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tv   Conversations with American Historians Douglas Brinkley - Part 3  CSPAN  April 19, 2022 4:38pm-5:37pm EDT

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unfiltered, unbiased. word for word. if it happens here, or here, or here, or anywhere that matters, america is watching on c-span. powered by cable. all this month, watch the top 21 winning videos from our c-span student cam video documentary competition. every morning before c-span's washington journal, we'll air one of our student cam winners whose documentary told us how the federal government impacted their lives, and you can watch all the winning student cam documentaries any time, online, at since c-span was founded in 1979, his tore january and author douglas brinkley has participated in many of the network's programs, forums,
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call-ins and special programs, as well as on book tv and american history tv. c-span sat down with him nearly six hours to get his insights on history, popular culture, good books and more. up next, part 3 of that conversation which focuses on theodore roosevelt, kurt vonnegut, and mr. brinkley's friendship with bob dylan. >> talk about before rice, you were married once, divorced and now married to ann for how many years. >> 19. >> how did you meet her? >> we met when i wrote a book on rosa parks. her family, the goldmans of new orleans, had a daughter, leah goldman, who was really a brilliant -- i never got to meet her, but a brilliant woman. northwestern and did her
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doctorate at the university of indiana. she got killed in a fluke auto accident in new orleans when the whole city blacked out. the lights all went off and somebody ran into her and killed her. so leah goldman, her parents created a memorial lecture for her at a private school there. country day in metairie, louisiana. and what they do is get guest speakers, i think two a year they pay for. and i did rosa parks biography, so they had me give a lecture on rosa parks. and ann was my chaperon. took me around the school, introduced me to students. they had a dinner in my honor because they do for the speaker and all that. and we started dating. she was a graduate of tulane. and i was just getting ready to start teaching at tulane moving from eisenhower center to
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tulane. and we ended up living together right on jefferson avenue across from the newman school, where people like, i think, michael lewis and walter isaacson and a lot of people, nick layman -- oh, nick went to country day. but any rate, with respect to living there, i can walk to my office at tulane. i would run in audubon park at the zoo. and we were very happy there. and katrina hit and i wrote about it. i just decided i was ready for a new adventure. and my wife was born and raised in new orleans and she was ready for a new adventure. we went -- after katrina we went and spent half a year in simi valley, california, to -- i edited reagan's diaries.
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i had to work at the library. i couldn't xerox them, it was a stipulation. so one of our three children was born out there in thousand oaks, california, right next to simi valley. and we had a blast out there. it was so nice. working at the reagan library, i was in simi valley, the weather. and we just decided, you know, let's make life an adventure. we don't need to stay in new orleans. we have each invested a lot of our life there. >> what did ann do in new orleans? >> she worked for a company called mcdermott for awhile. a long while. then she was in charge of booking trips and things. and then she was -- had her own clothing store, women's clothing store called spring on magazine. so when i met her, she was a small business owner of a very
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popular women's store not too far from tulane. >> you have three children. their names? >> our oldest is benton grace brinkley >> named after? >> the painter thomas benton. missouri. who i just adore. he was from a midwest kind of populist parent but did these incredible portraits of the united states that i loved as a kid. i still enjoy in any museum going to look for the bentons. my most expensive thing i've ever bought in my life is an old man painted by thomas benton, which i keep as an heirloom. >> how was he related to senator benton? >> he was a very proud missourian, the parent, because
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he had lineage. theer doer roosevelt wrote a book about the original thomas benton. it's not one of his better books, but a very interesting figure. and john f. kennedy was very interested in that thomas r. benton. but mine was the painter who painted midwest landscapes, but also was the teacher of jackson pollock and other modernist parents. >> how old is benton and what is she doing? >> benton is 17. and is -- i'm proud that i did all the driving training with her. just got her a car. she has a little subaru. and she is a junior in high school. she's right now looking for colleges. that's been interesting for me being a parent instead of a professor. >> her interests are? >> she's very drawn to childhood
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psychology and education. she's very good with young people. so she wants to somehow work with -- a big heart. >> second child? >> the second child is johnny cleveland brinkley. and johnny's grandfather is max cleland, and they stay in touch. >> how did that happen? >> john kerry was running for president and i got to know max. max due to the vietnam war lost both legs and an arm. and he just wouldn't get an automatic wheelchair, he would just crank the one. and i would watch him go over curbs. i watched him in the snow. and i just thought, my god, how did he keep -- all of that happened to him and he keeps on fighting. and we were mentioning the military earlier. i wanted johnny to know a veteran like that.
