New Bob Dylan Book Will Show His ‘Human Side,’ Says Friend
One of Bob Dylan’s oldest friends promised that his memoir would illustrate the secretive artist as “one of the boys” – but refused to discuss how the pair fell out around 10 years ago.
Louie Kemp acted as producer for Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue tour in 1975, and later oversaw filming of Dylan’s parts in the Band movie The Last Waltz. They’d been friends since meeting at summer camp in 1953.
“He was 12 years old and he had a guitar,” Kemp writes in his memoir, Dylan & Me: 50 Years of Adventures, which will be published on Aug. 15. “He would go around telling everybody that he was going to be a rock 'n' roll star. I was 11 and I believed him.”
“This book shows you Dylan’s down-to-earth side,” Kemp told Rolling Stone in a new interview. “To me, he has always been Bobby Zimmerman, and these are all Bobby Zimmerman stories. Bob Dylan is his commercial side. I wanted to show a totally different perspective on him than anyone has ever heard before.”
Dylan & Me will cover events like the Band reunion tour in 1974, when Kemp was placed in a rocking chair near Levon Helm’s drum kit, and the time Dylan convinced him to become involved in the Rolling Thunder Revue tour. “You’re a successful businessman,” Dylan told him. “And you can’t deny that you’ve seen it all from the inside. If anybody can put this together, it’s you.”
Kemp reflected that his achievements in the catering industry helped strengthen the pair’s bonds. “Bob liked that I was successful on my own," he explained. "I didn’t need anything from him.”
In an excerpt, Kemp writes about the time Dylan played some songs he’d written for Blood on the Tracks to Stephen Stills in a hotel room: “Stephen was obviously loaded, and when Bobby sang ‘Idiot Wind,’ he became paranoid and very agitated. ‘You wrote that song about me!’ he shouted. ‘Why did you write that song about me?’ He jumped up and got right in Bobby’s face. As Bobby’s friend and self-appointed protector, I jumped in between them so Stephen couldn’t get any closer. Carefully, I eased Stephen back. Bobby just laughed and said, ‘Relax, man; the song’s not about you,’ as he continued to sing and strum without missing a beat.”
Kemp explained that he frequently refused to contribute to other books. “I had it in the back of my mind that one day I’d write my own book, sharing all these stories that were so interesting and meaningful to me,” he said.
He decided to self-publish after a number of potential partners demanded material that he didn’t want to provide. “They kept asking me to write about things that I didn’t think were pertinent," he noted. "All the stories I’m willing to share in this book are stories that don’t violate our friendship. They are stories that show the human side of Bob. They make him look like one of the boys, which he always was to me.”
However, Kemp admitted he hadn’t seen Dylan in person for about a decade now. “We’re still friends, but we’re not in touch like we used to be,” he said, adding that whatever happened “is not something that I would talk to anybody about. That’s between Bob and I.”