By Jeff J. Brown
Pictured above: upper left is Bob Dylan. Lower left is Ed Curtin and upper right is Bob’s song cover, “Murder Most Foul”.
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Sixteen years on the streets, living and working with the people of China, Jeff
For those who prefer reading, here is Ed’s interview transcript:
Jeff: Good evening, everybody. This is Jeff J. Brown on China Rising Radio Sinoland in Chiang Mai, China. If you were to go across the North Pole, down into the east coast of the United States and across to Massachusetts: I’ve got Ed Curtin on the show tonight. How are you doing, Ed?
Ed: I’m doing fine, Jeff, just a little tired – I had a rough night.
Jeff: Well, as we get older, that happens! Today happens to be my 66th birthday, so I thought doing an interview with someone as dynamic and as creative as you, and as introspective and thoughtful as you are would be very good for my mental health, so I’m glad to have you back.
Ed: Well, happy birthday!
Jeff: Thank you. This is the second time Ed’s been on this show and so I’d like to give just a little of his background: Ed studied the classics, philosophy, literature, theology and sociology. He then taught sociology at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. His writing on various topics has appeared widely over many years. He states, and I quote, “I write as a public intellectual for the general public, not as a specialist for narrow readership. I believe that non-committal sociology is an impossibility and therefore see all my work as an effort to enhance human freedom through understanding.” In my first interview with him, which was almost exactly a year ago, I called him a “renaissance man” because he’s a rebel and he’s an anti-imperial fighter. His writing in this last year has also just been on fire. He’s been on Global Research; he’s been on The Greenville Post; he’s been on Lew Rockwell. He’s just been doing some amazing, amazing stuff – I will put all of it up, for any fans out there, on the interview page. So, thank you so much for coming back on, Ed.
Ed: Well, I’m glad to be here, Jeff. As I said, I had a very rough night because three intruders broke into the house. They were kidnapping my wife and children and so I had to fight them off with a baseball bat.
Ed: Yes, and crack their knees with it. And then, finally, I had to get a pistol, shoot them in the back and finish them off because they were very persistent. It was a tough night.
Jeff: Golly! Do you want to stop this interview and do it later?
Ed: No, no. I woke up for it.
Jeff: So, who was it that broke into your house?
Ed: Well, I couldn’t quite tell. They were mysterious figures, Jeff.
Jeff: Did they get away?
Ed: No, I shot them in the back, and I saved my family. It was quite a night, you know? And then, when I woke up early from that encounter, I heard a cat crying outside in the morning rain. It just seemed to set the scene for this interview.
Jeff: I mean, I’m not trying to belittle what you’re saying, but are you honest-to-God telling me the truth about what happened last night?
Ed: Now, would I lie to you?
Jeff: It’s just unbelievable – this must be on the local news, in the local newspaper and everything. Or will be?
Ed: No, it’s just in my dream book.
Jeff: Oh, you dog! You got me. Well, this does bring us to what Ed and I are going to be talking about tonight. We both know that he’s such a great writer and so I said, about three weeks ago, something along the lines of “Ed, you know, I just love what you’re writing. And so, let’s get together and let’s just have a talk”. I’ve got no notes, and I don’t think Ed has any notes…
And then later, after our talk, I emailed him and I said, Ed, let’s not discuss Covid 19 – I’m just sick and tired of it.
He agreed, and, funnily enough he wrote a wonderful article about six months ago or a little longer, maybe in July of last year, about Bob Dylan and the movie that Martin Scorsese made: the documentary about Dylan and the Rolling Thunder review. It was just so good, and I loved it.
Then, Ed broke the news in my circles that Bob Dylan was coming out with his new song called “Murder Most Foul”, which exposes the Kennedy murders. ‘Murders’ plural, because Dylan has a stanza in there about the fact that it wasn’t just JFK who was murdered. So, I suggested to Ed that we talk about Bob Dylan and just kind of forget about Covid -19.
Ed, so, you obviously were a fan of Scorsese’s documentary because you wrote a wonderful, wonderful piece on it. What you really talk about is Dylan being our Emerson and you also talk about Frederick Nietzsche. You talk about the fact that he’s a man of contradictions; he’s a man who wears masks. And, because this is your interview, please just tell us why Bob Dylan fascinates you enough to write articles about him and why he’s so important to American ‘Americana’. After that, we can go ahead and discuss the song that he just released.
Ed: Sure, Jeff. I’d be glad to. Let me begin by saying that Bob Dylan has written that “songs are like dreams.” And so, going back to my dream last night: if I were a songwriter (which I’m not but I have written one song) there would be a song perhaps coming out of this pen! About Bob Dylan, about three intruders, about having to shoot them in the back and about breaking their knees with a baseball bat!
