NEW YORK • An old rock-and-roll legend has it that Bob Dylan and George Harrison were supposed to record with Elvis Presley, but The King was a no-show.
As Dylan tells it, though, Presley "did show up, it was us that didn't".
In a rare interview with writer Bill Flanagan, posted on Dylan's website on Wednesday, the singer was more generous with details of his personal life and his music than he has been in years.
He hailed the late English singer Amy Winehouse as "the last real individualist around" and praised two living female singers with blues and folk influences, Valerie June and Imelda May, and, more unexpectedly, Welsh rockers Stereophonics.
But, perhaps most striking was his newfound admiration of American songwriting standards.
His last two albums were packed with covers of standards Frank Sinatra made popular.
Next Friday, Dylan, 75, will release the three-disc Triplicate, in which he covers classic American songs such as Stormy Weather, As Time Goes By and Stardust.
"These songs," he said, "are some of the most heartbreaking stuff ever put on record and I wanted to do them justice. Now that I have lived them and lived through them, I understand them better.
"They take you out of that mainstream grind where you're trapped between differences which might seem different, but are, essentially, the same.
"Modern music and songs are so institutionalised that you don't realise it. These songs are cold and clear-sighted, there is a direct realism in them, faith in ordinary life just like in early rock and roll."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, WASHINGTON POST
Dylan on folk legend Joan Baez, his one-time mentor and girlfriend: "She was something else, almost too much to take. Her voice was like that of a siren from off some Greek island. Just the sound of it could put you into a spell. She was an enchantress. You'd have to get yourself strapped to the mast like (Homer's) Odysseus and plug up your ears so you wouldn't hear her. She'd make you forget who you were."
The power of early rock and roll music: "Rock and roll was a dangerous weapon, chrome plated, it exploded like the speed of light, it reflected the times and especially the presence of the atomic bomb, which had preceded it by several years."
Don McLean's presumed reference to Dylan as "the jester" in American Pie: "A jester? Sure, the jester writes songs like Masters Of War, A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall, It's Alright, Ma - some jester. I have to think he's talking about somebody else. Ask him."
Meeting Frank Sinatra at the late singer's house in the 1990s: "I think he knew The Times They Are A-Changin' and Blowin' In The Wind. I know he liked Forever Young, he told me that... We were standing out on his patio at night and he said to me, 'You and me, pal, we got blue eyes, we're from up there,' and he pointed to the stars. 'These other bums are from down here.' I remember thinking that he might be right."
Deaths of Leonard Cohen, Leon Russell and Merle Haggard: "We were like brothers, we lived on the same street and they all left empty spaces where they used to stand. It's lonesome without them."
What he watches on TV on his tour bus: "I Love Lucy, all the time."