Redirecting to a newer version of this post….
This is a great interview, it was his first television interview in almost 20 years. Solid performance by our man.. and Mr. Bradley as well.
The interview is supposed to have lasted 90 min, only about 10 were included in the CBS show 60 Minutes broadcast 6 December 2004. Another 10 min are circulating among collectors.
Here is the broadcasted interview & the text is included below the embedded video. The text from the interview is based on the circulating tape.
19 November 2004
When we sat down with him, it was the first television interview Bob Dylan had done in nearly
twenty years. And as you’ll see, he had a lot to say about his life and about the songs that made
him so famous.
BD: I don’t know how I got to write those songs.
EB: What do you mean you don’t know how?
BD: All those early songs were almost magically written. Ah… “Darkness at the break of
noon, shadows even the silver spoon, a handmade blade, the child’s balloon…” Well,
try to sit down and write something like that.
EB: For as long as I have been here with “60 Minutes” I’ve wanted to interview Bob Dylan.
Over his 43-year career, there is no musician alive who has been more influential. His
distinctive twang and poetic lyrics have produced some of the most memorable songs
ever written. In the ‘60s, his songs of protest and turmoil spoke to an entire generation.
While his life has been the subject of endless interpretation, he has been largely silent.
Now at age 63, he’s written a memoir called “Chronicles, Volume One.”
I finally got to sit down with him in his first television interview in nearly 20 years. What
you will see is pure Dylan – mysterious, allusive, fascinating – just like his music.
EB: I’d read somewhere that you wrote “Blowin’ in the Wind” in ten minutes, is that right?
EB: Just like that?
EB: Where did it come from?
BD: It just came. It came from… was like a… right out of that wellspring of creativity, I
would think, you know.
That wellspring of creativity has sustained Bob Dylan for more than four decades, and
produced 500 songs and more than 40 albums.
EB: Do you ever look back at the music that you’ve written and look back at it and say
“Wow! That surprise me!”?
BD: I used to. I don’t do that anymore. I don’t know how I got to write those songs.
EB: What do you mean you don’t know how?
BD: All those early songs were almost magically written. Ah… “Darkness at the break of
noon, shadows even the silver spoon, a handmade blade, the child’s balloon…”
This Dylan classic, “It’s Alright, Ma,” was written in 1964.
BD: Well, try to sit down and write something like that. There’s a magic to that, and it’s not
Siegfried and Roy kind of magic, you know? It’s a different kind of a penetrating magic.
And, you know, I did it. I did it at one time.
EB: Do you think you can do it again today?
EB: Does that disappoint you, or…?
BD: Well, you can’t do something forever. I did it once, and I can do other things now. But, I
can’t do that.
Dylan has been writing music since he was a teenager in the remote town of Hibbing,
Minnesota. The eldest of two sons of Abraham and Beatty Zimmerman.
EB: Did you have a good life, a good… happy childhood growing up?
BD: I really didn’t consider myself happy or unhappy. I always knew that there was
something out there that I needed to get to. And it wasn’t where I was at that particular
EB: It wasn’t in Minnesota.
It was in New York City. As he writes in his book, he came alive when at age 19, he moved to
Greenwich Village which at the time was the frenetic center of the ‘60s counterculture. Within
months, he had signed a recording contract with Columbia Records.
EB: You refer to New York as the capital of the world. But when you told your father that, he
thought that it was a joke. Did your parents approve of you being a singer-songwriter?
Going to New York?
BD: No. They wouldn’t have wanted that for me. But my parents never went anywhere. My
father probably thought the capital of the world was wherever he was at the time. It
couldn’t possibly be anyplace else. Where he and his wife were in their own home, that,
for them, was the capital of the world.
EB: What made you different? What pushed you out of there?
BD: Well, I listened to the radio a lot. I hung out in the record stores. And I slam-banged
around on the guitar and played the piano and learned songs from a world which didn’t
exist around me.
He says that he knew even then that he was destined to become a music legend. “I was
heading for the fantastic lights,” he writes. “Destiny was looking right at me and nobody else.”
