Bob Dylan arrived in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City in January 1961. His status as a legendary music figure was largely built in the 1960s, first as a talented folk singer and then as a ground-breaking rock star.
In 2004, Dylan surprised readers by divulging in his Chronicles memoir that Senator Barry Goldwater was his “favorite politician” of the 1960s. At the time, Dylan himself found “there wasn’t any way to explain that to anybody.” Some have wondered whether this statement means that Dylan is a closet Republican or is now finally able to announce his true conservative self. The notion that Bob Dylan is more sympathetic to the Right than to the Left reaches too far. Dylan’s political worldview aligned only a little with the New Right, a bit more with the New Left, and was an amalgamation of traditional concepts that defied easy classification.
Although in interviews Dylan is often evasive and at times less than forthright, his statement about Goldwater can most likely be taken at face value. That Dylan would find the Arizona Senator’s straightforwardness and image as an outsider appealing is perfectly consistent with Dylan’s political views. Iron Rangers appreciated authenticity from their politicians, and Goldwater possessed it, even to the detriment of his 1964 candidacy. When Dylan has portrayed politicians in songs and interviews he has generally taken them to task for phoniness or self- interest. Dylan may well have appreciated Goldwater’s advocacy of personal freedom and, as time went on, his acceptance speech which asserted the Senator’s determination to “return to proven ways—not because they are old, but because they are true.”