We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
In his famous 1968 interview (the very year of protest) conducted for Sing Out! by his friends John Cohen and Happy Traum, Dylan was asked by Traum: “Do you foresee a time when you’re going to have to take some kind of a position?” Dylan answered in one word: “No.” Traum, obviously upset, argued that “every day we get closer to having to make a choice,” because, he explained, “events of the world are getting closer to us … as close as the nearest ghetto.” Dylan’s answer: “Where’s the nearest ghetto?"
When he got to the issue of the Vietnam War, Traum told Dylan: “Probably the most pressing thing going on in a political sense is the war,” and that artists like him “feel it is their responsibility to say something.” Dylan responded by telling Traum: “I know some very good artists who are for the war.” He then added that this painter he knows is “all for the war. He’s just about ready to go over there himself. And I can comprehend him.” Moreover, when Traum suggested he argue with the painter, Dylan asked, “Why should I?”
This is a man who will not be pwned, and he has never needed to be told to "Shut up and sing."
First, I read the article critical of his performance.
Then I read the article critical of the article critical of his performance.
Then I read the article critical of the article critical of the article critical of his performance.
I had to laugh.
As I'm sure BD will agree, the first sign of someone who doesn't understand Dylan is when they label one of his songs being "about something", i.e., "Desolation Row" is about the Apocalypse, "Just Like A Woman" is about heroin, etc, etc.
Second, anyone who indicates Dylan was part of the anti-war movement back in the 'Nam days is nothing more than a mouthpiece for the Right-Wing Propaganda Machine.
By the same token, anyone who indicates Dylan wasn't part of the movement is also baring to the world that they're clueless as to what really happened back then.
In brief, while songs like "Chimes of Freedom" and "The Times They Are A'Changin'" were used as inspiration, they weren't anti-war songs per se, as referred to actual anti-war bands such as Country Joe and the Fish and their "Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die Rag".
Well, come on, all of you big strong men
Uncle Sam needs your help again
He's got himself in a terrible jam
Way down yonder in Vietnam
So put down your books and pick up a gun
We're gonna have a whole lotta fun!
And it's one, two, three,
What are we fighting for?
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn
Next stop is Vietnam!
And it's five, six, seven
Open up the pearly gates!
Well, there ain't no time to wonder why
Whoopee! We're all gonna die!
You know, real anti-war songs. While Dylan's "Masters of War" was pretty cold, it could just as easily have been sung about the Roman generals as the generals overseeing the Vietnam War.
If Dylan was anti-war, he was singing in geologic time.
After reading his biography, I came to understand Dylan's adept abilities of self promotion. For him to come out and take a specific stand on anything is likely not in his long term interest as an artist. Taking sides means someone will likely be offended.
The lyrics of his songs speak for themselves, leaving it up to the listener to interpret as he/she may understand them. When a joke must be explained the punch-line loses its humor. Same with poetry and Dylan lyrics.
I used to buy into the standard assessment of Dylan as a prickly interview subject, until I read the collection of interviews with him published a few years ago (Bob Dylan: The Essential Interviews, Jonathan Cott, ed., 2006). If I'd been asked some of the moronic questions that have been asked of him over the decades, or been subjected to the same ridiculous assumptions, "prickly" wouldn't begin to cover how I'd feel.
Dylan was just a Jewish kid from Minnesota who found a way to make a living from doing what he liked and was very good at. Proof of his mid-western good sense is that he refused to be Used by the obviously Self-Righteous and Self-Important as a Political/Cultural Tool. His choice allowed him to be his own man and survive in a business known for psychological & physical burn-out and self-destruction. Good for him and God bless him for sharing his talent and being a decent man.