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Revisiting the surreal moment Bob Dylan and John Wayne actually got on

Bob Dylan needs no real introduction. He is the modern era’s premier chronicler through art, and since he first burst onto the scene in the early 1960s he has mostly managed to remain relevant whilst experimenting with an increasingly diverse sonic palette. Although musically, he is at the very top of his game, it is lyrically that he has truly shone. 

His prose is like none other in the modern world, and it is through the strength of his words that he has managed to successfully take society to task over and its ills, ranging from racism to sexism and violence. He assumed the mantle of his hero Woody Guthrie and went on to write some of the most important protest songs of the past 60 years. If anyone wants a taste of the extent of his genius, his 2019 cut ‘Murder Most Foul’ is one of the most compelling lyrical chronicles in history. 

Dylan’s eminence has opened almost every door possible for him. One of the most astonishing led to a meeting with one of the most iconic yet controversial actors of all time, John Wayne. During the meeting, Dylan performed a handful of songs for Wayne, and by all accounts, it was a regular day. 

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However, it is made more remarkable by the fact that in terms of opinions, Dylan and Wayne could not have been further apart. Dylan was a countercultural icon espousing progressive values, whereas Wayne was a lifelong Republican, holding what in today’s world can only be described as bigoted beliefs. 

During a 2017 Q&A with Bill Flanagan, Dylan recalled meeting the True Grit star, and when asked how they got on, he surprised everyone by revealing, “Pretty good, actually”. 

Explaining how the meeting came to fruition, Dylan said: “The Duke, I met him on a battleship in Hawaii where he was filming a movie, he and Burgess Meredith. One of my former girlfriends was in the movie too, and she told me to come over there; she introduced me to him, and he asked me to play some folk songs. “

“I played him ‘Buffalo Skinners,’ ‘Raggle Taggle Gypsy,’ and I think ‘I’m a Rambler, I’m a Gambler.’ He told me if I wanted to, I could stick around and be in the movie. He was friendly to me”, he remembered. It’s genuinely surprising to note that Dylan and Wayne got on so well, but it is safe to say that outside of this setting they might not have done. 

As for the film title of the film? One would contend it was 1965’s In Harm’s Way, which starred both Wayne and Burgess Meredith, and was filmed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Interestingly, the film’s cast only features a handful of women and given their age, I’d wager that the former girlfriend that Dylan mentions is the unmistakable Jill Haworth.

Listen to the 2022 remake of Bob Dylan’s ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ below.

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