Bob Dylan lets the music do the talking on his behalf. Rather than talking the talk, Dylan has preferred to be judged by his actions. His support of the LGBTQ+ community is sincere, and one which he proved by his participation in the Universal Love EP in a bid to celebrate gay love.
Two of Dylan’s greatest heroes in Allen Ginsberg, and Arthur Rimbaud, were vocal activists of the community. Not only did they impact Dylan as a writer, but his worldview too. Even though the world around him was an intolerant, hateful place that was afraid of change, that’s a mindset that Dylan never bought into.
‘The Times They Are a-Changin’ exemplifies his liberal and progressive attitude, but unlike a lot of his peers, his youthful hope hasn’t waned with age. In 2018, Dylan was asked to appear on an EP that reimagined traditional wedding songs for same-sex couples, and without hesitation, he agreed.
The EP featured artists both straight or part of the LGBTQ+ community, and the likes of Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke, Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard, and Kesha also took part. Dylan chose to cover ‘She’s Funny That Way’, which has been covered by Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and ‘Sammy Davis Jr.’ in the past.
However, Dylan’s cover had a twist to it, and he changed the track to ‘He’s Funny That Way’. Dylan declined to be interviewed about his participation in the compilation at the time of the release, but he didn’t need to as the cover speaks for itself.
Rob Kaplan, who produced the compilation, revealed that Dylan didn’t take any convincing to take part. “And it wasn’t just ‘yes, I’ll do this,'” he said to the New York Times. “It was ‘hey, I have an idea for a song.'”
The compilation was designed to allow same-sex couples to have wedding songs that they could dance to, which applied to their relationship, and celebrated inclusion. “If you look at the history of pop music, love songs have predominantly come from one heterosexual perspective,” said Tom Murphy, a co-producer of Universal Love. “If we view music as something that brings people together, shouldn’t these popular songs be open to everyone?”
Dylan has never publicly made a statement supporting gay rights. However, an interview with Rolling Stone in 1984 provides a glimpse into his perspective. The bohemian singer-songwriter discussed Allen Ginsberg, and the interviewer mentioned how the bible says ‘homosexuality is an abomination’. Still, Dylan didn’t let his religious beliefs get in the way of his liberal stance. “Yeah, well, but that’s no reason for me to condemn somebody,” Dylan responded. “Because they drink or they’re corrupt in orthodox ways or they wear their shirt inside out. I mean, that’s their scene. It certainly doesn’t matter to me. I’ve got no axe to grind with any of that.”
Dylan undoubtedly gets inundated with requests to support various social justice campaigns, and whenever he says yes to one, that’s because it’s for a cause that he truly believes in. The singer’s entire career has been built around authenticity, and Dylan’s support for the LGBTQ+ community is unquestionably genuine. On top of that, it’s a beautiful cover of a classic song from the Great American Songbook, which Dylan has given a facelift for the modern age.