I guess when you’ve reached 70-years-old, and certain things come out about your past, you can brush if off a lot easier when the events in question have a vintage of 40+ years. Yesterday, the BBC reported that a previously unheard interview with Bob Dylan reveals that he was once addicted to heroin.
After a concert late one Saturday night in March 1966 Bob Dylan, while on tour in the US, boarded his private plane in Lincoln, Nebraska bound for Denver with his friend Robert Shelton.
Over the next two hours Shelton taped an interview with Dylan which he later described as a “kaleidoscopic monologue”.
At one point, the singer, who turns 70 this week, admits he had been addicted to heroin in the early 1960s.
“I kicked a heroin habit in New York City,” he confesses. “I got very, very strung out for a while, I mean really, very strung out. And I kicked the habit. I had about a $25-a-day habit and I kicked it.”
There have been rumours that Dylan was involved with heroin. But Mick Brown, a writer on The Daily Telegraph who has interviewed Dylan, says he has never heard the singer confirm the speculation.
“It’s extraordinary that he should be talking about it quite so candidly,” he remarks.
Elsewhere on the tapes, Dylan reveals he contemplated suicide after people started calling him a genius.
“Death to me is nothing… death to me means nothing as long as I can die fast. Many times I’ve known I could have been able to die fast, and I could have easily gone over and done it.”
“I’ll admit to having this suicidal thing… but I came through this time,” he says.
Shelton describes Dylan as “twisting restlessly” during the interview - animated at times, despondent at others.
Dylan, who turns 70 today also says on the tapes, regarding his songwriting talents:
“I take it less seriously than anybody. “I know that it’s not going to help me into heaven one little bit, man. It’s not going to get me out of the fiery furnace. It’s certainly not going to extend my life any and it’s not going to make me happy. You can’t be happy by doing something groovy.”
Robert Shelton’s Dylan biography, No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan, first came out in 1986 and was the result of twenty years of work. The historic tapes were discovered during research for a new revised and updated edition.
Below, Dylan meets the press…