Bob Dylan responds to criticism of his China tour

Posted: May 14, 2011

LOS ANGELES - Bob Dylan has taken to his website to address a swirl of commentary and analysis stemming from his performance last month in Beijing, specifically responding to accusations that he sold out for adhering to what has been described as a set list vetted and approved by the Chinese government. Others criticized the singer and songwriter for not speaking out on behalf of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.

Dylan dismissed the notion that he was following anyone else's order in choosing songs for the show.

"As far as censorship goes," said Dylan in a note posted yesterday, "the Chinese government had asked for the names of the songs that I would be playing. There's no logical answer to that, so we sent them the set lists from the previous 3 months. If there were any songs, verses or lines censored, nobody ever told me about it and we played all the songs that we intended to play."

He also countered reports that he was ever barred from performing in China previously or that the shows were either poorly attended or made up mostly of Westerners who were in the country.

"They responded enthusiastically to the songs on my last 4 or 5 records," Dylan wrote. "Ask anyone who was there. They were young and my feeling was that they wouldn't have known my early songs anyway.

Dylan's lively response suggests an update may be in order on Mark Twain's famous warning about the perils of engaging in a debate with a newspaper: "Never pick a fight with a guy who buys his ink by the barrel." In this case, maybe it should be: "Never start a war of words with the poet laureate of his generation."

In his note, Dylan also said, "Everybody knows by now that there's a gazillion books on me either out or coming out in the near future. So I'm encouraging anybody who's ever met me, heard me or even seen me, to get in on the action and scribble their own book. You never know, somebody might have a great book in them."

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