Bob Dylan, the maverick architect of American protest music, appears to have endorsed Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama. Or did he?
In an apparent break from the singer-songwriter's lifelong policy of refusing to make political endorsements, Dylan told The Times of London, "Well, you know right now America is in a state of upheaval.
"Poverty is demoralizing,'' he said. "You can't expect people to have the virtue of purity when they are poor. But we've got this guy out there now who is redefining the nature of politics from the ground up — Barack Obama. He's redefining what a politician is, so we'll have to see how things play out. Am I hopeful? Yes, I'm hopeful that things might change. Some things are going to have to."
Dylan had granted the rare interview to talk about the opening of an exhibition in London of his paintings. The comments about Obama came at the end of a lengthy interview.
If indeed intended as an endorsement of America's first black major party presidential candidate, the statements were extraordinary for Dylan — from a cultural if not necessarily political standpoint.
Even at the height of his fame in the 1960s, when mass movements like the civil rights brigades and the anti-war establishment literally begged Dylan to lead them, the artist recoiled from taking sides.
Dylan, 67, has spent his entire career confounding expectations and constantly re-inventing himself -- a nimble, endless effort to dodge definition.
As recently as 2004, he baffled the globe when he appeared in a 'Victoria's Secret' commercial with supermodel Adriana Lima and allowed the lingerie company to license his song "Lovesick."
As he has so many times before, Dylan silently endured baffled, angry accusations that he'd sold out and somehow betrayed his own values -- or at least those of his mob of fans.
The commercial led writer Mike Marqusee to ruefully note that "forty years ago [Dylan's] motto was 'Money doesn't talk, it swears …'
"Today, it's 'stretch-lined demi-bra with lace.'"
That same year, Dylan puzzled lefties everywhere by admitting in his autobiography, decades after it would ever matter, that in the early 1960s "my favorite politician was [Republican Arizona Senator] Barry Goldwater,'' who Dylan said reminded him of Tom Mix, the cowboy actor who starred in hundreds of silent Westerns in the 1920s and 1930s.
In a 2006 interview with Jann Wenner in Rolling Stone, Dylan was prompted to weigh in on contemporary politics. Here's how the exchange went, according to the magazine:
Wenner: What do you think of the historical moment we're in today? We seem to be hellbent on destruction. Do you worry about global warming?
Dylan: Where's the global warming? It's freezing here.
Wenner: It seems a pretty frightening outlook.
Dylan: I think what you're driving at, though, is we expect politicians to solve all our problems. I don't expect politicians to solve anybody's problems.
Wenner: Who is going to solve them?
Dylan: Our own selves. We've got to take the world by the horns and solve our own problems. The world owes us nothing, each and every one of us, the world owes us not one single thing. Politicians or whoever."
There was no immediate reaction from the Obama campaign, and neither Dylan nor his spokesperson could be reached for comment or clarification.