusalem, to the Wailing Wall, wearing a yarmulke. A decade later he was a born-again Christian, or so it seemed, putting out gospel records. People discovered that he really wasn’t where it’s at.

It’s not like Dylan suddenly got less political or more spiritual. Biblical references have always been in his songs. People have been calling him a visionary for years. Who knows? Suppose a spiritual revolution is going on and rock ‘n’ roll’s just a prelude to something else. Who would make a better prophet than Dylan?

Sometimes, what looks large from a distance, close up ain’t never that big. Dylan’s like one of his lines. He lives pretty simply, in a nice house on secluded property on the California coast, with a bunch of chickens, horses, and dogs. The fact that he’s more visible now and doing ordinary things, like the Grammies, videos, even this interview, doesn’t make him any less mysterious.

It adds to it.

You Want to Talk to Me, Go Ahead and Talk

A lot of people from the press want to talk to me, but they never do, and for some reason there’s this great mystery, if that’s what it is. They put it on me. It sells newspapers, I guess. News is a business. It really has nothing to do with me personally, so I really don’t keep up with it. When I think of mystery, I don’t think about myself. I think of the universe, like why does the moon rise when the sun falls? Caterpillars turn into butterflies?

I really haven’t remained a recluse. I just haven’t talked to the press over the years because I’ve had to deal with personal things and usually they take priority over talking about myself. I stay out of sight if I can. Dealing with my own life takes priority over other people dealing with my life. I mean, for instance, if I got to get the landlord to fix the plumbing, or get some guy to put up money for a movie, or if I just feel I’m being treated unfairly, then I need to deal with this by myself and not blab it all over to the newspapers.

Other people knowing about things confuses the situation, and I’m not prepared for that. I don’t like to talk about myself. The things I have to say about such things as ghetto bosses, salvation and sin, lust, murderers going free, and children without hope—messianic kingdom-type stuff, that sort of thing—people don’t like to print. Usually I don’t have any answers to the questions they would print, anyway.

Who would you want to interview?
A lot of people who aren’t alive: Hank Williams, Apollinaire, Joseph from the Bible, Marilyn Monroe, John F. Kennedy, Mohammed, Paul the Apostle, maybe John Wilkes Booth, maybe Gogol. I’d like to interview people who died leaving a great unsolved mess behind, who left people for ages to do nothing but speculate.

As far as anybody living goes, who’s there to interview? Castro? Gorbachev? Reagan? The Hillside Strangler? What are they going to tell you? The destiny of the world’s wealthiest man, that don’t interest me. I know what his reward is. Anybody who’s done work that I admire, I’d rather just leave it at that. I’m not that pushy about finding out how people come up with what they come up with, so what does that leave you with? Just the daily life of somebody. You know, like, “How come you don’t eat fish?” That really wouldn’t give me answers to what I’m wondering about.

Dark Sunglasses

I started out with Batman and Robin-type sunglasses. I always thought the best kind of sunglasses are the motorcycle helmets with the black plastic masks on them. That way, nobody can recognize the back of your head either. With sunglasses, you buy them off the rack, if they fit, and put them on. Shoes are tougher. You go into a store, try this pair on, that pair on. I feel I have to buy something if I put it on. What I’m looking for is a pair of glasses that can see through walls, whether they’re sunglasses or not.

Isn’t it hard to wear dark glasses after all these years?
Late at night it is, when I’m driving. I don’t wear them all the time. I’ve gone through periods when I wear them, but I don’t know why. I’m nearsighted, so I wear them for that reason.

Highway 61 Revisited

People ask me about the ’60s all the time. That’s the first thing they want to know. I say, if you want to know about the ’60s, read Armies of the Night by Norman Mailer, or read Marshall McLuhan or Abraham Maslow.

A lot of people have written about the ’60s in an exciting way and have told the truth. The singers were just a part of it. I can’t tell them that much. Certain things I can remember very clearly. Others are a kinda blur, but where I was and what was happening I can focus in on if I’m forced to. Of course, there are people who can remember in vivid detail. Ginsberg has that talent and Kerouac had that talent to a great degree. Kerouac never forgot anything, so he could write anything because he could just remember.

