Bob Dylan Tells Fans His China Concert Was Not Censored

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When Bob Dylan played a concert in China last month, fans and critics alike were quick to point out the irony: The famous protest singer was performing in a country notorious for its suppression of free speech. The backlash intensified when reports came out that the Chinese government had censored his playlist, requiring him to cut out any songs that would "hurt the feelings of the Chinese people." Indeed, the songs Dylan performed at the April 6th show were apolitical—he included none of the message-driven hits that marked his early career, like "The Times They Are A-Changin'" or "With God On Our Side." (For more background on the backlash and counter-backlash, see James Fallows' piece, "Dylan, Dowd, and China: Did Bob Really Sell Out?.")

Dylan responded to his critics today in a message on his official website. He claimed that the reason he didn't play political songs wasn't because the Chinese government insisted, but because the audience was too young to know those '60s and '70s classics: "They were young and my feeling was that they wouldn't have known my early songs anyway."

He then addressed the question of censorship directly:

As far as censorship goes, the Chinese government had asked for the names of the songs that I would be playing. There's no logical answer to that, so we sent them the set lists from the previous 3 months. If there were any songs, verses or lines censored, nobody ever told me about it and we played all the songs that we intended to play.

Read the full post at BobDylan.com.

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Eleanor Barkhorn is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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