Cut to archive; Dylan reads a newspaper; the headline yells "War Declared" (it's 1962). Cut to Dylan introducing a performance of Masters of War at the Town Hall in New York that same November (a few weeks after the Cuban missile crisis) by saying to the audience, "I got to sing you a song about something." Strum strum ... "I hope you die and your death will come soon." But hey, he insists he was never ever a political singer. Yeah, right. Look, Dylan, there you are, in a field in Greenwood, Mississippi, in 1963 with black civil rights workers, singing, "He's only a pawn in the game" about the man who killed civil rights pioneer Medgar Evers. Well, he shrugs, "To be on the side of people who are struggling doesn't necessarily mean you're political." Huh?
Rock'n'roll singers love this rigmarole of faux innocence, baiting some solemnly obtuse questioner who wants to shoehorn their subtleties into some sort of editorial. John Lennon used to have a field day with the ritual, turning his killer rabbit's face and scouser lilt on a hapless decoder of his lyrics: "I dunno, you tell me. They're just words, aren't they?"Voice of America: Simon Schama on why Bob Dylan still matters