Bob Dylan’s Recent Rare Interview – 10 Unique Things Learned

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Bob Dylan’s become a man of few interviews over the course of his fifty-year plus career, so when he does deign to give one, it means something. The most recent one with Bill Flanagan is hardly coincidental, particularly because it’s posted-presumably in its entirety on bobdylan.com. His new album, a triple set titled Triplicate, comprised of (more) selections from the great American songbook, is due 3/31 and he just announced a fairly extended list of tour dates. So Dylan is effectively doing his own promotion for both short term and long, but the new album is only one of the many subjects touched upon in this wide-ranging discussion that echoes his Nobel Prize statement and the Musicares acceptance speech of 2015. A few points leap out from the discourse:

 

  • Dylan’s become so cognizant of the recording process, from studio to consumer,  he chose three CD’s for the forthcoming album based on a running time that best accommodates vinyl LP running times.

 

  • Dylan avows the lyrics of the songs he chose have much of his personality in them and that the sequencing has an logic based on those songs.

 

  • Dylan takes a self-aware but laissez faire approach to his vocals, realizing the advantages and disadvantages of recording live, but also maintaining what he sees as the proper approach to the material itself. In contrast, he’s keenly aware how different his band sounds with him on piano rather than guitar,

 

  • Dylan makes repeated and, some would say, unlikely comparisons between the songs on Triplicate and blues of the kind Son House made.

 

  • Dylan demonstrates a great memory for detail in how songs of any given era reflect their times, no more no less a Duke Ellington tune (“Braggin’”) than the one Frank Sinatra requested he sing on a 1995 tribute to ‘Ol’ Blue Eyes’ (“Restless Farewell”).

 

  • Dylan has developed a very down to earth approach to musicianship, not only leading his band but producing them for his own records, and in doing so he’s also preserved the spontaneity that permeated his great early albums.

 

  • Dylan allows himself extended introspection in this conversation with Bill Flanagan, particularly when discussing the reflective mood of Triplicate, but it’s obvious his thoughts are clarified by the work itself and vice-versa.

 

  • Dylan is quite cognizant of the passage of time, not just during the course of his life and career, that which predate him and his work: historical events and personalities definitely sound like an object of fascination, as in the passages where he offers observations on early rock and roll and doo-wop music.

 

  • Dylan must have chosen Flanagan for the conversation because the author and TV producer has a grasp of history and musical context comparable to Dylan’s own, yet this Q&A, as it’s called, weaves in and out of conversation between two music lovers and Dylan being clearly uninterested in certain topics,i.e., differences between songwriters’ styles based on their nationality.

 

  • Dylan offers great emotional openness and vulnerability throughout this interview and never more so than commenting on the passing of such icons as Muhammad Ali and Merle Haggard: ‘It’s lonesome without them.’; when’s he’s evasive, it’s with a purpose, never just to be glib.

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