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The music critic Alex Ross has posted an astute essay on the Dylan in China flap here, which notes that demanding an artist to perform incendiary material is “the worst sort of armchair moralism,” especially given what often happens after such displays. Ross also points out that — believe it or not — there is as yet no evidence whatsoever that the Chinese authorities asked for any changes before approving Dylan’s setlists, or even proscribed any of his songs. In any event, as Ross also observes, Dylan sang some mighty edgy material in Beijing and Shanghai — although apparently it wasn’t “protesty” enough for some critics. But who’s fooling whom?
There is a growing touch of the absurd about this entire controversy, worthy of one of Dylan’s absurdist songs. It feels all the wackier when things like this surface — the front page of the Xinmin Evening News heralding, above the fold, Dylan’s then-upcoming Shanghai concert. (Thanks to Eric Muhlheim.)
Maybe Dylan should have sung “Crazy.”
UPDATE UPDATE CORRECTION: YES, IT IS THE WRONG PICTURE! (THANK YOU, ALAN.)