Bob Dylan: Our 1985 Cover Story Keith Baugh/Redferns

My Back Pages

Miles Davis is my definition of cool. I loved to see him in the small clubs playing his solo, turn his back on the crowd, put down his horn and walk off the stage, let the band keep playing, and then come back and play a few notes at the end. I did that at a couple of shows. The audience thought I was sick or something.

Lily St. Cyr (the stripper), Dorothy Dandridge, Mary Magdalen, that’s my definition of hot.

My first pop hero was Johnny Ray. I saw him late ’78. I think he was playing club lounges. He hasn’t had a hit for a while. Maybe he needs a new record company. I hope the guy’s still alive. People forget how good he was.

The only person I can think of who didn’t return a phone call of mine was Walter Yetnikoff (president of CBS) the summer before last. I placed it personally, direct dial, long distance, at 3 o’clock in the morning.

The last record I bought was Lucille Bogan. She was a blues singer who I had heard of, but not her records. I don’t buy too many contemporary records. I didn’t go down to the record store and buy the record personally. I know someone who works in a record store in town and I called and asked him to set it aside. No, I didn’t actually pick it up, somebody else did.

The first expensive thing I bought with my first big paycheck was a ’65 baby-blue Mustang convertible. But a guy who worked for me rolled it down a hill in Woodstock and it smashed into a truck. I got 25 bucks for it.

The name on my driver’s license is Bob Dylan. It was legally changed when I went to work for Folk City a few thousand years ago. They had to get my name straight for the union.

I never watch sports on TV, although I did see John McEnroe beat Jimmy Connors at Wimbledon when I was over in England last year. There was a TV set backstage and I had gotten there early and I paid attention to the whole thing. Usually I don’t stay with something that long.

I used to play hockey when I was growing up. Everyone sort of learns how to skate and play hockey at an early age (in Minnesota). I usually played forward, sometimes center. My cousin was a goalie at the University of Colorado. I didn’t play too much baseball, because my eyes were kind of bad and the ball would hit me when I wasn’t looking. I never played much basketball, unless I played with my kids. Football I never played at all, not even touch football. I really don’t like to hurt myself.

I have a good understanding with all the women who have been in my life, whether I see them occasionally or not. We’re still always best of friends.

Tangled Up in Blue

I once read a book of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s letters to some girl, and they were extremely private and personal, and I didn’t feel there was any of myself in those letters, but I could identify with what he was saying.

A lot of myself crosses over into my songs. I’ll write something and say to myself, I can change this, I can make this not so personal, and at other times I’ll say, I think I’ll leave this on a personal level, and if somebody wants to peek at it and make up their own minds about what kind of character I am, that’s up to them.

Other times I might say, well, it’s too personal, I think I’ll turn the corner on it, because why do I want somebody thinking about what I’m thinking about, especially if it’s not to their benefit.

Bob Dylan: Our 1985 Cover Story Luciano Viti/Getty Images

Tales of Yankee Power

The best songs are the songs you write that you don’t know anything about. They’re an escape. I don’t do too much of that because maybe it’s more important to deal with what’s happening rather than to put yourself in a place where all you can do is imagine something. If you can imagine something and you haven’t experienced it, it’s usually true that someone else has actually gone through it and will identify with it.

I actually think about Poe’s stories, “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Pit and the Pendulum.” Certainly, if you look at his life, he really didn’t experience any of that stuff. But some fantastic stories came out of his imagination. Like, “Here I am stuck in this job I can’t get out of. I’m working as a civil servant, what am I going to do next? I hate this existence.” So what does he do? He sits in his attic and writes a story and all the people take it to mean he’s a very weird character.