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my father was a korean war veteran and would tell us stories about he was in alaska as a ski trooper in the korean war guarding alaska from russian intervention. and now my dad is in his 90s and wears his korean vet hat when he goes to the chick-fil-a out in california and things. at any rate, johnny is a -- he's now a sophomore in high school. and he is just straight as. never known anything but an a. and his interest now is in sports management. he's 6'3" and he's only a junior. he might end up being 6'4". he loves basketball. >> must have taken after his mother? >> he did. he took after my grandfather and my wife has a tall gene in her family too. he somehow found that.
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>> here's a trivia question for you. do you know what famous singer grew up in the same town as max cleland? >> oh, poor. famous singer grew up in the same town. i'll make -- boy, that's a hard guess. little richard. >> no. i learned it one night because i was watching brenda lee and max cleland was there at another table and he yells over. he says, do you know brenda lee boulevard is in the same town with max cleland street. >> i did not put that together. that's interesting. max is an expert on bluegrass country music and particularly western movies. gene autry. i once visited him in los angeles at a meeting. i was curious to see it's like a cowboy club of all these
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western -- zane grey, louis lemore. it was like a western conference. it was fascinating. i happened to be in l.a. and took effort to go see him. and it was neat. i worry about max a lot. but he ran the battlefield commissions too, so he knows about all the battlefields and where american soldiers are buried around the world. >> where is he living now? >> he's in an apartment in atlanta. and he goes to a diner where they all -- you know, he's like the town crier coming in. they all love him there. my son wants to go into sports management, as a business sports. and his dream would be to be general manager of like an nba team. >> what about the third child? >> third is cassidy. cassidy ann. and her name is spelled like hop-along cassidy, who was at
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ohio state, a great football player. i just like the name cassidy. >> the hop-along cassidy was a football player at ohio state? >> yeah. at any race, she's a freshman and she wants to go to columbia university. it's her dream. i keep telling her how tough it is. to get into columbia, you can't get a b plus in one class, and so far she's doing all the work to be able to get into columbia. and the thing we learned at rice, but as being so long in this world, never let a young person fall in love with one school, because they are applying -- you never know. things are random in life. we have students get rejected in rice that had a 4.0 average in high school and aced the scores.
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the parents comes and say my kid was perfect, how can you not take them? >> are you a tough grader? >> no. i'm medium. i'm very sympathetic and probably easier than i should be. sympathetic to excuses for late things. they are all sick on the same day, the night before the paper is due. but you can't say, you can't start challenging somebody tell ing you they weren't feeling well. >> and then i think i remember somebody named that. sports management is a hot field. and rice university is number one in the country in it. and it attracts a lot of young men and women. but wyatt. ed to become professionalized in rode crow. he does rodeo. i had to go when he applied
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there, we don't consider it a sport rodeo. even though we're in texas at rice. and i questioned why not. rodeo is a sport. and i took it up through the channels there. and they finally agreed so they are giving him meaning why it mattered for him is he goes to rodeo meets and might miss a week of school for the rodeo. and the teachers have to make up for that as if you were a football player that had to go to the west coast or something. so we have to -- we treated rodeo as a sport. >> very much so in the sense of humor and he's just they both are love the frontier, the west. i have been to their ranch
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before don tied in texas. he had lung issues. his breathing was hard for him. he was really at his ranch there in texas and a gorgeous horses and he had a nice setup. he was winning blue ribbons. he was a champion. his hero is -- he doesn't mind me saying, but he loves muhammad ali. his bible was the book on ali. and he wanted to be like the greatest at rodeo. it had a enough mixture of footage with the writing and the complications, but i was worried there was going to be more of a
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kind of takedown of hemingway but they dealt with him. so he's a gold standard. >> back to your children, ages 17 to 13? what has been your approach? we talked that they traveled an north mouse amount with you. >> enormous. >> how many kind of places did you take them and why?
