When I was young I thought Bob Dylan was great. At some point, I let go of him. But every now and then—usually when he has a new project out, and the media is making noise about it—I go check to see what he’s up to. Writers, journalists, and music critics have always been fond of rhapsodizing over Dylan’s ability to “reinvent himself.” I was fascinated by that ability myself. It seemed evidence of a truly remarkable mind.
One day, several decades ago, I suddenly saw this chameleon-like quality in a different light. It dawned on me that Bob Dylan is a character created by Bob Zimmerman, and that it isn’t a matter of Bob Dylan reinventing himself, but of Bob Zimmerman reinventing Bob Dylan. Not as hard a thing to do. I think he’s gotten lost in the role a few times, and, at other times, has lost interest in playing it.
Other people have done this sort of thing. Marilyn Monroe, for example. She was clearly a character created by Norma Jean Baker—not a real person. While the the Bob Dylan character exists at a different level, it’s the same phenomenon.
Tags: Bob Dylan