Even I couldn't impress Bob Dylan, Obama admits

Guy Adams
Friday 01 October 2010 00:00
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Most of his contemporaries have mellowed with age, but as he approaches his 70th birthday, Bob Dylan remains splendidly reluctant to embrace efforts to turn him into part of the fusty establishment he once railed against.

That, at least, is the experience of President Barack Obama, who has revealed that he was given what amounts to the bum's rush by the musician when he visited the White House to perform at a concert celebrating the leaders of the Civil Rights movement.

Dylan, 69, was "sceptical" about performing his protest song "The Times They Are A-Changin" to the assembled dignitaries at February's event. And while most musicians who perform for the most powerful man in the world ask for a "meet and greet" during their visit, Mr Obama told Rolling Stone magazine that Dylan refused to even speak with him. "He wouldn't come to the rehearsal; usually, all these guys are practising before the set in the evening. He didn't want to take a picture with me; usually all the talent is dying to take a picture with me and Michelle before the show, but he didn't show up to that."

After performing, it was the same story. "He finishes the song, steps off the stage – I'm sitting right in the front row – comes up, shakes my hand, sort of tips his head, gives me just a little grin and then leaves. And that was it. He left. That was our only interaction with him."

Mr Obama nonetheless described the experience as "a real treat," adding: "That's how you want Bob Dylan, right? You don't want him to be all cheesin' and grinnin' with you. You want him to be a little sceptical about the whole enterprise."

Also in the interview, which touched on everything from Wall Street reform, to Iraq, to the coming mid-term elections, Mr Obama, 49, discussed the contents of his iPod, on which he carries 2,000 tracks, dominated by Stevie Wonder, the Rolling Stones, and Miles Davis.

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