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>> they have become my magic bus trips. we go everywhere. i take them to historic sites and national parks. hope it rubs off. they complain about it some depending on the circumstances. but i found ways to mix it up. we're trying to visit every baseball stadium in america. so if you go to see the cubs in chicago, we then also go to the chicago arts institute or visit jane adams house. we do things that are history related to the trip and the baseball game is a payoff. we all like it. my wife has become a big baseball fanatic. but mainly we go see places and i'm excited. this summer i'm taking them -- we're spending six weeks we're going to be in north dakota where they are building a theodore roosevelt presidential library.
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the walton foundation, walmart put a lot of the seed money into this. and i wrote the book "the wilderness warrior" about theodore roosevelt conservation and the museum is going to be based a good part of that on my book. >> it's not developed yet. the shirt he was wearing in milwaukee with the bullet hole in it. and it's interesting because as you note, his stuff is everywhere. what is the story behind him getting shot in milwaukee? >> he was running for his party candidate, and he was approaching the stage in a crazy anarchist pulled out a pistol and shot him while he was walking the grounds to get to the podium. he looked and saw the bullet had
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gone through his glasses. he was blind in one eye and couldn't see that well out of the other. so the glasses he put on to see things and he had a thick speech so the bullet went through those. it may have saved his life because it hit the case and it stopped a little bit of the velocity of the bullet. he was bleeding and continued to the stage and it takes more than a bullet to kill a bull moose and continued. now at that moment, he's either crazy or he became a folklore
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crazy or he became a folklore he row. the story he takes a bullet and keeps speaking. he got brought to chicago for medical attention, lost weeks on the campaign. but i just mentioned jane adams whole house, she was the original social worker. won a nobel prize. she came and sat by his bedside and tried to get him healed. in the end he came in second after woodrow wilson in 1912 with william howard taft, his sudden nem cyst nem cyst coming in third after that, he was much weaker and probablien shouldn't have gone as now looking what to do, hen went to brazil famously
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and took the journey down the river of no return and contracted a ma lairuate-like situation. >> go back to north dakota. why the museum there and how big of a deal is it going to be? >> when we do my trips, we always stayed in adora. there was a woman who recently died who loved the magic bus. she would give us free rooms at the badlands motel. and we would go to the ranches and go on a little missouri river. that national park, all of the people listening to this should visit theodore roosevelt national park because it's not crowded like the badlands with industrial tourism. you can up there. it's a mom and pop town where they don't have franchises except gasoline stations. there's not subways or mcdonald's. it's mom and pop. they built this beautiful amphitheater outside with the badlands backdrop where they do musical shows in the summer. and you're bound to see boundless buffalo and antelope, it's really a beautiful pocket. and the idea is build and they will come.
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the foundation built in arkansas which is an art museum in dentonville. >> that is named after? >> probably. and that's where walmart started. it's the headquarters. but the museum is worth seeing there. it's beautifully done. people pouring into bentonville, arkansas, to see the museum. so to do one for roosevelt in north dakota, to say i never would have been president without my days there, and they are building it in a really environmentally echo way of the newest ways to build and they are paying to make it blend in with the badlands scenery. so we have a presidential
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library for so many figures. we have never had one for theodore roosevelt. now it's happening. the money is there. right when trump left, before he left the white house, the commerce appropriated some money to that too, but the walton foundation put $150 million to get the thing going. and the governor and the senators of the state are all into it. so it's happening. >> when is it going to be finished? >> i think is in 2023. >> last question about rice it's really not about rice, but is rice your last stop in education or do you have another dream to go one more stop? >> rice is such an amazing institution. we are ranked every year in u.s.
