1. Ripped off 19th-century poet, didn’t credit.
Lyrics in Dylan’s 2006 album “Modern Times” were shown to have close similarities to the poetry of Henry Timrod, a Civil War-era poet.From a New York Times story at the time:
“More frailer than the flowers, these precious hours,” the 65-year-old Mr. Dylan sings in “When the Deal Goes Down,” one of the songs on “Modern Times.” Compare that to these lines from Timrod’s “Rhapsody of a Southern Winter Night”:
A round of precious hours
Oh! here, where in that summer noon I basked
And strove, with logic frailer than the flowers.
Other Dylan works have drawn attention for similarities to Tennessee Williams and Japanese gangster novels.
2. Bob Dylan is not his real name.
Dylan famously changed his name from Robert Zimmermann. The choice was thought to be an homage the poet Dylan Thomas, but Dylan denies this.
3. Alleged to have have exaggerated or invented a story about being in a motorcycle accident.
Or at least lied about the extent of his injuries. The accident in 1966 near his home in Woodstock, NY kept him out of the limelight for two months, but no hospital records were ever found and no one remembers Dylan going off in an ambulance. Many think Dylan simply needed a break and found an exciting explanation for it (the Dutch author Jan Cremer is a proponent of the theory that he was in rehab).
4. Claimed, questionably, to have been a male prostitute in his early days in Greenwich Village.
In a 1966 interview with New York Times reporter Robert Shelton, Dylan said:
“Sometimes we would make one hundred a night, really, from four in the afternoon until three or four in the morning,” he said. “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 story is thought to be false, and Shelton is the only journalist Dylan said it to.
BD: I learned that from the carnival.
CG: From who?
BD: Carnival, I used to travel with the carnival. I used to speak of those things all the time.
BD: I was with the carnival off and on for about six years.
CG: What were you doing?
BD: Oh, just about everything. Uh, I was clean-up boy, I used to be on the main line, on the ferris wheel, uh, do just run rides. I used to do all kinds of stuff like that.
CG: Didn’t that interfere with your schooling?
BD: Well, I skipped a bunch of things, and I didn’t go to school a bunch of years and I skipped this and I skipped that.
None of this was true.
6. Paintings from his travels may have been paintings of photos from other peoples’ travels.
The Gagosian Galley advertised Dylan’s 2011 “The Asia Series” as “a visual journal” of Mr. Dylan’s travels “in Japan, China, Vietnam and Korea,” with “firsthand depictions of people, street scenes, architecture and landscape.” It turns out that these firsthand depictions were actually firsthand depictions of depictions.
The painting capturing men playing checkers (left) is lifted from a picture by Dimitri Kessel from the 1950s.
Dylan dedicated a segment of his memoir’s first volume to lessons about the evils of pork that he learned from Malcolm X. However, about a dozen lines of his memoir can be found throughout one Time Magazine article that ran in the March 31, 1961:
Time Magazine, March 1961:
“Abstract painting and atonal music were hitting the scene, mangling recognizable reality.”
Chronicles, page 90:
“Abstract & Atonal. Two of the forces that might be counted on to reduce anxiety in U.S. life — the artists and the social scientists — are contributing to it. In abstract painting and atonal music, the modern artist has largely destroyed recognizable reality…”
Time Magazine, March 1961:
“No sooner had Americans learned that they must not be rugged individualists but must practice ‘adjustment,’ than they were told that they were all turning into conformists.”
Chronicles, pages 88-89:
“The inside story on a man was that if he wanted to be successful he must become a rugged individualist, but then he should make some adjustments. After that, he needed to conform. You could go from being a rugged individualist to a conformist in the blink of an eye.”