In the same year that Bob Dylan appeared for the first time on 60 Minutes, he also appeared for the first time on The Simpsons. Sort of. Interviewed by Chloe Talbot, Dylan (voiced by Dan Castellaneta) tells the world what religion he is converting to next:
According to this site, Dylan was actually asked to be on The Simpsons playing the role of Homer’s spirit guide. The role went to Johnny Cash instead. He’s great in that, so it was probably for the best.
The way that YouTube serves up a sidebar of recommended videos on the right side of the page means that I’ve seen a link for “Bob Dylan Interview and a very revealing one at that” at least once per day every day this year. Seriously. When you troll YouTube looking for clips long enough, this is what eventually winds up at the top. I’m not sure why – though it has 1.2 million views I’m not sure that it’s the most watched Dylan clip on the site (probably close though, given how fast official Dylan material seems to evaporate). Must be a popularity-based algorithm.
For whatever reason I never clicked on it – not once. I could tell it was late-era Dylan by the lines on his face, and the title made it sound unenlightening – it seemed to be promising too much. Plus it’s a bit long. I figured it would roll around at some point.
As it turns out, when I searched the site for Bob Dylan + Ed Bradley, to find Dylan’s one and only appearance on 60 Minutes, there it was. Hiding in plain sight all this time!
Until I got to 2004, it never seemed odd to me that Dylan hadn’t been profiled on 60 Minutes, but as soon as I heard Ed Bradley’s voice it surely did. We didn’t go to church much in my family, but every Sunday we watched 60 Minutes after football. Every Sunday. It was – and still is – my father’s favourite show, the only one that he makes an effort not to miss. Bradley, Wallace, Reasoner, I watched these guys every week for most of my youth, and, actually, I’m grateful, because despite its flaws 60 Minutes at least aspired to present television news that was insightful, investigative, and engaged.
Not so much with their celebrity profiles, however, which was always one of the show’s flaws. This interview is not really typical of the 60 Minutes format, which generally has to include at least one shot of the interviewee leading the interviewee around his property. This is clearly a hotel room – Dylan surely was not about to let any tv crew into his house.
The piece also suffers from the 60 Minutes way of arranging the story – all of those cut-ins of old Dylan footage that just serve to interrupt the flow of the piece. It seems clumsy, probably more clumsy than is typical of the show. Ham-fisted.
As for the interview itself, I’m not sure that I would call it “revealing”. I don’t think it lifts away any part of the Dylan mask – indeed, it cements ever so much more firmly in place. At first I wasn’t sure that I could even get through it – the discussion of “Blowin’ in the Wind” and Dylan’s taciturn answers put me off. I think that the most interesting part might be his admission that he can’t write the way he once did – and that perhaps no one can. That’s self-mystifying, sure, but it’s also self-pitying in a way that few stars ever really are. The sense at the end of the interview that he is still worried that things might be taken away from him – that all the fame is transitory – might be what the YouTuber uploader found revealing. It is an interest moment that almost seems unguarded, but may just well be another form of put on.
Dylan was appearing on the show – seemingly under some form of duress given his performance – as a way of promoting Chronicles, which is referenced by Bradley a few times. I’ll have more to say about that book later this week, though I think I may have already written about each of its chapters individually.
I thin that in my mind the combination of two important elements of my youth – Dylan and 60 Minutes – would have been much more magical than this was. A disappointment, to be sure.
I will say, though, that I always thought Ed Bradley was the best part of that show.