Now, I don’t think that’s an illegitimate way to go about things, but then you got someone like Herman Melville who writes out of experience—Moby Dick or Confidence Man. I think there’s a certain amount of fantasy in what he wrote. Can you see him riding on the back of a whale? I don’t know. I’ve never been to college and taken a literary course. I can only try to answer these questions, because I’m supposed to be somebody who knows something about writing, but the actual fact is, I don’t really know that much about it. I don’t know what there is to know about it, anyway.

I began writing because I was singing. I think that’s an important thing. I started writing because things were changing all the time and a certain song needed to be written. I started writing them because I wanted to sing them. If they had been written, I wouldn’t have started to write them. Anyway, one thing led to another and I just kept on writing my own songs, but I stumbled into it, really. It was nothing I had prepared myself for, but I did sing a lot of songs before I wrote any of my own. I think that’s important too.

Did you ever send your poems to any poetry magazines?
No, I didn’t start writing poetry until I was out of high school. I was 18 or so when I discovered Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Phillip Whalen, Frank O’Hara, and those guys. Then I went back and started reading the French guys, Rimbaud and François Villon; I started putting tunes to their poems. There used to be a folk music scene and jazz clubs just about every place. The two scenes were very much connected, where the poets would read to a small combo, so I was close up to that for a while. My songs were influenced not so much by poetry on the page but by poetry being recited by the poets who recited poems with jazz bands.

The Real You at Last

Sometimes the “you” in my songs is me talking to me. Other times I can be talking to somebody else. If I’m talking to me in a song, I’m not going to drop everything and say, alright, now I’m talking to you. It’s up to you to figure out who’s who. A lot of times it’s “you” talking to “you.” The “I,” like in “I and I,” also changes. It could be I, or it could be the “I” who created me. And also, it could be another person who’s saying “I.” When I say “I” right now, I don’t know who I’m talking about.

All I Really Want to Do

As long as I continue to make records and play, which I’m not through doing yet, I have to go along with what the scene is at the time. I’m not a Pete Seeger. I’ve actually done that every once in a while, where I have led two thousand, three thousand people through songs, but I haven’t done it like Pete Seeger. He’s a master at that, leading a mass of people in four-part harmony to a song not even in their language.

I think he could appeal to people as much as Sting could, because he could make them feel like they matter and make sense to themselves and feel like they’re contributing to something. Seeing Tears for Fears is like being a spectator at a football game. Pete is almost like a tribal medicine man, in the true sense of the word. Rock ‘n roll performers aren’t. They’re just kind of working out other people’s fantasies.

Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream

I signed a record contract with John Hammond, Sr., of Columbia Records in 1961. It was a big moment. I had been rejected by a lot of folk companies—Folkways, Tradition, Prestige, Vanguard. It was meant to be, actually. If those other companies had signed me, I would have recorded folk songs, and I don’t think they would have stayed with me. Most of those companies went out of business, anyway.

Dream #116: The Freewheelin’ album. The girl on the cover with me is Suze Rotolo, my roommate at the time.

Bob Dylan: Our 1985 Cover Story Dick Darrell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Newport, 1965

The first time I played electric before a large group of people was at the Newport Folk Festival, but I had a hit record out (Bringing It All Back Home), so I don’t know how people expected me to do anything different. I was aware that people were fighting in the audience, but I couldn’t understand it. I was a little embarrassed by the fuss, because it was for the wrong reasons. I mean, you can do some really disgusting things in life and people will let you get away with it. Then you do something that you don’t think is anything more than natural and people react in that type of riotous way, but I don’t pay too much attention to it.

Motorpsycho Nitemare

In 1966 I had a motorcycle accident and ended up with several broken vertebrae and a concussion. That put me down for a while. I couldn’t go on doing what I had been. I was pretty wound up before that accident happened. It set me down so I could see things in a better perspective. I wasn’t seeing anything in any kind of perspective. I probably would have died if I had kept on going the way I had been.

Gospel Plow

In 1979 I went out on tour and played no song that I had ever played before live. It was a whole different show, and I thought that was a pretty amazing thing to do. I don’t know any other artist who has done that, has not played whatever they’re known for.

