Bob Dylan rarely gives interviews - and when he does - he sometimes plays the trickster, seeming to enjoy teasing and confounding journalists with his enigmatic, bewildering responses.
"What's your new album about?" Dylan was asked during a press conference in 1965. "Oh, it's about all kinds of different things -rats and balloons," he announced.
"They're just about the only things that come to my mind right now."
One writer noted, "snagging an interview with Dylan is almost as impossible as spotting Sasquatch." But when you do, look out, especially when he's feeling misunderstood.
"What are you doing with all that money?" he was asked on a TV show in 1965. "Buying boots, bananas, fruit, pears," Dylan answered. "Bought some very fancy ashtrays the other day."
"What is your main message?" he was queried. "Swing, love, be, is, was, were, double," said the cryptic genius. "Double up, once in a while."
Bob Dylan and his band perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's A&B Amphitheater. There is no opening act, but there will be an intermission. Tickets are $59, $69, $89 and $125 for limited premium seats (plus applicable fees). Call 242-SHOW.
In his autobiography, "Chronicles," Dylan alludes to his approach toward the press: "When Bono or me aren't exactly sure about somebody, we just make it up."
Which brings us to a recent rather confounding exposition. During a 2012 Rolling Stone interview, he inferred a bizarre connection to a dead Hells Angel, involving the concept of transfiguration (defined as, "a complete transformation into a more beautiful or spiritual state").
Following his motorcycle accident in 1966, Dylan reported he experienced a sort of rebirth, a transfiguration connected to the biker president of the San Bernardino Angels, Bobby Zimmerman (Dylan's birth name), who died in a bike accident.
"So when you ask some of your questions, you're asking them to a person who's long dead," Dylan informed Rolling Stone. "You're asking them to a person that doesn't exist. But people make that mistake about me all the time. Transfiguration is what allows you to crawl out from under the chaos and fly above it. That's how I can still do what I do and write the songs I sing and just keep on moving."
Performing at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center on Saturday as another stop on his travels dubbed the "Never Ending Tour," Dylan arrives on our shores after performing eight sold-out nights in Tokyo. As of the middle of last year, the tour had notched up 2,503 shows in 808 cities over the course of a 25-year span.
"A lot of people don't like the road, but it's as natural to me as breathing," Dylan told The New York Times. "I do it because I'm driven to do it. I'm mortified to be on the stage, but then again, it's the only place where I'm happy. It's the only place you can be who you want to be. You can't be who you want to be in daily life. I don't care who you are, you're going to be disappointed in daily life.
But the cure-all for all this is to get on the stage and that's why performers do it. In saying that I don't want to put on the mask of celebrity, I'd rather just do my work and see it as a trade."
Continually reinterpreting his work, Dylan doesn't pander to fans who might expect to hear his classic songs exactly the way he recorded them.
"I'd rather live in the moment than some kind of nostalgia trip, which I feel is a drug, a real drug the people are mainlining," Dylan said in a Newsweek interview. "People are mainlining nostalgia like it was morphine. I don't want to be a drug dealer."
Besides sometimes befuddling his audience, Dylan can surprise his backing musicians by spontaneously altering planned arrangements. "His thing is anarchy," Tom Petty band guitarist Mike Campbell revealed to People magazine. "He hates it when it's pat show biz."
As a pioneer refusing to conform to any defined standard, Dylan pursues innovation that has occasionally perplexed his audience. Folk fans were alarmed by his embrace of rock at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. Fourteen years later he received some boos in San Francisco on his gospel- based "Slow Train Coming" tour.
"In 1979, I went out on tour and played no song that I had ever played before live," he told Spin magazine in 1985. "It was a whole different show and I thought that was a pretty amazing thing to do. I don't know any other artist who has done that, has not played whatever they've been known for."
The hostile reaction generated during his born-again Christian tours of 1979, and 1980 prompted Dylan to tell the Los Angeles Times, "If you make people jump on any level, I think it is worthwhile, because people are so asleep."
Since he began performing more than 50 years ago, Dylan's creative passion has transformed the face of pop and guided a whole generation through the turmoil of the 1960s. This master poet's influence was so pervasive and profound he stimulated the Beatles to explore deeper lyrical dimensions. "We all went potty on Dylan," John Lennon told an interviewer. "Dylan taught us a lot."
Of all the 1960s idols, Dylan still remains a potent creative force. Although he's rarely played on the radio, he has never stopped making great music. Hailed as a shaman and prophet in Time magazine's profile on the most influential artists of the 20th century, Dylan has remained in the spotlight for five decades.
Among recent accomplishments he won the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, with President Barack Obama declaring: "There is not a bigger giant in the history of American music." In 2008 he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize, and he was nominated for a Nobel Prize in literature. He performed "Knocking on Heaven's Door" for the pope, and was also the subject of the first academic conference on his legacy held at Stanford University.
"Dylan, in words and music, has created an almost unlimited universe of art which has permeated the globe and in fact changed the history of the world," noted professor Gordon Ball of the Virginia Military Institute. "His oeuvre has shown more than any other poets in this (20th) century the power of words to alter lives and destinies."
When Dylan was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Bruce Springsteen declared: "Dylan freed the mind the way Elvis freed the body.
He had a vision and the talent to make a pop song that contained the whole world. He invented a new way a pop star could sound, broke through the limitations of sound, broke through the limitations of what a recording artist could achieve and changed the face of rock 'n' roll forever."
Marking the 50th anniversary of his recording debut, Dylan's most recent recording, "Tempest," was universally praised, with Rolling Stone lauding, "Dylan now stands virtually alone among his 1960s peers."
In an analysis of his enduring legacy, a New Yorker article noted: "The rock-star survivors of Dylan's generation have all had to find ways to deal with their advancing age. We have become used to the spectacle of old men, hair-plugged and botoxed and crammed into tight trousers, recycling the hits of their youth on blockbuster reunion tours. But Dylan doesn't run from his old age - he accentuates it."
"I ain't dead yet, my bell still rings," he growls on the rocking blues of "Tempest's" "Early Roman Kings."
While there's no new music from the icon this year, so far in 2014, country artist Charlie Daniels has released the tribute album, "Off the Grid -Doin' It Dylan." There's "Bob Dylan in the '80s: Volume One," with artists like Widespread Panic, Lucius, Blitzen Trapper and guitarist Slash on board. "From Another World" gathers musicians from around the globe to interpret Dylan including Egypt's The Musicians Of The Nile with a hypnotic "Tangled Up in Blue." And a deluxe version of "Bob Dylan - The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration" reissues the historic show with Neil Young, George Harrison, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Eric Clapton and Stevie Wonder.
The 72-year-old legend ended his 2013 tour in the U.K., performing classics like "All Along the Watchtower," "She Belongs to Me" and "Tangled up in Blue," mixed in with songs from "Tempest" and recent material.
"Dylan is famous for confounding audiences, and he's done it again, this time by demonstrating all the qualities that made people fall in love with his music in the first place," praised The Times. And The Daily Telegraph raved: "Just as one is about to lose faith, Dylan provides a reminder of his undimmed genius. He is a master, and (newer) songs like 'Pay in Blood' and a stunning 'Forgetful Heart' are simply mesmerizing."