What does the man who wrote, "Don't follow leaders, watch the parking meters," think of President Barack Obama? He likes him a lot, it seems, but he still doesn't like politicians. I got this from an interview Dylan did recently with music critic Bill Flannagan. Dylan's political remarks are only a small part of the interview, but journalists hunting for a lede keep highlighting them (I just did it myself).
In fact, I come as close to worshiping Bob Dylan as to any human on the planet, present or past. That doesn't mean I have any particular respect for his political opinions. What I take off my hat & bow low to is the man's prodigious, unstoppable creativity. It never quits. It never has. His life is a nonstop improvisation -- words, music, writing, film, drawing & painting, in fact whatever's handy -- an endless riff. His legacy will be (& should be) his astonishing music, but he's brilliant in every form he picks up. He's inspired. An inspired genius liar. And his very best lies are often the truth.
It seems to me that Dylan is constantly taking in the world -- reading, traveling, talking to people, having dinner & all the rest of the stuff people do. And, simultaneously, he's turning it into a story.
In the interview Dylan tells Flanagan he read Obama's Dreams of My Father and was "intrigued." Here's where the interview goes next. (BF=Bill Flanagan; BD=Bob Dylan)
BF: What struck you about him [Obama]?
BD: Well, a number of things. He’s got an interesting background. He’s like a fictional character, but he’s real. First off, his mother was a Kansas girl. Never lived in Kansas though, but with deep roots. You know, like Kansas bloody Kansas. John Brown the insurrectionist. Jesse James and Quantrill. Bushwhackers, Guerillas. Wizard of Oz Kansas. I think Barack has Jefferson Davis back there in his ancestry someplace. And then his father. An African intellectual. Bantu, Masai, Griot type heritage - cattle raiders, lion killers. I mean it’s just so incongruous that these two people would meet and fall in love. You kind of get past that though. And then you’re into his story. Like an odyssey except in reverse.
BF: In what way?
BD: First of all, Barack is born in Hawaii. Most of us think of Hawaii as paradise – so I guess you could say that he was born in paradise.
BF: And he was thrown out of the garden.
BD: Not exactly. His mom married some other guy named Lolo and then took Barack to Indonesia to live. Barack went to both a Muslim school and a Catholic school. His mom used to get up at 4:00 in the morning and teach him book lessons three hours before he even went to school. And then she would go to work. That tells you the type of woman she was. That’s just in the beginning of the story.