While some people who know Bob Dylan have described him as a lonely person, he is often surrounded by other people. He is nearly constantly on tour, so Dylan is around other musicians, crew, and his family members. The various people in Dylan’s life share one thing in common: they rarely talk about the musician. One of Dylan’s friends said that this was a rule of knowing him.
One of Bob Dylan’s childhood friends said he had few friends left
Dylan has been famous since his early 20s. According to Louis Kemp, a childhood best friend who fell out of contact with Dylan after decades of friendship, the musician does not have many friends left.
“Most of the people around him are employees,” Kemp said.
Since Dylan rose to prominence, the people close to him noted that he pushed them away with cruelty as he gained success. People noted that he was especially unkind to the people who seemed to admire him the most. It appeared to be a defense mechanism for the musician to protect his privacy by keeping people at a distance.
Bob Dylan’s friends don’t talk much about him
Dylan has given hundreds of interviews in his lifetime, but he doesn’t often offer up details about his personal life. Those who know him well don’t do this either.
“You don’t talk about Bob,” a man who’d known Dylan for years told GQ. “That’s the rule.”
His manager, Jeff Rosen, agreed, telling the publication, “I never talk about Mr. Dylan.”
His reported loneliness has to do with his selectivity when picking friends
A lawyer who once worked with Dylan believed he picked his friends based on whether or not they wanted anything out of him.
“I think — and it’s true — if you can get to Bob, you can almost get anything you want out of him, so he shuts himself off,” the lawyer said, per the book The Ballad of Bob Dylan: A Portrait by Daniel Mark Epstein. “Do you follow me? I think it’s part of his defense mechanism. He will only talk through Jeff [Rosen] now about business. I think that is Bob’s idea. And those two or three friends he has [Louis Kemp, for one], he knows they don’t want anything from him. Everyone is picking on him now, they want something. And along with the natural paranoia of stars, for Bob there is the fear that if they get to him, they’ll get what they want. He doesn’t know how to say no.”
Dylan values his privacy so much that he picks his friends based on whether or not they will respect this privacy. Not only is his privacy an important value for him, it is a crucial part of his public image.
Dylan has shrouded himself in a level of mystery for decades. A friend who constantly discussed their relationship with Dylan, or his private life, would shatter this image of the musician. In order for him to maintain the level of privacy he likes, he has to be selective about who is in his life. Because of this, he doesn’t surround himself with many people.