How Bob Dylan became a rock star: “I lost my one true love”

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It’s the mid-1960s, and Bob Dylan is causing quite a stir among folk music enthusiasts. He’s trading his acoustic guitar for an electric one. He’s setting aside his harmonica and bringing in a full rock band, playing through crowds filled with critics expressing their disapproval. He’s shifting away from poetry and protest songs, aiming to become a full-fledged folk rock star.

His previous fans couldn’t comprehend the change. They felt a misguided sense of ownership over his artistic choices and saw this transformation as a betrayal. At the Newport Folk Festival, one attendee even shouted “Judas” at Dylan, likening his switch to electric music to the ultimate betrayal in the Bible. Yet, no amount of harsh criticism could derail Dylan.

Following his iconic performance at Newport and the release of several albums embracing his rock passion, Dylan faced numerous questions about his new direction. In 1966, the same year he performed at Newport, Playboy magazine asked him about his move to rock and roll.

Perhaps weary of the constant controversy or simply wanting to showcase his poetic flair, Dylan replied with a humorous and rambling story. “Carelessness,” he began, “I lost my one true love. I started drinking.” The response starts plausibly—perhaps heartbreak and alcohol could lead someone to rock—but Dylan quickly dives into absurdity.

Next thing I know, I’m in a card game,” he continued, “Then I’m in a crap game. I wake up in a pool hall.” His tale escalates as he’s taken to Philadelphia, then forced to relocate to Phoenix after his house burns down. He ends up working in a dime store before moving to Dallas, where he lives with a delivery boy who makes “fantastic chili and hot dogs.

More houses burn down, and Dylan is pushed to Omaha. “It’s so cold there,” he reveals, “by this time I’m robbing my own bicycles and frying my own fish.” He can’t stick to one job or place for long, eventually becoming a carburetor. His fridge can apparently turn newspaper into perfect lettuce for a B.L.T.

Everything’s going good until that delivery boy shows up and tries to knife me,” he adds, concluding his long-winded story, “Needless to say, he burned the house down, and I hit the road. The first guy who picked me up asked if I wanted to be a star. What could I say?”

He had to say yes, and thus, Bob Dylan became a folk-rock star. While this isn’t the real reason behind his musical shift, it’s far more entertaining. It also highlights Dylan’s knack for humor and his skill at sidestepping interview questions with charm and wit.

“And that’s how you became a rock-‘n’-roll singer?” the interviewer asked when Dylan finished his tale. “No, that’s how I got tuberculosis,” he replied.

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