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news and world report where we are a top 20 university. i could not tell you all of my colleagues or my friends, the administrators, i have such a beautiful situation there that any time i think about ever leaving, it's like, why. be that said, you never know. i might want to have -- i often think it would be fun to be in washington, d.c. and run as i'm getting more senior, running one of these college programs. it might be fun for me to do the washington spend my last years day voiding my time between austin and washington, d.c. but right now, i'm staying at
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rice. i wrote american mood shot there because john f. kennedy gave that great speech on september 12th, 1962. choose to go to the moon not because it's easy but because it's hard. it was a speech about public service, but also about science and discovery. and i think it's kennedy's preece moe speech. it's really a remarkably delivered and written speech. >> you spend a lot of time thinking, talking, writing about culture. what is it? >> i love what i consider american culture or even american culture. that began like people like emerson used to ask what does it mean to be an american. and how do we have a distinctive american culture. what differentiates the american from the europeans. i think it's come through in a
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lot of of our art forms. i think of walt whitman and the idea of that everybody is a poet. we all carry our own song with you. and women epitomized a new democratic spirited american culture. we talked about those too. so it's really just about celebrating art, books, music, realizing that that's sol of our great ambassadors of the world. they won't would send people on tours around the world, people love american jazz. he would have -- we would export things like when john glen had az capsule, we center capsule around the world and talk about our space aged culture like the
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space needle in seattle. of the astrodome when it was built in texas. but my days are filled with poetry, literature, art and music. and if i don't have those plus the natural world, i feel empty. so even here with covid going on, i got quickly had to go see the david vincent van gogh painting show at the hughes to be museum of fine arts. it was like i needed to see the landscapes up close, which i had never seen before. it's the wall street weekend section of the "wall street journal."
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just trying to keep track of what artists are doing in our country. it helps spark the spirit of our nation. >> which cultural figure have you spent the most time around? >> well, i got to know some writers that i knew of my youth wret pretty well. i got to know the novelist pretty well. >> how? >> i had kurt was very interested in world war ii and i had him come to new orleans to speak. and i had to have read his novels and we got to talk to him about him. and his wife was a photographer. she actually took a lot of photos of the magic bus. we would meet in new york. there was a little museum there. i went with them to do a program together on honoring the writings of kurt. what i admired -- i had written about him. i did a major profile of him,
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but his imagination is phenomenal. he was a science fiction writer then he would write these books imagining the world. a lot of them are dispope yan novels, but it always makes me laugh. there's not one of his books i don't get a chuckle from. i think he was one of our very important writers that's going to last for a long time. >> how did that happen to somebody from indianapolis? >> he got drafted in world war ii and he was in drez ton and got captured as a p.o.w. by the nazis. when the british did the fire
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bombing and flattened the city, they kept him in a meat storage locker, his sto job was to come out with other american gis and put get dead charred bodies into wheelbarrows and the officers pointing guns the him. so he had to put thousands and thousands of corpse that still had the smell. they had been there a couple days, unforgettable smell, and put them in mass graves. so i got to know not only kurt, but some of his buddies from world war ii that were part of that. and you want to see what turns somebody into a pacifist. you deal with what he had to deal with there, meaning just that much death. he would talk about it and cry. i think at that point, he felt that life is absurd. that everything is absurd. he was very worried about others are doing to human beings. the holocaust, cambodia, so he became a human rights watchdog. but his books are just pure satire and they are a lot of fun to read. >> what do they talk about? >> on all different topics.
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breakfast of champions, he was kind of looking at how the midwest has arts festivals. what is considered art in the midwest. he deals with these characters from everyday american life, he created a character that cross circulates through a lot of thiz novels. player piano, he had a suspicion of technology, which i always all those wrote a book doors of perception and hux lee used to
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say people are blessing themselves for the model t. he thinks we become aticked to our new technologies and are we sure this isn't going to be doomsday for earth. he had such a great scientific background. he was a genius. he brought real science into his satires. so i look at things, who is durable. i think 100 years from now, people will be reading him so it
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was an honor to get to know him. >> did you read him before you met him? >> i did. i read when i was a kid. it's sort of mandatory in a lot of high schools. but he wrote so many. one thing i once asked him, are you doing -- what's your next box? and he looked at me with this sad face and said do i have to do another? haven't i done enough? to you think everybody has read all of what i have ever done? but they always want to know what my next one is? it med me feel foolish for a minute, but i hesitate, what are you writing now because if i
