BEIJING — In a rare and strongly worded message to his fans, Bob Dylan has denied claims his songs were censored by government authorities when he made his much-publicised China debut last month.
The music legend, who played in Beijing and Shanghai on April 6 and 8, missed out some of his best known politically inspired songs such as “Blowin’ in the Wind”, sparking speculation he may have been censored.
Addressing the “so-called China controversy” in a post on his official website, Dylan admitted that authorities had asked for the names of the songs he would be playing ahead of the concerts.
China’s leaders — criticised by rights groups and Western governments for human rights violations — are widely believed to be nervous about the potential for politically provocative songs or statements by foreign rock acts.
“There’s no logical answer to that, so we sent them the set lists from the previous three months,” Dylan wrote on Friday.
“If there were any songs, verses or lines censored, nobody ever told me about it and we played all the songs that we intended to play.”
Dylan, who received a warm reception from a mixed crowd of Chinese and expatriates in Beijing and Shanghai, denied reports that his concerts had been attended mostly by foreigners and that there were many empty seats.
“If anybody wants to check with any of the concert-goers they will see that it was mostly Chinese young people that came,” he said, adding the audience responded “enthusiastically” to his more recent songs.
“Out of 13,000 seats we sold about 12,000 of them, and the rest of the tickets were given away to orphanages,” he added.
Dylan was playing as part of a tour commemorating 50 years since his first major performance on April 11, 1961. He also denied claims that he had been banned from playing in China last year.
“This was all drummed up by a Chinese promoter who was trying to get me to come there after playing Japan and Korea,” he wrote.
“We had no intention of playing China at that time, and when it didn’t happen most likely the promoter had to save face by issuing statements that the Chinese ministry had refused permission for me to play there to get himself off the hook.”