Bob Dylan Adopted Stage Name Out Of Anti-Semitism Fears: Interview

For nearly half a century, they were blowin’ in the wind: lost interviews that contained surprising new insights about celebrated singer-songwriter Bob Dylan.

Transcripts of the 1971 interviews with the late American blues artist Tony Glover — and letters the two friends exchanged — have surfaced at a Boston auction house. They reveal that Dylan changed his name because he worried about anti-Semitism and wrote “Lay Lady Lay” for actress Barbra Streisand.

Some of the 37 typed pages contain handwritten notes in Dylan’s own scrawl, said R.R. Auction, which is selling Glover’s trove of Dylan archives. “My work is a moving thing,” Dylan scribbled in one spot. Elsewhere, he used a blue marker to strike through passages he evidently didn’t like.

“In many cases, the deletions are more telling than the additions,” said Bobby Livingston, the auction house’s executive vice president.

Dylan, 79, was close friends with Glover, who died last year. The two men broke into music on the same Minneapolis coffeehouse scene. Glover’s widow, Cynthia Nadler, put the documents up for auction, with online bidding to start Nov. 12 and run through Nov. 19.

The reclusive Dylan, who won the Nobel prize for literature in 2016 after giving the world “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Like a Rolling Stone,” “The Times They Are a-Changin’” and other anthems of the ’60s, was born Robert Zimmerman in Duluth, Minnesota. And his rambling chats with Glover help explain the name change.

A March 22, 1971, conversation began with Dylan joking: “I mean it wouldn’t’ve worked if I’d changed the name to Bob Levy. Or Bob Neuwirth. Or Bob Doughnut.”

But in handwritten additions, the tone became more serious as Dylan discussed his Jewish identity. “A lot of people are under the impression that Jews are just money lenders and merchants. A lot of people think that all Jews are like that. Well they used to be cause that’s all that was open to them. That’s all they were allowed to do,” he wrote.

In the interviews, Dylan also recalled when he famously “went electric” at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island, where folk purists in the crowd booed him. “Yeah, it was a strange night,” he said.

There’s also a letter Dylan penned in February 1962, a month before he released his debut album, in which he quoted folk legend Woody Guthrie: “Sometimes I feel like a piece of dirt walkin.’”

After visiting Guthrie in May of that year, Dylan penned these lyrics, which have never been made public:

“My eyes are cracked I think I been framed / I can’t seem to remember the sound of my name / What did he teach you I heard someone shout / Did he teach you to wheel & wind yourself out / Did he teach you to reveal, respect, and repent the blues / No Jack he taught me how to sleep in my shoes.”

“Lay Lady Lay” long was said to have been written for the 1969 Oscar-winning movie “Midnight Cowboy,” but Dylan told Glover he wrote it as a tune for Streisand. He didn’t elaborate on the nature of their relationship.

The interviews originally were for an article Glover was writing for Esquire magazine, but Dylan lost interest and the piece never was completed, R.R. Auction said.

Follow AP New England editor Bill Kole on Twitter at http://twitter.com/billkole.

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