Newsweek, of all cultural edifices, is the sole US possessor of the streaming audio to the title track of Bob Dylan’s new album I Feel A Change Coming On–until tomorrow, anyway, when it hits the man’s own website. The Times Online, overseas, pairs their copy of the mp3 with an inspired interview conducted by Bill Flanagan about the man who likely inspired the song.
BF: You liked Barack Obama early on. Why was that?
BD: I’d read his book and it intrigued me.
BF: Audacity of Hope?
BD: No it was called Dreams of My Father.
BF: What struck you about him?
BD: Well, a number of things. He’s got an interesting background. He’s like a fictional character, but he’s real. First off, his mother was a Kansas girl. Never lived in Kansas though, but with deep roots. You know, like Kansas bloody Kansas. John Brown the insurrectionist. Jesse James and Quantrill. Bushwhackers, Guerillas. Wizard of Oz Kansas. I think Barack has Jefferson Davis back there in his ancestry someplace. And then his father. An African intellectual. Bantu, Masai, Griot type heritage – cattle raiders, lion killers. I mean it’s just so incongruous that these two people would meet and fall in love. You kind of get past that though. And then you’re into his story. Like an odyssey except in reverse.
BF: In what way?
BD: First of all, Barack is born in Hawaii. Most of us think of Hawaii as paradise – so I guess you could say that he was born in paradise.
Indeed. Swing seems very much in the vocabulary of this new record–this one’s got less swagger and urgency than “Beyond Here Lies Nothin’,” perhaps, but the song’s more reflective vibe belies something equally taut. “Some people, they tell me” goes a typically awesome lyric, “I’ve got the blood of the land in my voice.”