Bob Dylan has a new album, Tempest, out this week, and it should be right up your alley if you’re into strung-out bluesy numbers with winding, raspy narratives and shuffling arrangements. Which isn’t necessarily everyone‘s thing, but enough to bear mentioning. To promote the album, Dylan did one of those long interviews with Rolling Stone that are apparently in vogue for any esteemed artist looking to make a Big Statement—of which there seem to be plenty, as evidenced by this brief excerpt posted on the magazine’s website. Here, he’s being asked about charges that he’s plagiarized other writers, inasmuch as he’s continued in a bluesman tradition of lifting from multiple sources. Here’s his answer, capped with an awesome kicker:
Oh, yeah, in folk and jazz, quotation is a rich and enriching tradition. That certainly is true. It’s true for everybody, but me. There are different rules for me. And as far as Henry Timrod is concerned, have you even heard of him? Who’s been reading him lately? And who’s pushed him to the forefront? Who’s been making you read him? And ask his descendants what they think of the hoopla. And if you think it’s so easy to quote him and it can help your work, do it yourself and see how far you can get.
Wussies and pussies complain about that stuff. It’s an old thing – it’s part of the tradition. It goes way back. These are the same people that tried to pin the name Judas on me. Judas, the most hated name in human history! If you think you’ve been called a bad name, try to work your way out from under that. Yeah, and for what? For playing an electric guitar? As if that is in some kind of way equitable to betraying our Lord and delivering him up to be crucified. All those evil motherfuckers can rot in hell.
To put it in context, there’s a famous concert from the ’60s after Dylan had started playing electric guitar (opposed to his traditional acoustic), in which a heckler in the crowd yells out “Judas!” In response, Dylan rips off the angrier rendition of “Like a Rolling Stone” ever put to tape. Because, to a Jew, being associated with a Christ-killer is a fairly egregious insult given the whole legacy of anti-semitism connected to blaming Jews for the crucifixion. But really, I’m more impressed by his passionate anger toward those aggressors some 40+ years later, and the idea of listening to Bob Dylan growl in his growly voice, “All those evil motherfuckers can rot in hell.” Some hate burns on and on.