AARP The Magazine has published the extended version of its global exclusive interview with Bob Dylan online. The legendary singer-songwriter spoke with the magazine in advance of his new album, Shadows in the Night, which drops, February 3rd. The extended version of the interview, conducted by Robert Love, Editor in Chief of AARP The Magazine, is available at AARP.org/Dylan. The print version of the interview will appear in the February/March 2015 issue of AARP The Magazine.
The album, which will be sent at random to 50,000 AARP The Magazine readers in addition to its official Columbia Records release, features a newly recorded collection of beloved American songs from the 1920s to the 1960s. Shadows In the Night is the 36th studio set from Dylan and marks his first new music since 2012’s Tempest. Its ten songs are based on complicated, 30-piece arrangements, refined by Dylan to a five-piece band and recorded live.
Extended Interview Highlights Include:
On inspiration and creativity:
It’s the idea that matters. The idea is floating around long before me. It’s like electricity was around long before Edison harnessed it. Communism was around before Lenin took over. Pete Townshend thought about Tommy for years before he actually wrote any songs for it. So creativity has a lot to do with the main idea. Inspiration is what comes when you are dealing with the idea. But inspiration won’t invite what’s not there to begin with.
It starts like this. What kind of song do I need to play in my show? What don’t I have? It always starts with what I don’t have instead of doing more of the same. I need all kinds of songs—fast ones, slow ones, minor key, ballads, rumbas—and they all get juggled around during a live show.
On rock and roll’s collateral damage:
These are the same songs that rock ‘n’ roll came to destroy—music hall, tangos, pop songs from the ’40s, fox-trots, rumbas, Irving Berlin, Gershwin, Harold Arlen, Hammerstein—composers of great renown. It’s hard for modern singers to connect with that kind of music and song.
On Sinatra’s killer version of the classic “Ebb Tide”:
I must have listened to that thing 100 times. I realized then that I didn’t know it. I still don’t know it to this day. I don’t know how he did it. The performance hypnotizes you. It’s a spellbinding performance. I never heard anything so supreme—on every single level.
On Chuck Berry’s greatness:
Chuck Berry could have been anything in the music business. He stopped where he was, but he could have been a jazz singer, a ballad singer, a guitar virtuoso. He could have been a lot of things. But there’s a spiritual aspect to him, too. In 50 or 100 years he might even be thought of as a religious icon.
On how the Internet has changed popular music:
You have all this music available to you, what do you listen to? How many of these things are you going to listen to at the same time? Your head is just going to get jammed—it’s all going to become a blur, I would think. . . . It’s like, “Oh man! This is overkill!” It’s so easy you might appreciate it a lot less.
On modern country music:
Why do all these songs fall flat? I think technology has a lot to do with it. Technology is mechanical and contrary to the emotions that inform a person’s life. The country music field has especially been hit hard by this turn of events.
On having hit records:
In a way, having hits buries a singer in the past. A lot of singers hide in the past because it’s safer back there.
On the description of his new album as “covers”:
I don’t think of these songs as covers. I think of them as songs that have all been done before in many ways. The word “covers” has crept into the musical vernacular. Nobody would have understood it in the ’50s or ’60s. It’s kind of a belittling term. What does it mean when you cover something up? You hide it. I’ve never understood that term. Am I doing a bunch of covers? Well, yeah, if you say so.
On multi-generational audiences:
I went to an Elton John show, and it was interesting. There must have been at least three generations of people there. But they were all the same. Even the little kids. They looked just like their grandparents. It was strange. People make a fuss about how many generations follow a certain type of performer. But what does it matter if all the generations are the same?