The Slow Train record was out and I had the songs to the next record and then I had some songs that never were recorded. I had about 20 songs that never had been sung live before, and nobody seemed to pick up on that. They were seeing me as if they were dropping into some club I was playing in and were to witness something that really wasn’t for publicity purposes. Yet it got all kinds of negative publicity. The only thing that bothered me about it was that the negative publicity was so hateful that it turned a lot of people off from making up their own minds, and financially that can hurt if you got a show on the road.

The first time we went out on that tour, we had something like eight weeks booked. Two of the weeks were in San Francisco. In the review in the paper, the man did not understand any of the concepts behind any part of the show, and he wrote an anti-Bob Dylan thing. He probably never liked me anyway, but just said that he did.

A lot of them guys say stuff like, “Well, he changed our lives before, how come he can’t do it now?” Just an excuse really. Their expectations are so high, nobody can fulfill them. The can’t fulfill their own expectations, so they expect other people to do it for them. I don’t mind being put down, but intense personal hatred is another thing. It was like an opening-night critic burying a show on Broadway.

This particular review got picked up and printed in all the newspapers of the cities we were going to play to even before tickets went on sale, and people would read this review and decide the didn’t want to see the show. So it hurt us at the box office, and it took a while to work back from there. I thought the show was pretty relevant for what was going on at the time.

Positively 4th Street

Outside of a song like “Positively 4th Street,” which is extremely one-dimensional, which I like, I don’t usually purge myself by writing anything about any type of quote, so-called, relationships. I don’t have the kinds of relationships that are built on any kind of false pretense, not to say that I haven’t. I’ve had just as many as anybody else, but I haven’t had them in a long time. Usually everything with me and anybody is up front. My-life-is-an-open-book sort of thing.

And I choose to be involved with the people I’m involved with. They don’t choose me.

Heart of Gold

The only time it bothered me that someone sounded like me was when I was living in Phoenix, Arizona, in about ’72 and the big song at the time was “Heart of Gold.” I used to hate it when it came on the radio. I always liked Neil Young, but it bothered me every time I listened to “Heart of Gold.” I think it was up at number one for a long time, and I’d say, “Shit, that’s me. If it sounds like me, it should as well be me.”

There I was, stuck on the desert someplace, having to cool out for a while. New York was a heavy place. Woodstock was worse, people living in trees outside my house, fans trying to batter down my door, cars following me up dark mountain roads. I needed to lay back for a while, forget about things, myself included, and I’d get so far away and turn on the radio and there I am, but it’s not me. It seemed to me somebody else had taken my thing and had run away with it, you know, and I never got over it. Maybe tomorrow.

Has Anybody Seen My Love?

“Tight Connection to My Heart” is a very visual song. I want to make a movie out of it. I don’t think it’s going to get done. I think it’s going to go past on the way, but of all the songs I’ve ever written, that might be one of the most visual.

Of all the songs I’ve written, that’s the one that’s got characters that can be identified with. Whatever the fuck that means. I don’t know, I may be trying to make it more important than it is, but I can see the people in it. Have you ever heard that song “I’m a Rambler, I’m a Gambler,” … “I once had a sweetheart, age was 16, she was the Flower of Belton and the Rose of Saline?” Same girl, maybe older. I don’t know, maybe it should stay a song.

In most of my songs, I know who it is that I’m singing about and to. Lately, since ’78, that’s been true and hasn’t changed. The stuff before ’78, those people have kinda disappeared, ’76, ’75, ’74. If you see me live, you won’t hear me sing too many of those songs. There’s a certain area of songs, a certain period that I don’t feel that close to. Like the songs on the Desire album, that’s kind of a fog to me. But since ’78 the characters have all been extremely real and are still there. The ones I choose to talk about and relate to are the ones I find some kind of greatness in.

Bob Dylan: Our 1985 Cover Story Keith Baugh/Redferns

Million Dollar Bash

I know going on the Grammies is not my type of thing, but with Stevie (Wonder) it seemed like an interesting idea. I wasn’t doing anything that night. I didn’t feel I was making any great statement. For me, it was just going down to the place and changing my clothes.

