But the most troubling citations relate to one of Dylan’s most famous compositions. According to Lehrer, here is Bob Dylan on his 1965 song, “Like a Rolling Stone”: “[Dylan] would later say it was his first ‘completely free song…the one that opened it up for me.’”And these ruminations on where the song came from: “‘It’s a hard thing to describe,’” Lehrer claims Dylan said. “‘It’s just this sense that you got something to say.’” Lehrer does not provide citations for either of these, and after a deep excavation of the Dylan record I was unable to locate them. In a phone call and subsequent emails, Lehrer told me these quotes were a result of his research at “bobdylan.com headquarters,” and that he had access to the uncut version of No Direction Home provided by Dylan’s manager Jeff Rosen.
When I asked about aspects of his interactions with Rosen, Lehrer provided a sketchy timeframe and contradictory specifics—he first told me that he had personally exchanged emails with Rosen, then attributed this supposed email exchange to his literary agent—then further claimed that Dylan’s management had approved the chapter after being sent a copy of Imagine. He added that Dylan’s management didn’t want their cooperation sourced in the book. But when I contacted Dylan’s management, they told me that they were unfamiliar with Lehrer, had never read his book, there was no bobdylan.com headquarters, and, to the best of their recollection, no one there had screened outtakes from No Direction Home for Lehrer. Confronted with this, Lehrer admitted that he had invented it.
An astonishing (and fair) take-down of Jonah Lehrer and his fabrications of Dylan quotes from Tablet Magazine.
Somehow, this makes me sad. He’s such a talented writer and interesting thinker.