Tuesday 21 November 2017

The Dylan tapes: Bob on heroin and thoughts of suicide

Bob Dylan admitted to a $25-a-day heroin habit. Photo: Getty Images
Bob Dylan admitted to a $25-a-day heroin habit. Photo: Getty Images

Andy Bloxham

Folk and rock icon Bob Dylan was addicted to heroin and contemplated suicide at the height of his fame, according to new recordings of interviews unearthed by the BBC.

Dylan was travelling on a plane from Nebraska to Denver in March 1966 with Robert Shelton, the critic who helped launch his career, who made previously unheard recordings of their conversation.

The musician, whose work became inseparably linked to the US anti-war and civil rights movements, admitted to a $25-a-day heroin habit, which he had conquered; to thoughts of suicide by jumping from a building or shooting himself in the head; and was dismissive of his music, which he said would not get him into heaven or save him "from the fiery furnace".

Mick Brown, the Daily Telegraph critic, said: "There had been rumours over the years that Dylan had been involved in heroin but I have never heard him talking about it. It's extraordinary."

On the tapes, excerpts from which were broadcast on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Dylan can be heard to say the following

> On heroin: ‘I kicked a heroin habit in New York City. I got very, very strung out. I had about a $25-a-day (1966) habit and I kicked it’.

> On death: ‘Death to me is nothing. I could easily have gone over and done it. I will admit to having a suicide thing. I will try it, man. I will try my best but I came through this time. I'm not the kind of cat that's going to cut my ear... I would shoot myself in the brain or jump from the window.’

> On his work: ‘I take is less seriously than anybody. It's not going to help me into heaven one little bit. It's not going to save me from the fiery furnace... It's not going to make me happy - you can't be happy by doing something groovy’.


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