Idiot Wind

Videos are out of character for me, too. The latest ones I’ve done with Dave Stewart are all right. The other ones, I don’t know, I was just ordered around. I didn’t pay much attention to those videos. You have to make them if you make records. You just have to. But you have to play live. You can’t hide behind videos. I think once this video thing peaks out, people will get back to see who performs live and who don’t.


I don’t think censorship applies to me. It applies more to Top 40 artists. People who have hit records might have to be concerned with that, but I don’t have those kinds of records that I’d have to be concerned about what I say. I’m just going to write any old song I feel like writing.

The way I feel about it, I don’t buy any of those records, anyway. I don’t even like most of that music. I couldn’t care at all if the records you hear on the radio are X-rated or R-rated.

I don’t think it’s right, however, I’m opposed to it. I think every single song that you hear can be seen in another point of view from what it is. People have been reading stuff into my songs for years. I’d probably be the first one with a letter on their record.

Which letter?
F and B, Fire and Brimstone. But I don’t know about the B, that could stand for Boring. Certainly a lot of stuff today would fall into that category.

Rainy Day Women

I’ve always been drawn to a certain kind of woman. It’s the voice more than anything else. I listen to the voice first. It’s that sound I heard when I was growing up. It was calling out to me. When everything was blank and void, I would listen for hours to the Staple Singers. It’s that sort of gospel singing sound. Or that voice on the Crystal’s record, “The He Kissed Me,” Clydie King, Memphis Minnie, that type of thing. There’s something in that voice, that whenever I hear it, I drop everything, whatever it is.

What happens when the body doesn’t match the voice?
A body is a body. A woman could be deaf, dumb, crippled, and blind and still have soul and compassion. That’s all that matters to me. You can hear it in the voice.

I Forgot More Than You’ll Ever Know

I never had that much to do with Edie Sedgwick. I’ve seen where I have had, and read that I have had, but I don’t remember Edie that well. I remember she was around, but I know other people who, as far as I know, might have been involved with Edie.

Uh, she was a great girl. An exciting girl, very enthusiastic. She was around the Andy Warhol scene, and I drifted in and out of that scene, but then I moved out of the Chelsea Hotel. We, me and my wife, lived in the Chelsea Hotel on the third floor in 1965 or ’66, when our first baby was born. We moved out of that hotel maybe a year before Chelsea Girls, and when Chelsea Girls came out, it was all over for the Chelsea Hotel. You might as well have burned it down. The notoriety it had gotten from that movie pretty much destroyed it.

I think Edie was in Chelsea Girls. I had lost total touch with her by that time, anyway. It may just have been a time when there was just a lot of stuff happening. Ondine, Steve Paul’s Scene, Cheetah. That’s when I would have known Edie if I would have known her, and I did know her, but I don’t recall any type of relationship. If I did have one, I think I’d remember.

Bob Dylan: Our 1985 Cover Story Paul Natkin/Getty Images

I Threw It All Away

I once traded an Andy Warhol “Elvis Presley” painting for a sofa, which was a stupid thing to do. I always wanted to tell Andy what a stupid thing I done, and if he had another painting he would give me, I’d never do it again.

Another Side of Bob Dylan

I never read Freud. I’ve never been attracted to anything he has said, and I think he’s started a lot of nonsense with psychiatry and that business. I don’t think psychiatry can help or has helped anybody. I think it’s a big fraud (pun not intended) on the public. Billions of dollars have changed hands that could be used for far better purposes.

A lot of people have trouble with their parents up until they’re 50, 60, 70 years old. They can’t get off their parents. I never had that kind of problem with my parents. Like John Lennon, “Mother”: “Mother, I had you but you never had me.” I can’t imagine that. I know a lot of people have. There are a lot of orphans in the world, for sure. But that’s not been my experience. I have a strong identification with orphans, but I’ve been raised by people who feel that fathers, whether they’re married or not, should be responsible for their children, that all sons should be taught a trade, and that parents should be punished for their children’s crimes.