Anyway, I think my fascination with his work goes back a long way. I didn’t initially fully grasp why he interested me so much – it took a while. Let me begin by just quoting the last line of his Nobel Prize winning address. (and I do have a few notes because I can’t remember all these quotations!) So, he quotes the first line of the Odyssey which he makes the last line of his address. He quotes it as follows: “Sing in me, oh muse, and through me tell the story”.
“Sing in me, oh muse, and through me tell the story”.
Throughout my life The Odyssey has been crucial to the understanding of Bob Dylan because I think that his whole career is almost a replication of The Odyssey in many ways.
When I was in high school, we studied Greek and Latin, in college I was a Classics major. In high school, starting in our sophomore year, we translated the entire Odyssey. I still remember, to this very day, the first line in Greek which is the line that Dylan quotes at the end of his Nobel address. In Greek, it goes a little bit like this, if I remember my pronunciation: Tragoudíste mésa mou, o moúsa, kai mésa mou peíte tin istoría, which is “Sing in me, oh muse, and through me tell the story”. And so, Dylan is not just our Emerson, he’s our Homer. But then again, he’s Ovid. He’s a lot of the Latin and Greek poets, but especially The Odyssey which I think is crucial and is the reason why I’ve always been interested in in his work. Now, if you look at him from over 50 plus years, there are just these incredible themes from The Odyssey.
Jeff: It’s funny that you should mention that because I didn’t do Greek, but when I was in high school for three years, we learned Latin (this course was still back when we did that kind of stuff!) and we studied The Odyssey and Jason and the Argonauts and so it was a time in the United States when the classics still meant something. Bob Dylan probably studied all that as well when he was at high school and they don’t teach that stuff anymore. I would say that he would not have been the same person that he is today if he hadn’t had the chance to study the classics. For us, they were just part and parcel of our regular subjects: like debate or science. People took Latin, and they could also take French, but I decided to take Latin because I thought it would help me with other languages.
Well, he is amazing. Have you ever seen him at a concert?
Ed: No, I never have, believe it or not.
Jeff: Ah, okay, well, I actually saw him in 1988 with my wife in Paris but unfortunately he was in a really bad mood that night and, because he was not in a good mood, he played with his back, turned to us throughout the whole night. Apparently, he does that once in a while if he’s in a bad mood! Maybe Paris upset him or something. However, the backup band was Tom Petty and that guy with the twelve-string guitar and the Byrds – I can’t remember his name but it wasn’t Gene Clark. Anyway, they all came on afterwards and we got to see their faces! But yes, he is absolutely amazing. I’ve listened to a bunch of his live albums and I have his entire collection, in fact. I’ve got all his bootlegs: the official bootlegs, the illegal bootlegs. He is just amazing. But why do you think that at the age of 78 he came out with this song ‘A Murder Most Foul’, which also happens to be a line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. And, he cites all these classics throughout this song. Why now? What do you think is going on?
Ed: Well, I can only guess. It is a profoundly important song – it is, as you said, about the assassination of President Kennedy, which happened when both Dylan was young, and we were young. Arguably, the assassination of President Kennedy is a foundational event in American history.
Regarding Bob Dylan, he hasn’t spoken about it, as far as I know, throughout his entire public career. But he obviously has been studying it quite closely and knows a great deal about it. My theory is that because he’s shortly turning 79, I believe he felt that it was about time he told this truth to the American people, which he makes very clear. Without going into all the lyrics, he makes very clear that the United States government killed the president of the United States. If not the entire government, then certainly elements within the United States government – I would say clearly the CIA. Dylan knows this and I suppose that he probably wants to get it off his chest at this point in his life. He’s done a great service: he’s told the truth.
If I could go back to The Odyssey for a minute, I believe that in the book the first time that anyone was actually called a rascal was when Calypso, with whom Odysseus was living with for seven years on an island wanted to keep him there called Odysseus a rascal.
Bob’s whole career has been a performance, of course, because he is a performer. As a ‘song man’ he has worn multiple masks throughout his career, including the Rolling Thunder review and the movie is also a part of that. And so, with this JFK song, it’s like Dylan’s ripped off the mask and he’s saying, “hey, here it is straight out, you want to hear it? You don’t want to hear it, but here it is”. It’s quite extraordinary.
Jeff: Well, 3.3 million people have listened to it so far and I don’t think it’s been out that long. At least those 3.3 million people have heard it. You and I, of course, have both read JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters, which is probably the best book about the plot to kill Kennedy. I’ve also written about the assassination in my books.