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hadn't read some of the other books. but he was very worried about climate change. and also you couldn't put them in a right left box. he got involved with how if you're ready to go s there a way to have to stay within the hospital and not have memory to stay alive or is there a way to die with more dignity on your clock, not somebody else's. so he would tack a lot of topics that are taboo and would make you rethink them. >> what is your reaction when you run into somebody that never reads? >> it's hard for me. >> can you talk to them? >> yeah, i mean, i do. there's something nice about people not caring some, but to me, getting into a conversation with somebody about books is about as exciting as it gets. and a certain writer, they mean a lot to me. i probably know hr about them than i should. i had a strange -- i started with jack london when i was young, but i started reading
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everything jack london did. and i then did that with other writers. and i wouldn't just read one or two. i wanted to see their whole body of work. i loved american writers, but i also like a lot of russian writers. i pull for the american writers. but i think henry david is my favorite and herman melville, tony mohrson, these are people i deeply admire. >> where do you get the time? >> i read every day. it informs my history books. i'm trying to figure out what it was it like in the 1950s when we had the trinity explosion in new mexico. then nagasaki, the atomic fallout. we're testing weapons in nevada you find out people are getting sick. we're spraying ddt and mccarthyism is going on. some people are saying this is at greatest prosperity ever in '50s and others are saying we are destroying the planet at a rapid rate. usually it's the novelists that come up with the destruction
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narratives. i read a pook that's not that well known by george stewart. and he deals with what happens when a strange virus takes over and kills everybody except a few people. and he in the novel was a university of california berkeley science guy and he survives, but he can't figure out why he survived and why this person survived and yet he drives around america trying to figure out why this particular virus saves few. if you read it 20 years ago, it seems a little bizarre. then you read it in the covid climate, and it's like, it's all
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exaggerated and gets a lot wrong, but he's making you think about pandemics. i interviewed bill clinton not long ago, and clinton told me all he did as president was read these fiction books by tom clancy or these sorts of writer who is are thinking out of the box so much that sometimes thr not bureaucrats that are thinking about what could happen. clancy predicted a lot of different things. so having some novels and fiction from interesting writers in your life i find it very important. >> the author of "lady chatterley's lover", you were in an olts mobile and drove out to the country. why was that? >> d. hflt lawrence was part -- i was always amazed that this
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great british writer would end up in new mexico. he fell in land love with the landscape up there. if you climb a mountain up there, he wanted his ashes not scattered, but like a little hut that his ashes are in the hut. so you go and sit in it and you're surrounded by d.h. lawrence. and the sudden looks over the horizon of new mexico that's just stunning. and i like him a lot. he's not one of my favorite writers, but he wrote some essays about american literature that are really interesting about other writers. and lady chatterley's lover and others broke a lot of the taboos of the day. they were smashing in some ways the polite victorian novel with something that had had more modern sensibility.
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>> are people celebrated who break down previous? >> always. >> why? >> that's a great question. people are always looking at the new, new thing. every minute, the new app, a new that and industry, henry ford said that the business world is filled with people who didn't recognize the time of change and kept doing the same old thing. if you're not changing, you can get stuck a little bit and i tend to go back to the older novels. i'm more of a narrative historian. so the writer i really love and defend now where nobody is defending is the great thomas wolf of north carolina. because he wrote this beautiful, romantic, that's really out of date right now.
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but i defend him because he had so much raw talent and wrote about the land skap of america so well. but you're right, it's of a modern art museum in america and you'll see everybody is trying to do something that somebody didn't do like create a new precedent for yourself. otherwise, you're imitating. but things become retro. things come back. i'm amazed how many students are starting to get record albums again. they are getting vinyl. i thought it was a trend, but it's now become on college campuses really in where you a vinyl party and right bh you thought they were gone forever. but i do think breaking down pairiers has become a big part of the century. >> let me inject my own observation and see when you think.
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i have been around long enough i can remember this. the movies when i was first going to movies had progressed through the years. this is what i see. men now routinely in a movie are seen standing at a urinal. it's the f word every three and a half seconds. why is that happening and what benefit are we getting out of that? >> i would not consider that great art. that kind of thing unless it's done in some way particular film is just grim profiteering. i think we learn that using the f word is a very tricky, very few people have ever been able to use it effectively. so i ban it from my language.
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i don't use it. i don't let my kids use it. i don't like it in the movies. can't somebody use it in a way that's effective in a scene? yes, but i agree that i have given up on pop culture's how low the road has gotten on just edgy for edgy sake, violence, grotesque way. i like edgy is when satire can make us see ourselves in a different way. that's not the kind of movies you're talking or is doing. >> i wrote down when you said one time the biggest event in your life was hearing like a rolling stone and getting in the car and driving in 1965. why?
