On July 29th, 1966, Bob Dylan’s life would change forever when he almost faced death straight in the face. The incident, arriving devastating fashion, occurred after the musician was involved a horrendous motorcycle crash just one month following the release of the mercurial album Blonde On Blonde.
At the time, Dylan had released seven records in just over four years and, although he was having undoubtedly the time of his life, he was also worn out. While speculation about the crash has been rife in years that followed, many even began to believe this motorcycle crash was, in fact, an elaborate ploy to get time off. The incident allegedly took place in the Woodstock region on the outskirts of New York but, bizarrely, there is no official record of the crash even though Dylan claimed to break several vertebrae in his neck.
After his tour, Dylan was exhausted and had returned to New York. However, even then he couldn’t escape the demands that came with his success. ABC Television had paid an advance for a TV show, his publisher, Macmillan, was demanding a manuscript of Tarantula and his manager Albert Grossman had booked another tour for the winter — it all became too daunting for Dylan.
However, that July night changed everything after Dylan crashed his 500cc Triumph Tiger 100. The incident would end up putting his chaotic career on pause while he recovered from serious injuries. Mystery still ensues around the finer details of the accident and, as since no ambulance was called to the scene, Dylan didn’t need to be hospitalised. It is this factor alone which led to many theorising that he overplayed the extent of the crash in order to receive time off.
“I had been in a motorcycle accident and I’d been hurt, but I recovered,” Dylan wrote in Chronicles. “Truth was that I wanted to get out of the rat race. Having children changed my life and segregated me from just about everybody and everything that was going on. Outside of my family, nothing held any real interest for me and I was seeing everything through different glasses.”
Dylan successfully withdrew himself from public life and, despite continuously releasing music albeit on a more relaxed, less prolific basis, it would be another eight years before he would tour again—with the break revitalising the all-time great.
His attitude had changed following this time away from the stage and Dylan needed that his moment of calm, a stint from the hamster wheel to realise what was truly important life. The motorcycle crash may have almost taken his life but what it did provide him with was a lifeline and a newfound sense of clarity which, in the long run, prove to be one of the best things to happen to him.