Memo to China: Not to Worry-

We've Been Trying to Get Bob to Talk for Years

By Ross Altman (exclusive to FolkWorks)

dylan.jpgIn the wake of Bob Dylan being banned in China and having to cancel the East Asian leg of his Never-Ending Tour, many commentators have pointed out that Bob is no longer quite the threatening protest singer of days gone by, having become so respectable at 68 that he even released his first Christmas album last year. The concern that Dylan would seize on his opportunity to break into the Chinese market to embarrass the regime as currently controversial Swedish singer Bjork did a few years ago by shouting "Tibet! Tibet!" from the stage is thus undoubtedly misplaced.

But my take on the situation is a bit different. When is the last time you have heard Bob say anything from the stage between songs? I thought so. Nada. Never. Ain't gonna happen. Whatever he has to say he put into his songs; he barely even introduces the band.

So while Bob may organize his set lists occasionally to respond to local conditions (such as mentioning New Orleans in a song when he is playing the New Orleans Jazz Festival (it happened!), he is not someone who has mastered the art of between songs patter.

It would destroy the mystery, which as we all know is Bob's stock-in-trade.

So lighten up, Beijing; Minnesota's gift to the world is not some loose cannon who is going to start screaming the phrase "Human Rights!" from your stage.

He doesn't have to: all he has to do is sing I Shall Be Released.

Guess that's why they banned him.

Ross Altman has a Ph.D. in English. Before becoming a full-time folk singer he taught college English and Speech. He now sings around California for libraries, unions, schools, political groups and folk festivals. You can reach Ross at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.