I argued in my book that his assassination was the defining moment in, if not U.S. history, then at least in a modern history of the 20th century. This is because if the CIA can sit there and blow out Kennedy’s brains in the Dealey Plaza in broad daylight and get away with it then what does that tell us about our society and our body politic? What do you think?
Ed: Well, it tells us that it’s sick to the core. I can’t remember the exact lyrics to his song, but he says it clearly that something very, very terrible started that day.
Honestly, it probably didn’t start on that day. But what I do know is that we’ve become a very depraved and sick society as a result of that assassination and of the subsequent assassinations, which I’m sure he knows about. I’m also certain that he’s read Jim Douglas’ book about JFK’s assassination and that he’s probably read all this stuff.
Jeff: Then he’s probably also read the book by William F. Pepper about the assassination of MLK where William Pepper, representing Sirhan Sirhan, was trying to do what he did for MLK, when they convened a grand jury. It’s called the Plot to Kill. I actually haven’t read it yet, but it has all the affidavits and everything else in it. For the fans out there who don’t know, the King family was sick to their stomachs about the fact that the U.S. government completely whitewash the assassination of MLK (Martin Luther King Junior). They hired William F. Pepper, obviously a brilliant civil court lawyer who did years of investigation, gathered tons and tons and tons of affidavits, sworn testimonies, evidence and everything else, then took all of that and convened an all-white grand jury in Memphis, which is one of the most racially divided cities in the United States. The important part here though is that in just 90 minutes, after hearing all the evidence they could, this all-white jury convicted the United States government of playing a part in King’s murder. Now, more than 50 percent of Americans think that King was murdered and was murdered with the involvement of the U.S. government.
But what’s so amazing Ed, is that ever since the Warren Commission in 1963 (which was being manipulated by Allen Dulles, the CIA director who had just been fired by Kennedy) Gallup has carried out a poll every two or three years and no fewer than 53 percent of Americans have ever polled that they think that the U.S. government was involved in JFK’s murder. But if that’s the case then why aren’t the people in the streets? Why aren’t there protests? Why aren’t people shouting from the rooftops? They killed a president of our country! Why the apathy? What do you think is going on?
Ed: Well, a lot of things are going on. Firstly, it has been a long time since then but let me say this: I have written about William Pepper’s book, I have reviewed the book and I have written a number of articles about it. I am very familiar with it, and I think the reason is that propaganda has been so intense for all of these years that people have been worn down and exhausted by it. They think that it doesn’t really matter anymore who killed King, who killed Bobby Kennedy, who killed JFK and who killed Malcolm X. They think of it as ancient history, but it really does matter now because the world, or the society, that we’re living in now is a direct result of those murders. Lisa Pease wrote a book about Bobby Kennedy and about his murder called A Lie Too Big to Fail: The Real History of the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.
It’s an excellent book wherein she says that the real key to understanding a lot of our history is the fact that in the 1960s, the Central Intelligence Agency took over the United States. This is something that I think is very true because their organs of propaganda are so immense: they are everywhere. And so, when someone like Bob Dylan releases a song like this it’s quite a breakthrough. When an iconic cultural figure; a song man and a wonderful poet, comes out and says this it’s important. I don’t know where it will go from here – perhaps nowhere. But to him, to Bob Dylan, I give all credit in the world for just ripping that metaphorical mask off. However, what I find the most interesting is that the mainstream media basically trashed Bob Dylan because of it.
Jeff: Yes, you mentioned that in your article: you said that they equivocated and they kind of covered up and, to an extent, smoothed over what he was trying to say.
Ed: Absolutely. They all did that. I don’t know of any exception in the mainstream media. They like to focus on the fact that he mentioned, Wolfman Jack or whoever: all the cultural references, but not the truth about the Kennedy assassination. He has a line in there about it that I cannot quite remember exactly but it’s something along the lines of ‘killing them more than once’.
And so in what the media did was they killed Dylan, too. They essentially killed the messenger.
Jeff: I’m sorry I’m laughing, but it’s just it’s so typical. It’s just so predictable.
Ed: Yes, they killed JFK, then they spend more than fifty years trying to use conspiracy theory memes to dismiss anyone who tells the truth. Then Bob Dylan comes out, the most famous song man in the world. This intense, wonderful poet – a troubadour. But the predictable thing is that they kill him, claiming that he’s not really telling the truth.
Jeff: I mention this just because this is in your article, and by the way, for all the fans out there, I’m going to put all this information on the article page. There is a wonderful website, which
I just found by accident researching this before talking to Ed, that posts lyrics and then informed people can hyperlink each line or even a word in a line and then make a comment about that line, word or reference to allegories etc. It’s amazing. And of course, this song is five long stanzas, I mean, it’s 16 minutes long and, just as you said, it’s like a sound dream. It’s like a song dream.
