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Bob Dylan denies Chinese authorities vetted his songs

The singer claims the Chinese authorities did not censor his setlist – after he was criticised for not playing his iconic 1960s-era protest songs during performances in Beijing and Shanghai.

Bob Dylan and his band perform at his concert in Shanghai, China, 8 April 2011.
Bob Dylan and his band perform at his concert in Shanghai, China, 8 April 2011.
Image: Sky/AP/Press Association Images

SINGER BOB DYLAN has denied that he allowed his setlist to be vetted by the Chinese government during a recent series of concerts in the country.

In a message posted on his website, the icon of the 1960s anti-war movement insisted that he had not removed his popular protest songs from his setlist, and that he had played all the songs he had intended to.

Dylan wrote:

As far as censorship goes, the Chinese government had asked for the names of the songs that I would be playing. There’s no logical answer to that, so we sent them the set lists from the previous 3 months. If there were any songs, verses or lines censored, nobody ever told me about it and we played all the songs that we intended to play.

He explained the reason he decided not to play his counterculture anthems was because the fans attending his concert were probably too young to be acquainted with his enduring favourites, such as The Times They Are a-Changin’ and Like a Rolling Stone. “They were young and my feeling was that they wouldn’t have known my early songs anyway,” he said.

The 69-year-old’s statement might do little to sway his sternest critics however, with New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd writing: “The idea that the raspy troubadour of ’60s freedom anthems would go to a dictatorship and not sing those anthems is a whole new kind of sellout… He sang his censored set, took his pile of Communist cash and left.”

Read more: Dylan to perform in Vietnam for the first time – but ticket prices equal a month’s wages >

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