Dear old Jann Wenner interviewed President Barack Obama for his magazine, Rolling Stone, and various parts of that interview are in the news today. Naturally Wenner asked the President about Bob Dylan’s visit to the White House, on February 9th last, as part of an event celebrating music from the Civil Rights era.
[Jann] You had Bob Dylan here. How did that go?
[Barack] Here’s what I love about Dylan: He was exactly as you’d expect he would be. He wouldn’t come to the rehearsal; usually, all these guys are practicing 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. He came in and played “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” A beautiful rendition. The guy is so steeped in this stuff that he can just come up with some new arrangement, and the song sounds completely different. 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 — then he left. That was our only interaction with him. And I thought: 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 skeptical about the whole enterprise. So that was a real treat.
Well, that’s certainly putting a positive spin on the way Dylan conducted himself, versus Obama thinking “this guy’s dissing me.” I’m all for positivity, so let’s leave that at that. (Oh alright: I’ll just note that Dylan was certainly a helluva lot friendlier to President Sarkozy of France than he was to the President of the United States.)
One factual issue: The President claims that Dylan “wouldn’t come to rehearsal.” According to Tony Garnier, as referenced here, Bob Dylan did show up for a sound check earlier in the day, but, rather than stick around the White House afterward, like the other performers, Dylan opted to head back to his hotel and return for the actual performance later — even though this meant having to go through the White House security gauntlet twice. And then, as Obama notes, Dylan left immediately after his performance.
Dylan aside, this is the quote from the interview with President Barack Obama that gets me more than anything:
You look at all this, and you say, “Folks, that’s what you elected me to do.” I keep in my pocket a checklist of the promises I made during the campaign, and here I am, halfway through my first term, and we’ve probably accomplished 70 percent of the things that we said we were going to do — and by the way, I’ve got two years left to finish the rest of the list, at minimum.
Barack Obama is 70 percent done! It’s truly one of those cases where I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.