Bob Dylan denies censorship of China shows

Rock legend Bob Dylan took to his website yesterday to dispute accusations he bowed to censorship for his first ever concerts in China last month.

Dylan was criticized by Western media and by Human Rights Watch for not performing some of his best-known protest songs on his China tour in April.

In a rare online posting, Dylan said Chinese authorities asked for the names of the songs he would play in their country.

Dylan said he sent Chinese officials his set lists from the previous three months of shows. He performed in Beijing on April 6 and Shanghai two days later.

"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," Dylan wrote in the post.

Media commentators cited the absence of songs "The Times They Are A-Changin'" and "Blowin' in the Wind" from Dylan's China set list as evidence that the counter-culture hero had caved to pressure.

Dylan, who turns 70 this month, said in his Web post that the audience in China, rather than clamoring for his 1960s material, "responded enthusiastically" to music from his last four or five albums.

In March, China's Culture Ministry said in a brief statement that an agreement to have Dylan sing in the country came with the proviso that he perform "the approved content."

China's censors have been sensitive in the past to subversive political content as well as references to sex, drugs and religion in songs by Western performers.

Dylan did open his China shows with his overtly Christian 1979 song "Gonna Change My Way of Thinking," from the period soon after Dylan, who was born Jewish, embraced Christianity for a number of years.

His China tour also included his hit songs "Like A Rolling Stone," "All Along the Watchtower" and "Forever Young."

Dylan, who is known as "Baobo Dilun" in China, said on his website that he sold 12,000 tickets for the Beijing show, out of a total of 13,000 seats available. He said that the rest of the tickets were given away to orphanages.

Dylan faced accusations of selling out after appearing in a 2004 Victoria's Secret commercial and for allowing a Canadian bank to use "The Times They Are A-Changin'" in a 1996 advertisement.