Bob Dylan turns 82 today!
The iconic singer and songwriter behind massive hits like “The Times They Are A-Changin’” and “Like a Rolling Stone” is still kicking as healthy as can be. But Dylan wasn’t always one for the healthiest of habits.
In 2011, a set of tape recordings were released – obtained by the BBC – in light of his 70th birthday, which revealed a 1966 interview he had with the music critic credited with discovering the legendary folk singer, Robert Shelton.
In the interview, Dylan explains his early struggles with drugs – specifically heroin – when his musical career was just starting to ignite.
“I kicked a heroin habit in New York City,” he admitted. “I got very, very strung out for a while, I mean really, very strung out. And I kicked the habit. I had about a $25-a-day habit and I kicked it.”
Today, a $25-a-day habit doesn’t seem like much, but that’s somewhere equivalent to a little over $200 today in regards to what it could buy you back then. And for Dylan, that was one of the most addictive and deadly drugs known to humankind.
In the tapes, Dylan discussed his view on death and how it wasn’t something he was afraid of.
“Death to me is nothing… death to me means nothing as long as I can die fast,” he shared. “Many times I’ve known I could have been able to die fast, and I could have easily gone over and done it.”
With this attitude, suicidal thoughts were something of being a common thought for him.
“I’ll admit to having this suicidal thing… but I came through this time.”
While his seemingly damaged mental health could be otherwise confirmed through other interviews and even found in his lyrics, Dylan was notorious for his untruthful interviews.
According to Rolling Stone, in a separate interview with Shelton, also taking place in 1966, Dylan claimed that he was involved in prostitution when he first moved to New York as a means to make money.
“Sometimes we would make one hundred a night, really, from four in the afternoon until three or four in the morning,” he explained at the time. “Cats would pick us up and chicks would pick us up. And we would do anything you wanted, as long as it was paid…I almost got killed…I didn’t come down to the Village until two months later. Nobody knew that I had been hustling uptown.”
The anecdote was later proved to be fake.
Regarding his drug problems, Dylan has time and time again refuted and supported the idea that he was an addict.
In a 1984 interview, he stated that he never had a “drug period”. But an interview ten years prior would beg to differ.
“I was on the road for almost five years,” he told Rolling Stone in 1969. “It wore me down. I was on drugs, a lot of things. A lot of things just to keep going, you know? And I don’t want to live that way anymore.”
When asked if drugs were involved in his songwriting, he said, “No, not the writing of them. But it did keep me up there to pump ’em out.”
So, was the composer of the ever influential Highway 61 Revisited addicted to heroin at one point in his life? I’m not sure he’d give you a straight answer. One thing he’s not lying about? The old timer has spun around the sun 82 times and he can write a hell of a song.