Bob Dylan Talks Rock and Roll, Frank Sinatra and His New Release, Triplicate
Bob Dylan recently sat for an unusually expansive interview, chatting with longtime journalist Bill Flanagan about a range of topics that included his approach to singing, his shift from guitar to piano, and what it’s like to interpret material made famous by the likes of Frank Sinatra. Near the outset, the legendary songwriter was asked what it’s like to cover a trove of American standards.
“I hadn’t realized how much of the essence of life is in them–the human condition, how perfectly the lyrics and melodies are intertwined, how relevant to everyday life they are, how non-materialistic,” said Dylan. “These songs are some of the most heartbreaking stuff ever put on record…. Now that I have lived them and lived through them I understand them better.… These songs are cold and clear-sighted, there is a direct realism in them, faith in ordinary life just like in early rock and roll.”
Dylan was later asked if, upon meeting Sinatra a couple of decades ago, he sense that the legendary crooner was familiar with his material. “Not really,” said Dylan. “I think he knew ‘The Times They Are a-Changin’’ and ‘Blowin’ In the Wind.’ I know he liked ‘Forever Young,’ he told me that. He was funny, we were standing out on his patio at night and he said to me, ‘You and me, pal, we got blue eyes, we’re from up there,’ and he pointed to the stars. ‘These other bums are from down here.’ I remember thinking that he might be right.”
One of Dylan’s most eloquent responses came when he was asked if, in his youth, he felt rock and roll was something new under the sun.
“Rock and roll was indeed an extension of what was going on–the big swinging bands…,” observed Dylan. “But rock and roll was high energy, explosive and cut down. It was skeleton music, came out of the darkness and rode in on the atom bomb and the artists were star-headed like mystical Gods. Rhythm and blues, country and western, bluegrass and gospel were always there–but it was compartmentalized. It was great but it wasn’t dangerous. Rock and roll was a dangerous weapon, chrome plated. It exploded like the speed of light [and] it reflected the times….”