Bob Dylan’s Mother

[Bob Dylan, alongside his mother, Beatrice (“Beatty”) Rutman, at the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony, Washington DC,  1997]

AG: [speaking in 1980, to his Naropa students] – I had supper…  I had lunch with Bob Dylan’s mother  (It was funny ..). She was very plump. She goes in a house with wall-to-wall carpeting and plates on the wall, and little gimmicks and geegaws, and bowls that she picked up from her travels to Las Vegas, (or) Scottsdale, Arizona, where her daughter is… {editorial note -Allen is confused here, Dylan doesn’t have a sister, just a younger brother, David]  Very nice.  So I said,  “What do you think about your son’s conversion?’. She said, “He hasn’t announced publicly he’s converted. He sings about Jesus but we came from a neighborhood where everybody talks about Jesus. I like Jesus too”. So she said “Besides, if I have to worry… I’m a mother, if I have to worry every time something was said about him or he said something in a newspaper, I’d have a heart-attack forty thousand times! I just give up now. Whatever he does, I don’t ask him questions”. She’s a real sort of a..

Peter Orlovsky: “It’s just a show”?

AG: What?

Peter Orlovsky: He says, “It’s just a show”

AG: Yeah – She said,  “Besides, he prepares his shows. Really. He’s very serious about preparing his shows, testing out what the public needs”. – So she was seeing it, seeing it like a stage, in that light of show-business, you know, intelligent show-business, very careful, hard-working craftsmanship of show business, and…. let’s see what else?, of poetic import (she said) .Yeah, but he’s got to confront her all the time. Because she’s just this big,.. well, short,  plump, Jewish mother,,,, remarried to another husband, since his father died, (who’s in various small businesses like recycling paper bags, a little land business, a certain amount of investment, another.. some other matters)..  So she’s preoccupied with her other children [sic] and their bar mitzvahs (and how he came to the bar-mitzvah of a cousin the last time) – (There’s a) big picture of the whole family, all the children looking cheerful.

It’s amazing that he’d have to confront her constantly, like we have to confront our mothers, and our fathers, with all the embarrassment and shame and glory and secrets, tears… It puts him in a funny human scale. It put.. (in my mind, it did). He was actually very generous to her all the time (you know, call her up – she calls him up, yells at him)

But now she says she’s afraid of.. she’s afraid of.. (bothering him), now, she doesn’t ask him questions.

{Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately five minutes in and concluding at approximately eight minutes in]

[Betty Stone  (aka Betty Rutman and Betty Zimmerman) (1915-2000) – the mother of Bob Dylan]

5 comments

  1. Always nice to see a vulnerable, human context for the Bob! I’ve also always been a fan of the stanza in Lonesome Days Blues “I’m 40 miles from the Mill, I’m dropping it into overdrive. Set my dial on the radio, I wish my mother was still alive!”

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