EB: You use the word “destiny” over and over throughout the book. What does it mean to
BD: It’s a feeling you have that you know something about yourself that nobody else does –
the picture you have in your mind of what you’re about will come true. It’s kind of a
thing you kind of have to keep to your own self, because it’s a fragile feeling. And if you
put it out there, somebody will kill it. So, it’s best to keep that all inside.
When we ask him why he changed his name, he said, “that was destiny, too.”
EB: So you didn’t see yourself as Robert Zimmerman.
BD: For some reason, you know, I never did.
EB: Even before you started performing?
BD: Nah, even then. Some people get born, you know, with the wrong names, wrong
parents. I mean, that happens.
EB: Tell me how you decided on Bob Dylan?
BD: You call yourself what you want to call yourself. This is the land of the free.
Bob Dylan created a world inspired by old folk music, with piercing and poetic lyrics, as in
songs like “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.” Songs that reflected the tension and unrest of the civil
rights and anti-war movements of the ‘60s.
It was an explosive mixture that turned Dylan, by age 25, into a cultural and political icon –
playing to sold out concert halls around the world, and followed by people wherever he went.
He was called the voice of his generation – and was actually referred to as a prophet, a
messiah. Yet he saw himself simply as a musician:
BD: You feel like an impostor when you’re… when someone thinks you’re something and
EB: What was the image that people had of you? And what was the reality?
BD: The image of me was certainly not a songwriter or a singer. It was more like some kind
of a threat to society in some kind of way.
EB: What was the toughest part for you personally?
BD: It was like being in an Edgar Allan Poe story. And you’re just not that person everybody
thinks you are, though they call you that all the time. ‘You’re the prophet.’ ‘You’re the
savior.’ I never wanted to be a prophet or savior. Elvis maybe. I could easily see myself
becoming him. But prophet? No.
EB: I know that, and I accept, you don’t see yourself as the voice of that generation, but some
of your songs did stop people cold. And they saw them as anthems, and they saw them
as protest songs. It was important it their life, it sparked the movement. You may not have
seen it that way, but that’s the way it was for them. How do you reconcile those two
BD: My stuff were songs, you know? They weren’t sermons. If you examine the songs, I don’t
believe you’re gonna find anything in there that says that I’m a spokesman for anybody
or anything really.
EB: But they saw it.
BD: Yeah, but they must not have heard the songs.
EB: It’s ironic, you know, that the way that people viewed you was just the polar opposite of
the way you viewed yourself.
BD: Ain’t that something?
Dylan did almost anything to shatter the lofty image many people had of him. He writes that he
intentionally made bad records; once poured whiskey over his head in public, and as a stunt,
he went to Israel and made a point of having his picture taken at the Wailing Wall wearing a
EB: When you went to Israel, you wrote that “the newspapers changed me overnight into a
Zionist and this helped a lot.” How did it help?
BD: Look, if the common perception of me out there in the public was that I was either a
drunk, or I was a sicko, or a Zionist, or a Buddhist, or a Catholic, or a Mormon – all of
this was better than “Archbishop of Anarchy”.
EB: …and the Spokesman for the Generation…
EB: …opposed everything.
He was especially opposed to the media, which he says was always trying to pin him down.
EB: Let me talk a little bit about your relationship with the media. You wrote, “The press, I
figured, you lied to it.” Why?
BD: I realized at the time that the press, the media, they’re not the judge – God’s the judge.
The only person you have to think about lying twice to is either yourself or to God. The
press isn’t either of them. And I just figured they’re irrelevant.
Bob Dylan tried to run away from all of that. In the mid ’60s, he retreated with his wife and
three young children to Woodstock, N.Y. But even there, he couldn’t escape the legions of fans
who descended on his home, begging for an audience with the legend himself.
EB: So the people would actually come to the house?
EB: And do what?
BD: They wanted discuss things with me, politics and philosophy and organic farming and
things, you know.
EB: What did you know about organic farming?
BD: Nothing. Not a thing.
