Politics

One infamous Dylanologist says Dylan’s aloof behavior toward Obama during White House concert explained by racism; other Dylan expert ‘strongly disagrees’

There’s an entire cottage industry built around deciphering, explaining, and creating the Bob Dylan. Editor of ISIS magazine — the “longest running Bob Dylan magazine still in print” — Derek Barker says there are over 500 books and pamphlets written about Dylan available in more than 26 languages.

Sean Curnyn’s extensively updated website Right-Wing Bob attempts to frame Dylan as more conservative than some would have you believe. Specifically, he’s set up the site to “challenge persistent fallacies regarding the Left’s ownership of Bob Dylan.” A frequent contributor to the New Ledger, Curnyn’s defense of a conservative Dylan has even appeared in The National Review.

So what is Curnyn’s take on Dylan’s behavior toward Obama?

“In a way, it’s refreshing that President Obama merely confirmed that Dylan had kept his distance, rather than trying to fabricate a false intimacy, which is something which happens a lot when you’re talking about Bob Dylan and the Left,” he said in an e-mail. “His history with presidents shows a pattern of liberal Democratic presidents and/or candidates embracing and/or endorsing him, with him being merely courteous in response …”

As for Republicans, Curnyn said Dylan isn’t — to the dismay of the left — critical of them; quite the opposite. Curnyn said Dylan’s favorite politician in the 1960s was Barry Goldwater and the famous protest singer even called Richard Nixon, “one of the most misunderstood people of the twentieth century, often maligned, but obviously capable of great humanity.”

As for Weberman’s assertion that Dylan is racist, Curnyn said he “strongly disagrees.”

Curnyn loves and genuinely cares about Dylan’s music. It’s why he writes so extensively on the subject, he said. But he also continues to write because so many other people love Dylan who have “this general and consistent preoccupation with knowing what Dylan thinks or believes about certain things.”

“People down through the decades have talked about it, written about it and made assertions about what Dylan believes or whose side he’s on … I’ve just tried in my writing from my own point of view, to set the record straight.”

So the interpretations of the Bob Dylan are as varied as the man’s persona and its significance as important as a Rolling Stone interview. As Dylan’s Medicine Man would say: My advice is to not let the boys in …

Or, whatever.

Laura Donovan contributed to this story.