Actually, I was raised more by my grandmother. She was a fantastic lady. I love her so much, and I miss her a lot. But, getting back to the other thing, it all needs to be shaken up, and it will be. I never had any barriers to get across that were that clear to me, that I had to bust down to anything I truly loved.

If I had any advantage over anybody at all, it’s the advantage that I was all alone and could think and do what I wanted to. Looking back on it, it probably has a lot to do with growing up in northern Minnesota. I don’t know what I would have been if I was growing up in the Bronx or Ethiopia or South America or even California. I think everybody’s environment affects him in that way.

Where I grew up…it’s been a long time since. I forgot about it once I went east. I couldn’t remember very much about it even then. I remember even less about it now. I don’t have any long great story to tell about when I was a kid that would let anybody know how it is that I am what I am.

Patti Smith says you were Rimbaud in a previous incarnation.
I don’t know if she’s right or wrong, but Patti Smith, then, of course, knows a lot of deep details that I might not be aware of. She might be clued in to something that’s a little beyond me. I know at least a dozen women who tell me they were the Queen of Sheba. And I know a few Napoleons and two Joan of Arcs and one Einstein.

All Along the Watchtower

There weren’t too many Jews in Hibbing, Minnesota. Most of them I was related to. The town didn’t have a rabbi, and it was time for me to be bar mitzvahed. Suddenly a rabbi showed up under strange circumstances for only a year. He and his wife got off the bus in the middle of winter. He showed up just in time for me to learn this stuff.

He was an old man from Brooklyn who had a white beard and wore a black hat and black clothes. They put him upstairs of the café, which was the local hangout. It was a rock ‘n’ roll café where I used to hang out, too. I used to go up there every day to learn this stuff, either after school or after dinner. After studying with him an hour or so, I’d come down and boogie.

The rabbi taught me what I had to learn, and after he conducted this bar mitzvah, he just disappeared. The people didn’t want him. He didn’t look like anybody’s idea of a rabbi. He was an embarrassment. All the Jews up there shaved their heads and, I think, worked on Saturday. And I never saw him again. It’s like he came and went like a ghost.

Later I found out he was Orthodox. Jews separate themselves like that. Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, as if God calls them that. Christians, too. Baptists, Assembly of God, Methodists, Calvinists. God has no respect for a person’s title. He don’t care what you call yourself.

A Puff of Smoke

I’ve never been able to understand the seriousness of it all, the seriousness of pride. People talk, act, live as if they’re never going to die. And what do they leave behind? Nothing. Nothing but a mask.

Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door

Whenever anybody does something in a big way, it’s always rejected at home and accepted someplace else. For instance, that could apply to Buddha. Who was Buddha? An Indian. Who are Buddhists? Chinese, Japanese, Asian people. They make up the big numbers in Buddhism. It’s the same way with Jesus being a Jew. Who did he appeal to? He appeals to people who want to get into heaven in a big way.

But some day the true story will reveal itself, and by that time, people will be ready for it, because it’s just going in that direction. You can come out and say it all now, but what does it matter? It’s going to happen anyway. Vanities of vanities, that’s all it is.

Bob Dylan: Our 1985 Cover Story Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

They’re Not Showing Any Lights Tonight

I went to Bible school at an extension of this church out in the Valley in Reseda, California. It was affiliated with the church, but I’m not a believer in that born-again type thing. Jesus told Nicodemus, “A man must be born again.” And Nicodemus said, “How can I go through my mother’s womb?” and Jesus said, “You must be born of the spirit.”

And that’s where that comes from, that born-again thing. People have put a heavy trip on it. People can call you what they want. The media make up a lot of these words for the definition of people. I mean, who’s a person anymore? Everything’s done for the media. If the media don’t know about it, it’s not happening. They’ll take the littlest thing and make it spectacular.