EB: What did you mean when you wrote that “the funny thing about fame is that nobody
believes it’s you”?
BD: People, they’ll say, ‘Are you who I think you are?’ And you’ll say, ‘I don’t know.’ Then,
they’ll say, ‘You’re him.’ And you’ll say, ‘OK,’ you know, that ‘yes’ and then, the next
thing they’ll say, ‘Well, no,’ you know? Like ‘Are you really him?’ ‘You’re not him.’ And,
you know, that can go on and on.
EB: Do you go out to restaurants now?
BD: I don’t like to eat in restaurants.
EB: Because people come up and say, ‘Are you him?’
BD: That’s always is gonna happen, yeah.
EB: Do you ever get used to it?
At his peak, fame was taking its toll on Bob Dylan. He was heading toward a divorce from his
wife, Sara. And in concerts, he wore white makeup to mask himself. But his songs revealed the
EB: You said, “My wife when she married me had no idea of what she was getting into.”
BD: Well, she was with me back then, through thick and thin, you know? And it just wasn’t
the kind of life that she had ever envisioned for herself, any more the than the kind of
life that I was living, that I had envisioned for mine.
By the mid-1980s, Dylan felt he was burned out and over the hill.
EB: And you also wrote that: “I’m a ‘60s troubadour, a folk-rock relic. A wordsmith from
bygone days. I’m in the bottomless pit of cultural oblivion.” Those were pretty harsh
BD: Oh, I’d seen all these titles written about me. You know.
EB: And you started to believe it?
BD: Well, I believed it, anyway, you know. I wasn’t getting any thrill out of performing. I
sorted it might be time to close it up, you know.
EB: You really thought about quitting, folding up the tent?
BD: I had thought I’d just put it away for a while. But then I started thinking, ‘That’s
enough,’ you know?
But within a few years, Dylan told us he’d recaptured his creative spark, and he went back on
the road. Performing more than 100 concerts a year. In 1998 he won three Grammy awards. At
age 63, Bob Dylan remains a voice as unique and powerful as any there has ever been in
American music. His fellow musicians paid tribute to him when he was inducted into the Rock
and Roll Hall of Fame, joining him in a rousing rendition of his most famous song, “Like a
EB: As you probably know, Rolling Stone magazine just named your song, “Like A Rolling
Stone,” the number one song of all time. 12 your other songs are on their list of the Top
500. That must be good to have as part of your legacy.
BD: Oh, maybe this week. But you know, the list, they change names, and you know, quite
frequently, really. I don’t really pay much attention to that.
EB: But it’s a pat on the back?
BD: This week it is. But who’s to say how long that’s gonna last?
EB: Well, it’s lasted a long time for you. I mean you’re still out here doing these songs, you
know. You’re still on tour.
BD: I do, but I don’t take it for granted.
EB: Why do you still do it? Why are you still out here?
BD: Well, it goes back to that destiny thing. I made a bargain with it, you know, long time
ago. And I’m holding up my end…
EB: What was your bargain?
BD: …to get where I am now.
EB: Should I ask who you made that bargain with?
BD: [laughs] With the chief commander.
EB: On this earth?
BD: [laughs] In this earth and in the world we can’t see.
Bob Dylan has been nominated this year for the Nobel Prize in literature for his songwriting. His
new book has been a bestseller for the past seven weeks. It was published by Simon & Schuster,
which is owned by Viacom, the parent company of CBS. Dylan is planning to write two more
volumes of his memoirs.
- Alldylan @ Facebook
- Bob Dylan live 2000 – 2009 (videos & audio)
- Bob Dylan live 2010 – 2014 (videos & audio)
- Bob Dylan Never Ending Tour 2015 – Videos & Audio
- Karl Erik’s expectingrain.com
- Olof’s “Still On The Road“
2 thoughts on “November 19: The classic Bob Dylan “60 Minutes” interview with Ed Bradley – 2004”
I provide an extended interpretation of whom Bob Dylan is referring to as “the Chief Commander” in this interview in the following blog post:
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