The voice of a generation isn’t easily silenced. Not according to Bob Dylan, who has issued a rare public statement denying speculation that he gave in to government censors by agreeing not to perform 60s-era protest songs during his recent tour of China.
In a personal message released via his website, the usually-reclusive singer informed fans that he wanted to “clarify a few things about this so-called China controversy” which erupted last month after he staged his first ever concerts in the People’s Republic.
He strongly refuted claims that State censors were allowed to remove what they saw as subversive protest songs from the running order of his shows. Although he’d been required to inform them of his intended set-list, Dylan said no alterations were asked for, or given.
“As far as censorship goes, the Chinese government had asked for the names of the songs that I would be playing,” he said. “There’s no logical answer to that, so we sent them the set lists from the previous three 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.”
The 69-year-old singer, whose regular concerts these days tend to focus the more recent (and less popular) records from his 34-album back catalogue, also took issue with media suggestions that his music failed to strike a chord with locals.
“According to Mojo magazine the concerts were attended mostly by ex-pats and there were a lot of empty seats. Not true. If anybody wants to check with any of the concert-goers they will see that it was mostly Chinese young people that came. Very few ex-pats if any... Out of 13,000 seats we sold about 12,000 of them, and the rest of the tickets were given away to orphanages.”
It’s unclear what prompted Dylan’s personal statement, one of the first he’s ever issued via his website. One potential culprit was the New York Times columnist Maureen Down, who recently wrote a stern editorial criticising him for failing to mention the jailed artist Ai Wei Wei during his appearance. "He sang his censored set, took his pile of Communist cash and left," she wrote.