They’re in the business of doing that. Everything’s a business. Love, truth, beauty. Conversation is a business. Spirituality is not a business, so it’s going to go against the grain of people who are trying to exploit other people. God doesn’t look at people and say, “That’s a banker, that’s a dentist, that’s an oil-well driller.”

A lot of crooked people give a lot of money to charity. That all means nothing. If there’s evil behind good, it doesn’t make the good good. No matter how many hospitals they’re building. It’s all bullshit. It’s called vanity of vanities. That’s what the world is run on. That’s how the machine turns, so if you go against that in any way, you’re an outlaw. And it’s tough for people to go against that.

What I learned in Bible school was just another side of an extension of the same thing I believed in all along, but just couldn’t verbalize or articulate. Whether you want to believe Jesus Christ is the Messiah is irrelevant, but whether you’re aware of the messianic complex, that’s all that’s important.

What’s the messianic complex?
All that exists is spirit, before, now and forever more. The messianic thing has to do with this world, the flesh world, and you got to pass through this to get to that. The messianic thing has to do with the world of mankind, like it is. This world is scheduled to go for 7,000 years. Six thousand years of this, where man has his way, and 1,000 years when God has His way. Just like a week. Six days work, one day rest. The last thousand years is called the Messianic Age. Messiah will rule. He is, was, and will be about God, doing God’s business. Drought, famine, war, murder, theft, earthquake, and all other evil things will be no more. No more disease. That’s all of this world.

What’s gonna happen is this: you know when things change, people usually know, like in a revolution, people know before it happens who’s coming in and who’s going out. All the Somozas and Batistas will be on their way out, grabbing their stuff and whatever, but you can forget about them. They won’t be going anywhere.

It’s the people who live under tyranny and oppression, the plain, simple people, that count, like the multitude of sheep. They’ll see that God is coming. Somebody representing Him will be on the scene. Not some crackpot lawyer or politician with the mark of the beast, but somebody who makes them feel holy. People don’t know how to feel holy. They don’t know what it’s about or what’s right. They don’t know what God wants of them. They’ll want to know what to do and how to act. Just like you want to know how to please any ruler.

They don’t teach that stuff like they do math, medicine, and carpentry, but now there will be a tremendous calling for it. There will be a run on godliness, just like now there’s a run on refrigerators, headphones, and fishing gear. It’s going to be a matter of survival. People are going to be running to find out about God, and who are they going to run to? They’re gonna run to the Jews, ’cause the Jews wrote the book, and you know what? The Jews ain’t gonna know. They’re too busy in the fur business and in the pawnshops and in sending their kids to some atheist school. They’re too busy doing all that stuff to know. People who believe in the coming of the Messiah live their lives right now as if he was here. That’s my idea of it, anyway.

I know people are going to say to themselves, “What the fuck is this guy talking about?” But it’s all there in black and white, the written and unwritten word. I don’t have to defend this. The scriptures back me up. I didn’t ask to know this stuff. It just came to me at different times from experiences throughout my life. Other than that, I’m just a rock ‘n’ roller, folk poet, gospel-blues-protest guitar player. Did I say that right?

Bob Dylan: Our 1985 Cover Story Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Blowin’ in the Wind

Politics have changed. The subject matter has changed. In the ’60s there was a lot of people coming out of schools who were taught politics by professors who were political thinkers, and those people spilled over into the streets.

What politics I ever learned, I learned in the streets, because it was part of the environment. I don’t know where somebody would hear that now. Now everybody wants their own thing. There’s no unity. There’s the Puerto Rican Day parade, Polish Day, German Week, the Mexican parades. You have all these different types of people all waving their own flags, and there’s no unity between all these people.

In the ’60s, there wasn’t any separation. That’s the difference between then and now that I can see. Everybody now is out for their own people and their own selves, and they should be ’cause they look around and see everything’s unbalanced.

The Times They Are a-Changing

The times still are a-changing, every day. I’m trying to slow down every day, because the times may be a-changing, but they’re going by awfully fast.

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I thought as a child. When I became a man, I put away childish things.”