Humans love a conspiracy theory, particularly as consumers. It’s as if we have this innate desire for there to be something more nefarious at play than, say, what logic would call chance and circumstance. Across popular culture, conspiracy theories abound, discussing everything from the death of JFK to the real author of Wuthering Heights.
Concentrating solely on the realm of the music, they range from the insistence that Tupac is still alive and hiding out as a farmer in Cuba, to tales ascribing murder, to the deaths of some of the most iconic members of the supposed ‘27 Club‘.
At this present juncture that society finds itself at in 2021, conspiracy theories have never been more relevant. We now live in an age where the internet dominates discourse and one where the distinction between fact and fiction is now irreparably blurred. The era of the ‘alternative fact’, as it has been called by some scholars, is one where conspiracy theories can be attributed to any subject, in any corner of life. Instead of seeing the world as rudderless, to many people, most parts of life in the westernised world, including TikTok, involves a conspiracy.
Within music, many of our favourite icons have not been safe from the gaze of the conspiracy theorists, and many, playing on just how gullible some fans can be, have actually helped to stoke the fire themselves. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and even Lady Gaga have found themselves at the centre of separate conspiracies, all for different reasons.
If we streamline our perspective and concentrate solely on rock ‘n’ roll, you’ll quickly heed that there are many conspiracies that concern our favourite artists from the ‘golden age’ of rock, the 1960s and ’70s. Given that the so-called rock ‘gods’ were elevated to an almost mythic level due to their talent and notoriety off-stage and the vast array of documentation surrounding these figures, it has added an air of mystique to their character, making them seem almost untouchable.
How Sam Shepard helped create a classic Bob Dylan song
One of the most opaque of these is, of course, Bob Dylan. Given that as an artist, his lyrics are a dense mesh of ideas, it comes to little surprise that the man behind them has always had a penchant for cultivating a mysterious, almost otherworldy public image. In an interview during the ’00s, Bob Dylan took all of his fans by surprise. He was asked the rather hollow question of why he continued to play shows despite his massive riches and fame. He explained that he made a deal to “get where I am now” and that he is a “grateful” man who is true to his word.
Dylan’s response was typically surreal, as he said: “It all goes back to the destiny thing. I made a bargain with it a long time ago, and I’m holding up my end.” He was then promptly asked who he made a deal with, to which Dylan gave a wry smile, laughed and said: “With the Chief Commander of this earth and the world we can’t see.”
Instead of taking Dylan’s comments as a bit of fun, or following the inference that he made a deal with ‘God’, many on the internet believe that Dylan actually made a deal with the Devil in order to become famous. These people claim that God nor Jesus “make bargains”. Therefore, the only culprit has to be the Devil. Given that rock has long had a loose association with the Devil and the fact that religion still permeates many parts of the world, there can be no surprise that a relationship between Dylan and the Devil has been conjured up in the wake of his rather bizarre comments.
It’s almost certain that Dylan didn’t make a deal with anyone apart from the record companies and that he was simply yanking the interviewer and the audience’s tail. Alas, the damage was done. This particular theory has existed for years and shows no sign of abating. We wonder which modern artist will be the next to be placed at the centre of a web of conspiracy?
Watch the interview below.