Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell’s friendship has always been a complicated one, with the pair estranged for many years. Even when they were touring together for the Rolling Thunder Revue, it was a struggle, and Mitchell never fully understood Dylan’s complexities.
When Mitchell began to gain traction, she was immediately heralded as Dylan’s female equivalent. However, the two artists never shared many common interests outside of music. Despite their differences, they have duetted on plentiful occasions and even toured Japan as co-headliners in 1994.
Seemingly, everything was rosy between Mitchell and Dylan. However, years later, it’d come to light that she hated every moment of sharing the stage with him and blamed this on Dylan’s poor personal hygiene, which made the task intolerable.
In Brian Hinton’s biography Both Sides Now, Mitchell looked back at the tour and made the startling revelation: “On the third night they stuck Bob at the mic with me and he never brushes his teeth, so his breath was like right in my face.”
Dylan has never responded to the strange allegation about his dental healthcare routine, and there does seem to be some substance to the remarks made by Mitchell. His former staff member, Victor Maymudes, once claimed: “He’s a very rude, obnoxious guy. He doesn’t take his clothes off when he goes to sleep and the guy doesn’t clean his teeth. Horrible breath”.
Her complaints about Dylan didn’t end with his reluctance to brush his teeth. In 2010, Mitchell also criticised his artistry and said in an interview with the LA Times: “We are like night and day, [Dylan] and I. Bob is not authentic at all. He’s a plagiarist, and his name and voice are fake. Everything about Bob is a deception.”
Mitchell was yet to be finished with her character assassination, and in 2013, Dylan again faced her wrath. She told CBS: “Musically, Dylan’s not very gifted; he’s borrowed his voice from old hillbillies. He’s got a lot of borrowed things. He’s not a great guitar player. He’s invented a character to deliver his songs, it’s a mask of sorts”.
The catalyst for Mitchell changing her tone about Dylan remains unknown. Perhaps she’s always felt that way about him but wasn’t confident about being honest in case it had a detrimental impact on her career.
However, in her autumnal years, Mitchell has rarely spoken publicly, and she’s been unfiltered on the seldom occasions where she’s opened her mouth. While her claim about Dylan’s dental hygiene was unnecessary, her willingness to say it confirms how little she cares about damning his reputation.