Friday, August 14, 2009

Blowin' in the Wind

Rock legend Bob Dylan, one of a handful of performers who defined the 60's, was accosted by two young police officers in New Jersey who demanded to see his ID.

He was on tour with Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp and decided to kill time before the evening's performance by walking around a neighborhood near the shore. Someone called the police to report that a man was wandering around the low-income area, and they approached him.

"What is your name, sir?" the officer asked.

"Bob Dylan," he said.

"OK, what are you doing here?" the officer asked.

"I'm on tour," the singer replied.

The second policeman, who had also never heard of him, asked for identification. He said he wasn't carrying any so they took him to his hotel, where several tour staff vouched for him. The officers stated afterward that he couldn't have been nicer to them, which is not surprising as he was always known to have little ego.

It's hard to imagine an icon of a generation like Bob Dylan being unrecognized. Even in 2009, you'd think his face would serve as his ID with anyone over the age of twenty. I've heard it said that if Jesus came back today, he'd be arrested for loitering. Apparently this also applies to rock stars of former generations. What is the world coming to?

"The answer, my friend, is blowin in the wind,
The answer is blowin in the wind."


Jocelyn said...

So your overall point here is that Jesus is coming back? I always knew you were a heavily-closeted proselytizer.

I have to think, on some level, Dylan got an enormous kick out of the whole incident.

Oh, and if you could just come vent on my blog about Facebook every so often, I'd appreciate it. I need the laughs.

nick said...

I rather like the fact that nobody in the neighbourhood recognised him, including the cops, because he's so unassuming and incognito. Better than these egotistical celebs who want the entire world to know them and would be utterly affronted if someone didn't. Like Jocelyn, I suspect he just found it amusing.

Warty Mammal said...

Along similar lines, one day I was standing in line at the grocery store, happily tapping my foot along to the Stones singing "I can't get no satisfaction".

Behind me, a couple of teenagers began discussing the song. "They should be ashamed of stealing that from Britney!" they proclaimed, with no small amount of heat. I briefly thought about enlightening them, then thought better of it.

the walking man said...

Cops probably never heard of Dylan Thomas either:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Good thing Bob didn't rage against the "dying of the light"

They would have tasered him.

But I bet they would have recognized fifty cent or jay zee or eminem

meno said...

Maybe if he would have sung for them? That singing is one of a kind.

Liam said...

Great post! I got introduced to Dylan through a movie. He wrote "Things Have Changed" I love that song.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I can never decide if I hate Facebook or proselytizers more. For some of the same reasons.

Dylan doesn't sound like a guy who takes himself or his fame too seriously, so he probably did think it was funny. Which it is, really.


Agree completely. I've been to events where vacuous celebrities postured and watched carefully to make sure the full effect of their presence was felt by everyone. Yukk.

Ah, Warts,

Britney probably thinks so, too.

I'm sure that every generation of young people believes they invented the world and everything in it. I know mine did.


That's for sure. My late ex-husband and Yeats scholar was a drinking buddy of the first Dylan's at the White Horse in Greenwich Village. I like to think that wherever they are, they are still discussing whatever poets discuss when they're deep in their cups.

Thank you for quoting one of my favorite poems outside of yours.


I had the same thought! But considering the lack of resemblance to what they're doubtless used to, they might have locked him up.


Welcome, my fellow FB hater! Bobby Dylan was (and is) a poet who has always had his finger on the pulse of American culture. He was one of a handful of voices that defined my youth in the 60's.

secret agent woman said...

You mean they didn't even recognize his name? That's the more bizarre part - I might not recognize him out of context but once I had the name...

Maria said...

Dylan sort of has that "everyman" face, you know? He looks like everyone's Uncle Billy.

TechnoBabe said...

Great news catch!! Astonishing that Dylan was not known to either police officer. Good PR for Dylan I guess and nice to hear how easy going he was about the experience. I'm with you with my memories of Dylan.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Well, we're not talking about YOU, are we? I've been shaking my head ever since I read about this. I know he's another generation but he didn't live on the moon.


I never had an Uncle Billy, but Uncle Bobby there kind of resembles an unmade bed. (With all respect...)


I guess they don't teach popular culture in the police academy. Maybe I'm so fond of Dylan because we were young together, and because he sounds like a great guy.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Wow, a surprising story. Another important area for police cultural sensitivity education.

Cecilieaux said...

OMG, just loooook at Dylan now. I wouldn't have recognized him.

On a limb with Claudia said...

I read an interview by the guy who wrote Rambo. He said that when someone asks if they have read what you wrote, you should say, "no." His example? Rambo was in the theaters - an international phenomena - and he met people who'd never heard of it.

I bet it's happened to Bob Dylan before.

Jo said...

I saw Bob Dylan perform recently. He doesn't look like Bob Dylan. He looks like a homeless man. I would imagine police gets lots of folks who give names of famous people.

"What's your name?"

"Elvis Presley."

Yah, sure. It happens quite often, actually.

Trust me, Bob Dylan doesn't look like Bob Dylan anymore.

Ali said...

however, the cops that stopped them were in their early 20s.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Yep, they need to be primed in 60's rock stars, the ones who didn't self-destruct.


But surely you would recognize his name? He didn't claim to be Mother Goose.


Maybe the question should be "And who did YOU used to be?"


I mentioned this to my son yesterday and he made the exact same comment, that Dylan looks like a homeless man. Maybe he always did, kind of, just a younger one.

seventh sister said...

If they had kept him, we would not have had to listen to him the other night. Willie was good, John was good, the Wi-os (opener) were good. We left after 3 Dylan songs and we had a lot of company on the way out.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Dylan never could sing. What did you expect?

Meggie said...

I found this story so funny, so sad, & so odd. Who would have ever thought that a person would not recognizen Bob Dylan!!
It made me feel old!

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Somehow I don't think he inspires impersonators like Marilyn, Jacko and Elvis. :)

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Sorry I missed your comment. That's true - Bob Dylan is not exactly the music today's 20-year olds listen to. I'm sure Britney and 50 Cent would have been recognized immediately.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

I've said more than once that if Bob Dylan was to go as A Complete Unknown onto American Idol, he'd never have had a career.

He can't sing, but he is a phenomenal song writer. Brilliant.

Scarlett & Viaggiatore

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I agree with your assessment. Another singer from that era, Joni Mitchell, makes me yawn when she sings but she's a fantastic poet. I'd rather read her words than listen to her sing them but in fairness, she CAN sing, unlike Dylan.

Mercurious said...

When I heard this story, I could only imagine that Dylan was quietly amused by this, and probably enjoying the experience as something new to witness.

And probably a nice change from being mobbed more often than not.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I agree with you. Privacy is the biggest thing rock stars sacrifice, so he was probably relieved and amused to learn there was a time limit on it.