Despite an indelible reputation as a protest singer, Dylan has steadfastly refused to lend his name to American politics or movements. Legendary Dylan literary biographer Christopher Ricks said Dylan's apparent reticence to make endorsements over the years likely stemmed from a fear of being labeled by his political affiliations.
"I don't remember his endorsing anyone, ever,'' said Ricks, a professor at Boston University, told ABC News. "I'm surprised by this. I think he's been studious about not signing up for anything. I think, politically, he became very wary of answering the question, 'Which side are you on?'"
Noting Dylan's signature wariness of movements, Ricks, author of Dylan's Visions of Sin, said that "on the whole, un-misgiving political alignment seems to be something he gave up a long time ago."
Dylan has always zigzagged across political and ideological landscapes without explanation or apology. The so-called protest songs that made him famous as a young man were all written in a remarkable, 20-month explosion of artistic creativity from January 1962 to November 1963 — the month John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
By the mid-1960s Dylan tired of being hounded to lead movements. He'd married and fathered children and said he wanted nothing more than to live a quiet life away from the cloying demands of his fame.
'The Streets Exploding'
In his award-winning autobiography, Chronicles, Volume One, Dylan revisits that tumultuous period in the 1960s when he sought to escape his fame in a then-obscure rural hamlet in upstate New York called Woodstock.
But his followers found him.
"The events of the day, all the cultural mumbo jumbo were imprisoning my soul — nauseating me — civil rights and political leaders being gunned down, the mounting of the barricades, the government crackdowns, the student radicals and demonstrators versus the cops and the unions — the streets exploding, fire of anger boiling — the contra communes — the lying, noisy voices — the free love, the anti-money system movement — the whole shebang,'' he wrote. "I was determined to put myself beyond the reach of it all. I was a family man now, didn't want to be in that group portrait."
On July 29, 1966, Dylan's motorcycle allegedly skidded off an upstate New York road and nearly killed him. He was virtually unreachable for several years and stopped touring completely. Biographers have speculated that Dylan made up the motorcycle accident up in order to escape the attention of the media, but that's never been proven.
He eventually fled Woodstock and returned to Manhattan's Greenwich Village with his family, hoping to find anonymity in the big city. But his efforts to disappear failed there as well.
'Spokesman Denies He's a Spokesman'