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>> if you cut me open like a tree, i have a lot of bob dylan rings in me. i stovred him when i was young like a lot of people, and he just spoke to me. >> why? what did he say to you? >> it was about moving. if other people see it about a relationship, you take what you want. it meant to me taking off and going and doing things like the song. it was part of it, but dylan's lyrics were, to me, just so phenomenal. once in awhile, maybe a lot of people do this pit think about at my funeral what song would i pick. for me it would be "like a rolling stone." >> where does the magazine get its title? >> that comes out of the original rolling stone muddy waters made a song about it. and then in 1967 rolling stone
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got created in the rock band was big. dylan had had a number one hit with with "like a rolling stone". it was spoeszed to be covering music exclusively, but quickly turned into a long form of nonfiction ask fiction. >> how many times have you interviewed or been around bob dylan? >> i have seen -- i saw him once a long time ago and had a little bit of a conversation. thn i got to do a rolling stone cover story on him. and i went to amsterdam and interviewed him for a couple nights there. and then also paris on that trip. and we went on a little bit like you're going on.
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he said to me, i knew better that he was suspicious of technology, so i just brought a radio shack tape recorder with the old cassette. and we talked -- i had a one-hour interview set up with him. and i didn't even dpt out of of minnesota and then there was the knock on the door to pull the talent. like interview over. and bob said, just a minute. he said you're a gambling man. you think them in new york want to hear about duluth. you spent your whole time to eat up your whole hour. and he said you're going for long-term relationship with me. i like that.
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you didn't go for the kill. a lot of people come right in here and you're going for the long form way. he said i like talking. so he blew the person off and we continued talking. >> how long? >> hours and hours. within the back to see him. he invited me back the next night hours and hours. we got along. and when he walked me out to a taxi to the street to say good night, i said this is really nice. i know you don't do this. he said, you are a historian and you're going to talk about history. you passed my test. and i said, what's the test? he said you never said i heard. and i got in the cab and i'm thinking what is he talking about. and i realized i simply asked questions without i heard. i just do that naturally. but columbia record, he likes to poke fun. and subsequently we stayed in touch. and talked and i would pete him at places to chat. and i some day hope to write on
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him, at least i'm collecting tapes and things. but he opened a bob dylan center full of archives. that's supposed to open in the spring of 2022. it's part of a man who is one of the billionaire named george keizer. they built a museum in tulsa. next to it is going to be the bob dylan center. >> who was he? >> the famous folk singer who wrote "this land is your land." a wondering troubadour and dust bowl ballads about the horrors of when when the dust bowl hit oklahoma, texas, new mexico and elsewhere. there's a lot of dylan, one of his first original compositions was called "song for woody". so he was an era.
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so he left minnesota when he was young and went to the hospital to sut and play to woody guthrie. >> what about bob dylan is so special? >> he just speaks his way. it's the triumph of the individual over the fortunes of society. he sings with the voice how wants to. he writes what he wants to. he's unswayed most of the time by what's supposed to be in or what's supposed to be out. >> most think he's a liberal. >> bob is not really political. he has a conservative side to
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him. his father was quite conservative. his father had his work in electronic shops and in the mines up there and what i got to see about bob dylan is he a has a lot of kids. they all have jobs. and they are all like went to nyu or mcalister in minnesota. it was just a normal, wonderful family. i realize that when they talk about the f word, when people in the band say you can get kicked out, jacob with a band called the wallflowers. >> he did that documentary. >> he did. >> and you're hard pressed to see bob dylan in him. as a matter of fact, this is sfl attention here, but he used our style. he didn't inhimself into the interview. >> he's a nice people, his kids. he lives out in malibu. he's opening a center in tulsa and an arts center in nashville, where he's going to have his own whiskey brand called heavens gate.
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it's going to be the distillery in nashville connected to a brand new art center. >> how much money does he make? >> i don't know. but he can make as much as he wants within limits but he does all sorts of side projects. he builds gates, metal gates, that he welds. he has a welding studio and welds these gates particularly using farm instruments, old things he finds along the road, at garages, thrift shots, metal parts he welds together. he paints -- >> do you like his early music or the latest album he did with the john kennedy assassination? >> well, i like his earlier stuff but, yeah, "rough and rowdy ways" was the most recent. a song in that "key west" that
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hid me hard about a figure growing up in age and driving down to key west and contemplating their life. and i see a lot of people along the gulf coast of florida, texas. they're worn. their lives are over. they have diabetes, health problems, their whole lives. he does that well in key west but he's kind of proud of himself and has a line in there, brian, i love where dylan says, my feet are firmly planted on the ground with my right arm up but my thumb is down. like my days with winding. he will be 80 and he's thinking. i did it. i know who i am.
