In a rare interview, Mr. Dylan also shares his candid thoughts on social media and television
Bob Dylan has earned countless awards, including 10 Grammys, an Oscar and the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature. His new book, “The Philosophy of Modern Song,” offers a history lesson about (mostly) songs from the mid-20th Century, plus a rare glimpse into the fertile mind of one of the most creative people of the modern era.
Here, Mr. Dylan shares his thoughts with WSJ on streaming, his least favorite TV and life in the TikTok age.
I discover new music: mostly by accident, by chance. If I go looking for something, I usually don’t find it. In fact, I never find it. I walk into things intuitively when I’m most likely not looking for anything. Performers and songwriters recommend things to me. Others, I just wake up and they’re there.
Mr. Dylan performs in Delaware in 2017. Mark Makela/Reuters
Streaming has made music: too smooth and painless. Everything’s too easy. Just one stroke of the ring finger, middle finger, one little click, that’s all it takes. We’ve dropped the coin right into the slot.
Very few songs of today will: go on to become standards. Who is going to write standards today? A rap artist? A hip-hop or rock star? A raver, a sampling expert, a pop singer? That’s music for the establishment. It’s easy listening. It just parodies real life, goes through the motions, puts on an act.
Richard B. Levine/Zuma
I write songs when: the mood strikes me, not with a set routine. My method is transportable. I can write songs anywhere at any time, although some of them are completed and redefined at recording sessions, some even at live shows.
Mr. Dylan performs in Los Angeles in 2004. Robert Galbraith/Reuters
I recently binged: “Coronation Street,” “Father Brown,” and some early “Twilight Zones.” I know they’re old-fashioned, but they make me feel at home. I’m no fan of packaged programs or news shows. I never watch anything foul-smelling or evil. Nothing disgusting, nothing dog ass.
“The Twilight Zone.” Getty Images
I think social media sites: bring happiness to a lot of people. Some people even discover love there. It’s fantastic if you’re a sociable person; the communication lines are wide open. You can refashion anything, blot out memories and change history. But they can divide and separate us, as well.
To stay physically active: I box and spar. It’s part of my life. It’s functional and detached from trends. It’s a limitless playground, and you don’t need an app.
I first heard most of the songs in my book: on the radio, portable record players, jukeboxes. My relationship to them at first was external, then became personal and intense. The songs were simple, easy to understand. They’d come to you directly, let you see into the future.
Simon & Schuster
In the book, I thank: the “crew from Dunkin’ Donuts” because they were compassionate, supportive and they went the extra mile.
Edited from an interview by Jeff Slate
Produced by Brian Patrick Byrne
Cover illustration by René Milot