The first stanza is all about the assassination. Then in the second verse he mixes the assassination with a lot of Cultural Revolution references. As the song progresses, there’re just all these incredible historical references using artists, plays, movies, songs and also new musicians. It’s just amazing. In the song he mentions that “your brothers are coming, there’ll be hell to pay”. This makes us wonder what he means by ‘brothers’ and what he means by ‘hell’. This I think is an obvious reference to RFK and probably to Teddy Kennedy who also died under very, very mysterious circumstances. So many Kennedys have died, I can’t even keep up with it! Robert F. Kennedy Junior, Poppy Kennedy’s son, had better be careful because he’s now fighting Bill Gates on vaccines and doing so on the national stage. It appears to me that they have decimated the Kennedy clan with preemptive murders.
Ed: Well, yes, Dylan sings in the song, “we’ll get them too”, which is just like my nightmare from last night. It’s an American nightmare, which Dylan is presenting to us and saying “take it or leave it but this is what I’m telling you.” Most people will just leave it, which is exactly what he says in his songs. There may be three million, I think you said, listeners. We have three hundred and thirty million listeners here. But Dylan can’t control that. He told the truth regardless of the listeners and I salute him because I think it’s just fantastic.
He also has another song that he just released a week or two ago called “I Contain Multitudes” which is also very good, and the title is of course a line from Walt Whitman. You spoke before about going to a concert where Dylan turned his back to the audience – well, he’s a man of many contradictions; he’s a man of many moods. I suppose we all are, really. We’re all contradictions of ourselves but so what? That’s life, really.
Jeff: Well, at least I got to see him with his hat on and his vest! It was just kind of a strange night, but the music was good. Perhaps he was trying to tell us something…
Anyway we could go on forever: analyzing his lyrics and everything but let’s just let those that are interested do so themselves – as I said, there is this genius website that has all of the lyrics but if you print out the verses onto A4 there are three and a half pages of lyrics. It’s just an amazing song that we just do not have the time to go into.
So, Ed, unless you have anything else to say, I think you’ve said what you wanted to say. I will also post the book if you’ll send me the book about it by Lisa Pease and I’ll also put the book up by William F. Pepper.
I never forget that I was going on Kevin Barrett’s show a couple of years ago, and William Pepper had just come out with his plot to kill King. As you know, Barrett always gets you on there for about ten minutes before the end of the first half. I was sitting there listening to William Pepper on that show and actually, he extended the show because it was so riveting. He was talking about the fact that he has affidavits of people who talked to Lyndon Baines Johnson, when he came out of the meeting with Rockefeller, Hoover and the Joint Chief of staff – all the top military guys – and he came out of the White House. The best thing is that William has an affidavit from a woman who was sitting there listening and, according to her, Johnson came out gloating saying something like “well, we’re not going to have to deal with that mother fucker again”. In short, that was the meeting wherein they decided to kill Kennedy.
And so, yes, I will put William F. Pepper up on the site because he is an amazing man. I’ll also put Lisa Pease’s book up and I’ll put the JFK Unspeakable book up.
Is there anything else you want me to add? If you had any other books, I could add those. I don’t know if there’s ever been a real investigation into it but, I have two interviews with John Potash. I interviewed him about all the murders of the black militants and also the murders of popular musicians like John Lennon, etc. that I will repost. If there’s anything else you want to add please email me. Suggestions etc. for people to be able to learn and try to come to terms with what kind of society we are, would be good.
Ed: Since the ostensible topic is Bob Dylan, I would add some of his songs – maybe a select few that span the decades – some that in which I would say he really sings in his own voice without a mask, and then others in which he dons the mask, which became an important part to him.
Jeff: Well, listen, you’re much more of an expert than me. I think you’ve probably studied him but as I’ve only listened to everything he’s ever done, I haven’t studied his stuff. I think ‘Time Out of Mind’ was the last thing I ever listened to before we moved overseas to China. If you could please put together a 10-song anthology, I’ll post it as well as posting links to the YouTube channel for those songs and I’ll include it in the article. Please could you do that, not for me, but for all the fans out there.
Ed: Sure. I’d be happy to do that.
Jeff: Well, listen, Ed, you’re quite a guy and I want to impress that upon everybody.
Lately, you’ve been writing mostly with Global Research. Are there any other places you’ve been writing recently? I know you were doing some work with Greenville Post. You were also writing for Lew Rockwell, which is a very principled libertarian website, that I admire a lot. Are there any other websites we should know about?
