Bob Dylan Said He Had to Be ‘Unfriendly’ and ‘Tight-A**ed’ to Be Successful 

Bob Dylan has been a successful musician for decades. He rose to fame in the early 1960s and has won multiple Grammys and even a Nobel Prize. His songwriting talent helped him on his rise to fame, but he said he has had to maintain a specific type of personality too. In order to be successful, Dylan said he had to be reclusive and unfriendly.

Bob Dylan wears a cowboy hat and holds a guitar.
Bob Dylan | Harry Scott/Redferns

The ‘Hurricane’ singer has a reputation as an unapproachable celebrity

Dylan has always valued his privacy, something his concert promoter, Bill Graham, noted. As a result, he instructed tour staff to avoid talking to Dylan

“Before we went out, I got the whole tour staff together in San Francisco and I said, ‘You know, this is Bob Dylan,'” Graham explained in his book Bill Graham Presents: My Life Inside Rock and Out. “‘I don’t think he’s the kind of guy who wants you to say to him every day, ‘Hi, Bob! How you doin’? What’s goin’ on?’ Please try to understand that and give him some respect for his privacy.”

A black and white picture of Bob Dylan wearing sunglasses and sitting at a piano.
Bob Dylan | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

After some time, though, Dylan made it clear that he didn’t want that much privacy.

“The tour started,” he said. “In the third or fourth city in the middle of the night, someone knocked on the door of my hotel room. I opened the door and it was Bob. He came in. I could see he had a problem. I said, ‘Is everything OK, Bob? Something’s wrong?’ He said, ‘Bill. Why isn’t anybody talking to me?'”

Bob Dylan said he was ‘unfriendly’ in order to be successful 

Dylan has maintained success for most of his life. He explained that he does not have a set routine for writing; he puts songs to paper whenever creativity strikes him.

“I write songs when: the mood strikes me, not with a set routine,” he told The Wall Street Journal in 2022. “My method is transportable. I can write songs anywhere at any time, although some of them are completed and redefined at recording sessions, some even at live shows.”

When Dylan writes, he says he’s at his most vulnerable.

“Creativity is: a funny thing,” he said. “When we’re inventing something, we’re more vulnerable than we’ll ever be. Eating and sleeping mean nothing. We’re in ‘Splendid Isolation,’ like in the Warren Zevon song; the world of self, Georgia O’Keeffe alone in the desert.”

He said that in order to be creative, he has had to isolate himself to a certain extent. To do so, he said he needs to be unfriendly. 

“To be creative you’ve got to be unsociable and tight-a**ed,” he said. “Not necessarily violent and ugly, just unfriendly and distracted. You’re self-sufficient and you stay focused.”

Bob Dylan has been successful for years, but he has an isolated life

Dylan has had a number of famous friends over the years, but those close to him have noted that he lives a very solitary life. Liam Clancy, a musician Dylan met when he first moved to New York, said Dylan was a lonely person.

A black and white picture of Bob Dylan wearing sunglasses and sitting in front of a window.
Bob Dylan | Fiona Adams/Redferns
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“A very lonely man,” Clancy said, per the book Down the Highway by Howard Sounes. “So few people left in the world, I suppose, that he [can] talk to.”