Bob Dylan recently turned 79, and according to a new New York Times interview “Bob Dylan Has a Lot on His Mind,” he absolutely does have a lot on his mind. The Minnesota-born musical legend and Nobel Prize winner gave a rare interview before the release of his 39th studio album, Rough and Rowdy Ways, on June 19.
Writer Douglas Brinkley reached Dylan over the phone while he was sheltered at home in Malibu, California. Early on, he reminds us of Dylan’s past songs decrying racial inequities, including “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” and “Hurricane.” He then asks for a response to Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis. “It sickened me no end to see George tortured to death like that,” Dylan says. “It was beyond ugly. Let’s hope that justice comes swift for the Floyd family and for the nation.”
The piece goes on to touch on a wide variety of musical inspirations. Dylan says pop and R&B star Little Richard “lit a match” under him, and expresses his appreciation of jazz, John Williams, the Rolling Stones, the Eagles, and bluegrass. Been to a Dylan concert in recent decades? His thorough reworkings of old hits come about with how much improvisation? He says, “None at all. There’s no way you can change the nature of a song once you’ve invented it.”
When asked if the COVID-19 pandemic feels like a biblical plague is sweeping the land, Dylan doesn’t quite go that far—but he doesn’t rule it out either. “I think it’s a forerunner of something else to come. It’s an invasion for sure, and it’s widespread, but biblical? You mean like some kind of warning sign for people to repent of their wrongdoings? That would imply that the world is in line for some sort of divine punishment. Extreme arrogance can have some disastrous penalties. Maybe we are on the eve of destruction. There are numerous ways you can think about this virus. I think you just have to let it run its course.”
All of that, and a bit about his current health, in “Bob Dylan Has a Lot on His Mind.”
He recently canceled upcoming tour dates for June and July due to COVID-19. “We hope to be back out on the road at the earliest possible time once we are confident that it is safe for both fans and concert staff,” says a recent tweet. Rough and Rowdy Ways’ 10 tracks are listed below: