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Ask Matt ... about Dylan's visit with Sandburg

Bob Dylan cited Carl Sandburg's poems as an inspiration in his own song writing. Bob Dylan cited Carl Sandburg's poems as an inspiration in his own song writing.

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 Q. I heard that Bob Dylan once came to Flat Rock to meet Carl Sandburg. Is there any truth in that?

Absolutely. Two years ago Thomas Crowe wrote about that meeting in the Smoky Mountain News. His source was Sandburg’s housekeeper at Connemara who some 37 years ago shared details of the event with Crowe. It was February of 1964, when Bob Dylan had just released his second album titled The Times They Are A-Changin’. He was on an unannounced mission to Flat Rock to meet the man that had inspired his own poetry and songwriting. Dylan appeared at the Sandburg home with a copy of the new album under his arm and asked to speak with Mr. Sandburg. “I am a poet; my name is Robert Dylan,” said the visitor. Crowe recounts that the two sat in chairs on Sandburg’s front porch and Dylan told the 89-year-old Sandburg how he admired his work and what an influence he had been. “Sandburg listened quietly and acknowledged Dylan’s praise and accepted the gift of the album and told Dylan that he had much work to do that day and had to get back to it, sending Dylan on his way.”
There are a few related pieces that I found in a 1972 Rolling Stone biographical piece on Dylan by Anthony Scaduto. He chronicles the road trip Dylan and three others made from New York City to Flat Rock and thereafter points south and west. “The drive down had been uneventful, which is surprising considering that they were all stoned,” relates Scaduto. After spending the first night in Charlottesville, Virginia, they headed for Flat Rock and arrived late in the afternoon. Dylan got directions to Sandburg’s home from a mountain man at a gas station. There was some confusion because the man only knew Sandburg as a goat farmer, not a poet in residence. The meeting was brief, probably just ten minutes. Dylan was miffed that Sandburg never heard of him so when he got back to the car Dylan took a puff from a joint.
After Flat Rock, Dylan’s entourage made more stops in the South and ended the sojourn in San Francisco. Ron Partin, who volunteers at the Sandburg Home, said that he occasionally shares the story with visitors, particularly if they ask about Sandburg the song writer. Officials at the Home said the Dylan album was not in their inventory. Maybe someone can contact Dylan and have him autograph another for the collection.

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