"It wasn't any better there,'' Dylan wrote derisively in "Chronicles." "It was even worse. Demonstrators found our house and paraded up and down in front of it chanting and shouting, demanding for me to come out and lead them somewhere — stop shirking my duties as the conscience of a generation … Joan Baez recorded a protest song about me that was getting big play, challenging me to get with it — come out and take charge, lead the masses — be an advocate, lead the crusade … Later an article would hit the streets with the headline, 'Spokesman Denies That He's a Spokesman.' I felt like a piece of meat that someone had thrown to the dogs. The New York Times printed quacky interpretations of my songs. Esquire magazine put a four-faced monster on their cover, my face along with Malcolm X's, Kennedy's and Castro's. What the hell was that supposed to mean?"
For a period in the 1970s, having embraced conservative Christianity, Dylan sermonized from the stage, refused to sing anything but religious-themed songs and even decried homosexuality as a sin to the boos of worldwide audiences. (Earlier, he had embraced conservative Judaism for a period and was photographed at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.)
Even then, he refused to invest his name or his faith in other men.
At a concert in Tempe, Arizona in 1979, Dylan was quoted as saying that "I don't think I've ever said anything that's been a lie. Never told you to vote for nobody. Never told you to follow nobody."
'Chimes of Freedom Flashing'
Despite his lack of endorsements, Dylan's music has certainly been driven by the politics of the day, particularly early in his career. His rise to fame paralleled the explosive 1960s social and political movements.
In August, 1963, he played a freshly penned song called "Only A Pawn in Their Game," about the murder of civil rights activist Medger Evers, at Washington D.C's Lincoln Memorial -- as the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. stood steps away, preparing to deliver his "I Have a Dream" speech.
It would be an understatement to say that song choice was bold and unexpected. The song was about Evers' killer. But it urged the hundreds of thousands of African-American listeners gathered around the Reflecting Pool — many still shattered by that stunning murder just two months prior — i>not to blame Evers' killer.
"To kill with no pain/Like a dog on a chain/He ain't got no name/But it ain't him to blame/He's only a pawn in their game."
Nearly 30 years later, he sang "Chimes of Freedom" on the same spot the night before Bill Clinton was inaugurated in 1992.
Dylan has toyed with Democratic presidential politics before. After Jimmy Carter quoted "Blowin' in the Wind" in his autobiography, Dylan complained publicly that he hadn't been invited to Carter's inauguration. An invitation to the White House swiftly followed.
Still, his music for decades has been implicitly aligned with ideologies of the right, particularly Christianity.
"I think the fundamental touchstone of his work is the Bible,'' said Dylan enthusiast Sean Curnyn, who runs the blog RightWingBob.com. "I don't think his outlook on life is all that different now than during what is called his gospel period. I don't think anything he's done since then has clashed with that.''