Is Bob Dylan “unworthy” of the Légion d’honneur, France’s highest civilian award? The head of the institution which decides on the recipients appears to think so.
The American singer-songwriter’s name was on a list sent to the grand chancellery of the Legion of Honour for approval by Culture Minister Aurélie Filipetti, who intended to mark this year’s 50th anniversary of his classic album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, containing hits such as “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall”, with the award.
However, according to the satirical newspaper Le Canard Enchaîné, Dylan, whose real name is Robert Zimmerman, was blackballed by the institution’s grand chancellor, General Jean-Louis Georgelin, because of his anti-war activism during the Vietnam War and his cannabis use, not to mention his apparent success in turning on The Beatles on to the drug.
The general was alerted to Dylan’s past activities by the habitual police check of potential laureates, which is usually a formality to uphold the candidate’s “worthiness and morality”.
The Grand Chancellery has now sought to calm the ensuing internet storm over the general’s veto by issuing a statement saying that “nothing has yet been decided”.
It pointed out that “General Georgelin does not decide the award of the Legion of Honour”. This is done by the Council of the Order, which has 17 members, it said. “The Council has not yet discussed the list put forward by the Culture Minister, and which contained the name of Bob Dylan.”