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my feet are planted. my right up is up in victory, what a career i've had. my thumb is down, my days are number. he says things like that that make you think. very few artists can write those sorts of lyrics n. that particular song he deals with william mckinley's assassination using the language of how mckinley was killed in the song to begin it and he's starting to deal with the old radio wires from navy ships where radio stations used to come out of places like luxembourg and budapest. he does a lot of things. he's a great musicologist. talking to bob dylan about american history, he knows a lot. >> the best thing i ever heard about bob dylan was his xm sirius radio show, radio theme time i think it was called. i don't know if you can find it, i don't know if you can buy it. >> they were made in cds. you can acquire them. i think it will end up resurfacing -- i don't know if
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there will be a bob dylan channel. jimmy buffett has one and bruce springsteen. >> elvis. >> elvis. perhaps it will. he's written so many songs other people have done. but the thing i like about him now is he just doesn't quit. no matter his age he's trying to be creative and not -- he works. he's always working. >> what do you see up close and we can't hear or see on television of bob dylan? >> his eyes, these amazing, amazing blue eyes. and he has a story when frank sinatra retired. frank and bob became good friends and he wanted to do his last song in his farewell, a bob dylan song called "restless farewell." so like you at c-span all these years but you have to not do -- it's a farewell, everybody, but it's restless. you still kind of want to be there but you know you have to do this move and he just
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captures it and they noticed it. frank said to bob, you know, bob, our eyes, they both have the same -- this is -- we're going to go to heaven. when you have eyes like ours, that's the blue of the skies. we're going up there. that line meant a lot to bob dylan that frank, who he worshipped when he was younger kind of recognized him. >> how many of his songs have you heard? >> dylan's? >> yeah. >> oh, every single one. >> every single dylan song? >> i've heard it over and over again. obsessively. >> how many songs?
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>> well, he probably has close -- i probably know by heart 300 of his songs. >> you know them by heart? >> mm-hmm. >> how do you do that? >> strum guitar and a lot of the songs -- i might forget a lyric or something but it's d and a and g. >> do you know the words? >> and the phrasing. his ability to phrase a word. he can draw out a vowel for -- he's a remarkable artist. it's not me. he won the nobel prize for literature for a unique gift of taking america and street culture, blues, jazz -- i'm sorry, you know, like vaudeville. he could take it all and put it into something that's his own.
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in many ways he could be at times like robert roshenberg, a painter where you take items from every day life and put them together. dylan's songs are built to last. they're not written for the whim of the moment. they'll be around forever. >> based on what you know of the songs, given me four or five things that he thinks of america. >> he feels his america isn't here anymore. that it left, meaning the technology factor that he does not care for like a marriott that you can't open the windows. the old schools where you were allowed to smoke. it used to be a big deal when an album came out and all the streaming culture and all. that's not his world. he'll pioneer with his body of work. he's more of an old time traveling person and he is really interested in the 1920s music and 1930s music, civil war songs. he knows all the songs from the
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civil war. he's a walking jukebox of all of american popular song. certain people, his knowledge of the blues is just phenomenal. he used to play with john lee hooker and all of these early blues players. he said he really got the tail end of a black culture that's not there right now because he goes around and sees martin luther king boulevard with the walmart, with the wendy's and the fast food junctions of america. he caught the tail end of that heavy black culture in the late '50s and '60s where the churches and the black neighborhoods, it was a deep-rooted gospel kind of culture. it still exists, but it's not as pronounced as it used to be. and that was the third part of our six-hour conversation with historian and author
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douglas brinkley. the rest of this conversation will air at the same time each week. you can watch this and upcoming segments in the series once they've aired online at zblee. c-span brings you an unfiltered view of government. scan the qr code to sign up for this e-mail and stay up to date on everything happening in washington each day. >> c-span's online store, products, apparel, books, home
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decor and accessories. go to . since c-span was founded in 1979, historian douglas brinkley has participated in several programs. c-span sat down with him for nearly six hours to get his insights. up next, part four of that conversation. >> when did you have lunch with chuck berry? >> oh, i've had a lot of meals with chuck berry. so chuck berry -- >> deceased now.


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