Bob Dylan’s tour in China in 2011 came with reports that the Chinese government wished to censor what songs he would perform. Fairly soon, critics began suggesting that Dylan, perhaps the world’s most famous protest singer, would oblige.
Dylan, an artist that is known to be rather haughty and uncommunicative with fans and journalists, later made a blog post on the “controversy.” He explained that the Chinese government was interested in knowing what songs he would play, and so his people simply forwarded to them old set-lists.
Here is a set list from one of Dylan’s Chinese performances.
Footnote: This blog is not viewable in China.
As for the song itself…
French symbolist poetry by the likes of Arthur Rimbaud inspires lyrics that also are linked with writers like William Blake and even Shakespeare. That’s tall company. So we will forever be amazed at the cascading images Dylan creates in our mind, words that demand to be appreciated on the printed page, too. “Dylanologists” can burn more calories getting deeper into the verses for us. But flashy lyrics aside, the 1964 song has staying power for its simple, hopeful message to support the oppressed, whoever they are, and wherever they may be.
The excellent version by the Byrds must be included:
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