Bob Dylan’s much rumoured heroin addiction in the mid 1960s has been confirmed. Dylan’s heroin use was never confirmed as his close coterie of minders and friends kept evidence of his opiate addiction away from the media and fans. In a taped interview recently uncovered by the Britain’s BBC, Dylan admits his habit, saying “I kicked a heroin habit in New York City. I got very, very strung out for a while, I mean really, very strung out. And I kicked the habit. I had about a $25-a-day habit and I kicked it.”
Dylan had been on a private plane which had been charted to fly to folk hero from Lincoln, Nebraska to Denver, Colorado to play a gig, and he was accompanied by critic Robert Shelton, who interviewed him many times over the years, culminating in the 1986 biography No Direction Home, The Life and Music of Bob Dylan.
The new material was uncovered during research for an updated version of the book, which is being re-released to coincide with Dylan’s 70th birthday, today May 24th. In the same interview, Dylan admitted that he wasn’t afraid of death, saying “Death to me is nothing as long as I can die fast,” he told Shelton. “Many times I’ve known I could have been able to die fast, and I could have easily gone over and done it.”
He also admitted that he had contemplated suicide at the time, revealing “I’ll admit to having this suicidal thing … but I came through this time.” It is unclear as to why this information hadn’t been forthcoming until now, but one theory is that Shelton was protecting Dylan, having grown close after giving him his first New York Times review in 1961. Shelton died in 1995.