What John Lennon Said Was ‘Bullsh*t’ About Bob Dylan

John Lennon and Bob Dylan were two of the defining musicians of the 1960s — but that doesn’t mean John didn’t criticize Dylan. John wrote a song about Dylan which revealed he thought one aspect of Dylan was “bullsh*it.” The origins of this aspect of Dylan’s career are surprisingly mysterious.

Bob Dylan holding his guitar
Bob Dylan | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Why John Lennon didn’t ‘believe in Dylan’

One of the most notable songs from John’s album John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band is “God.” In the song, John listed a number of things he didn’t believe in. These things include Jesus, Buddha, the Bhagavad Gita, kings, and magic. He also says he doesn’t believe in Zimmerman — a reference to Dylan’s original last name. In the book Lennon Remembers, Jann S. Wenner asked John why he used the name “Zimmerman” instead of “Dylan.”

“Because Dylan is bullsh*t,” John explained. “Zimmerman is his name. You see, I don’t believe in Dylan and I don’t believe in Tom Jones, either in that way. Zimmerman is his name. My name isn’t John Beatle. It’s John Lennon. Just like that.”

“God”

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The origin of Bob Dylan’s stage name

According to Ultimate Classic Rock, it is true that Dylan legally changed his name from Robert Allen Zimmerman to Bob Dylan in 1962. Why? At one point, Dylan said he just chose his stage name and it stuck.

Fans have a handful of theories as to why he chose the name Bob Dylan. One is that he renamed himself after a poet named Dylan Thomas. Dylan said this wasn’t the case. “I’ve done more for Dylan Thomas than he’s ever done for me,” he said.

Bob Dylan at a piano
Bob Dylan | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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Another theory is that Dylan’s stage name is a reference to Matt Dillon, a character from the Western franchise Gunsmoke. Dylan doesn’t seem to have commented on this theory. Regardless of why he changed his name, the conflicting theories around Dylan’s name change only add to his enduring mystique.

John Lennon’s feelings about Bob Dylan

So John criticized Dylan for having a stage name. Does that mean John outright disliked Dylan? He further discussed his view of Dylan later in Lennon Remembers.

“Mr. Tambourine Man”

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“I loved him, you know, because he wrote some beautiful stuff,” John said. “I like the sound of him, I didn’t have to listen to his words, he used to come with his acetate and say ‘Listen to this, John, and did you hear the words?’ … [T]hat doesn’t matter, the sound is what counts – the overall thing. I had too many father figures and I liked words, too, so I liked a lot of the stuff he did. You don’t have to hear what Bob Dylan’s is saying, you just have to hear the way he says it.” John praised Dylan’s music — while offering a sharp critique of his stage name.