Ed: A very important one is Off Guardian.
Jeff: You’re writing for them?
Ed: Yes, I’ve been writing for them almost weekly.
Jeff: Well, you also have your website, but in case any of you don’t see the article it’s: edwardcurtin.com and you can find his work there.
Ed: Jeff, Dissident Voice is another website that I publish on. There are many of them, but those are a few of the important ones that you mentioned.
Jeff: Great, and if you know anybody, besides John Potash, who has done some research into the murder of Malcolm X (which was done by the FBI mainly) then please let me know. Otherwise I’ll post John Potash and the two interviews that he did with me. They will absolutely blow your socks off, they’re amazing.
Ed: Jeff, If I could I would just like to say another one or two things about Bob Dylan, if we have the time.
Ed: One of the biggest problems, that I see, is that many people write about political issues, economic issues and even more political issues. If you look at the Internet, you’ll see that it’s just full of analytical stuff. Undeniably, I also write that stuff but that’s not all that I try to do. This is because I don’t think that you are going to convince too many people of anything by hammering home political points repeatedly. So, I tried long ago to write in different ways: poetically and artistically, to incorporate music, poetry and literature into what I’m trying to say because life is very, very complicated.
This is why Bob Dylan is so important because he took the road of art. In my opinion, art is more important than political analysis. After all, it’s to the poets and to the artists that we always turn to in hard times or when we really want to ask the questions such as: Who am I? Why am I here? What is life all about?
This is Dylan’s career – when you listen to his music and his poetry, he creates in the listener a restlessness. A curious feeling in which when you listen to it you ask “well, who am I? Where am I going? Am I out on the road with no direction home? Where am I trying to go? Where have I come from? Why am I here, where am I going?”
And this is all his work. He has continued for more than fifty years and he’s been putting it out there in a musical way, in a magical way. What I’m trying to say is that the man’s a magician.
He loves magic. He loves to fool around. He’s a rascal! But it is his rascality which is what makes him so interesting and so important. I would suggest that he and other artists are as important as all the political analysis, and we should realize that we shouldn’t choose between one or the other.
Jeff: We need both.
Jeff: Well, I am so glad that we did not end this interview without that final refrain from you because that was perhaps the most important part of the interview. So, thank you very much.
Ed: Well, thank you, Jeff.
Jeff: We always stay in touch. The last time was April of last year and we’re now in April 2020 Maybe, we should get together more often…? Regardless, you’re terrific. You’re a great writer, you’re a great thinker and you’re great at putting things into context. You have a background in art, philosophy and music that I just don’t have and so I depend on people like you to put everything into perspective. So, thank you very much.
Ed: Well, you’re welcome, Jeff. I’m kind of laughing to myself, just as a final word here: I remember reading that Bob Dylan will be turning 79, next month I believe, and he wrote in his fascinating book Chronicles: Volume One that he always wanted to be like Picasso who at the age of 79 was still doing his art.
Dylan’s on this never-ending tour, similar to Odysseus but he wanted to be like Picasso who had just married his 35-year-old secretary. So maybe Bob’s going to get married next year? Congratulations to Bob Dylan!
Jeff: Hey, listen, I really loved having a chance to talk with you. It’s always a pleasure. You and I over the last year have exchanged a few emails which is how a lot of us communicate. Please do an anthology of what you think are his top 10 or 12 songs, from your viewpoint, of the Odyssey, the masks, and society with the greatest import and I will put those names up. And for all the people here in China who cannot get YouTube, I will upload the music because I’ve got every frickin’ song you ever recorded! Well, maybe not the recent ones since I think that ‘Time Out of Mine’ was the last one I bought. I’ll upload them so that people can have a chance to listen to him even if they can’t access YouTube.
Listen, have a wonderful International Labor Day tomorrow, and go on with the good fight. People like you inspire me. I think you’re maybe a little bit older than me, and so when I speak to people who have more experience and have done more than me, it’s a great way to give me a psychological boost to keep trying to make the world a better place for the world’s 99 percent!
Ed: Yes, yes. Well, as my granddaughter says I’m sixty-nine and I’ll always be sixty-nine and so I say I’m sixty-nine!
Jeff: All right. Well I am now three years behind you because I turned sixty-six today. Anyway, you take care of yourself. I will get this out to you, and you can share it with all the people in your neck of the woods.
I think that this is an important interview that will be very popular for the fans of China Rising and I’m sure other people will enjoy it and that it will get picked up by other venues as well.
Ed: Okay. Yes. Happy birthday. Stay forever young.
Jeff: Bye bye.
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