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Edward Norton on why Bob Dylan is "more punk-rock than anybody"

Many artists get called iconoclasts, but there’s only a few to whom it can truly apply. Bob Dylan was an iconoclast in the original sense of the word; he overthrew idols, and when the world zigged, Dylan zagged. It’s a point that has given the singer a mythical status within folk and rock music, but one man thinks Dylan is also the archetypal punk. 

“He was more punk rock than anybody,” Edward Norton explained on the Joe Rogan Podcast. The Fight Club star is clearly a big fan of the folk legend and documented his awe not just for the talents of the songwriter but also for his uncompromising integrity and ferocious upstanding backbone. 

Speaking about Dylan’s refusal to conform to expectations, Norton mused, “he was 20 or 21 years old, who resists people falling all over them to call them great at that age? Nobody!” He makes a strong case for the freewheelin’ troubadour.

He continues in this eulogising vein with Rogan punctuating the conversation with a couple of his trademark utterances of “wow.” The American History X actor touches upon many milestones in Dylan’s 1960s period, including the controversial moment that he went electric at the Newport Folk Festival and the ferocity of clap back he faced while doing so. 

Dylan’s ‘60s zenith led him to be championed as ‘the voice of a generation’ during a uniquely tumultuous time in American history. It was a label that the singer himself refuted and still laments to this day. His artistic integrity, however, equipment him with a strong enough will to navigate the fear, loathing and adulation that surrounded him.

At one point protestors even picketed Dylan’s private residence and demanded he joined them in direct action. With all this drama surrounding him, it is remarkable that he remained level headed enough to survive the era, producing exclusively brilliant records.

“How many people do you know in any of the things we all do, who get a taste of [fame] and don’t lean into it for a while?” Norton posits in conclusion. 

You can check out the full clip from the podcast below.