Chronicles Volume One

Chapter 3: New Morning, pages 132-134

By Bob Dylan

     Earlier in the week we had gotten back from Princeton, New Jersey, where I had been given a Honorary Doctorate degree. It had been a weird adventure. Somehow, I had motivated David Crosby to come along. Crosby was part of a new supergroup, but I knew him from when he was in The Byrds, part of the West Coast music scene. They'd recorded a song of mine, "Mr. Tambourine Man," and the record made it to the top of the charts. Crosby was a colorful and unpredictable character, wore a Mandrake the Magician cape, didn't get along with too many people and had a beautiful voice --- an architect of harmony. He was tottering on the brink of death even then and could freak out a whole city block all by himself, but I liked him a lot. He was out of place in The Byrds. He could be an obstreperous companion.

     We pulled off of Route 80 in a '69 Buick Electra, found the university on a hot and cloudless day. In short time the officials led me into a crowded room and put me in a robe, and soon I was looking out over a crowd of well-dressed people in the sun. There were also others on the stage getting honorary degrees and I needed mine as much as they needed theirs but for different reasons. Walter Lippman, the liberal columnist, Coretta Scott King, some others --- but all eyes were on me. I stood there in the heat staring out at the crowd, daydreaming, haad attention-span disorder.

     When my turn came to accept the degree, the speaker introducing me said something like how I distinguished myself in carminibus canendi and that I now would enjoy all the university's individual rights and privileges wherever they pertain, but then he added, "Though he is known to millions, he shuns publicity and organizations preferring the solidarity of his family and isolation from the world, and though he is appoaching the perilous age of thirty, he remains the authentic expression of the disturbed and concerned conscience of Young America." Oh Sweet Jesus! It was like a jolt. I shuddered and trembled but remained expressionless. The disturbed conscience of Young America! There it was again. I couldn't believe it! Tricked once more. The speaker could have said many things, he could have emphasized a few things about my music. When he said to the crowd that I preferred isolation from the world, it was like he told them that I preferred being in an iron tomb with my food shoved in on a tray.

     The sunlight was blocking my vision, but I could still see the faces gawking at me with such strange expressions. I was so mad I wanted to bite myself. Lately the public perception of me had begun to shift and move around like a yo-yo, but this kind of thing could set it back a thousand years.Didn't they know what was happening? Even the Russian newspaper Pravda had called me a money-hungry capitalist. Even the Weathermen, a notorious group who made homemade bombs in basements to blow up public buildings, who had taken their name from a line in one of my songs, had recently changed their name from the Weathermen to the Weather Underground. I was losing all kinds of credibility.There were all kinds of things going on. I was glad I came to get the degree, though. I could use it. Every look and touch and scent of it spelled respectability and had something of the spirit of the universe in it. After whispering and mumbling my way through the ceremony, I was handed the scroll. We piled back into the big Buick and drove away. It had been a strange day. "Bunch of dickheads on auto-stroke," Crosby said.