On July 29, 1966, Dylan crashed his 500cc Triumph Tiger 100 motorcycle near his home in Woodstock, New York and was thrown to the ground. Though the extent of his injuries was never disclosed, Dylan said that he broke several vertebrae in his neck.Mystery still surrounds the circumstances of the accident since no ambulance was called to the scene and Dylan was not hospitalized. Dylan’s biographers have written that the crash offered Dylan the chance to escape the pressures around him. Dylan confirmed this interpretation in his autobiography: “I had been in a motorcycle accident and I’d been hurt, but I recovered. Truth was that I wanted to get out of the rat race.” Dylan withdrew from public and, apart from a few appearances, did not tour again for almost eight years.
In his memoir Chronicles Dylan wrote about the accident:
“I had been in a motorcycle accident and I’d been hurt, but I recovered. Truth was that I wanted to get out of the rat race. Having children changed my life and segregated me from just about everybody and everything that was going on. Outside of my family, nothing held any real interest for me and I was seeing everything through different glasses.”
Here are some quotes from Dylan about the motorcycle accident, pulled together by Harold Lepidus for a post he did at his Bob Dylan Examiner site in 2011.
JANN WENNER (Rolling Stone magazine, 1969) : What change did the motorcycle accident make?
DYLAN: What change? Well, it… it limited me. It’s hard to speak about the change, you know? It’s not the type of change that one can put into words… besides the physical change. I had a busted vertebrae; neck vertebrae. And there’s really not much to talk about. I don’t want to talk about it. . . So eventually, I had my motorcycle accident and that just got me out of the whole thing, ‘cause I didn’t care anymore.
PLAYBOY 1978: Did the motorcycle accident you had in 1966 have anything to do with cooling you off, getting you to relax?
DYLAN: Well, now you’re jumping way ahead to another period of time…. What was I doing? I don’t know. It came time. Was it when I had the motorcycle accident? Well, I was straining pretty hard and couldn’t have gone on living that way much longer. The fact that I made it through what I did is pretty miraculous. But, you know, sometimes you get too close to something and you got to get away from it to be able to see it. And something like that happened to me at the time.
DYLAN, 1984: When I had that motorcycle accident … I woke up and caught my senses, I realized that I was just workin’ for all these leeches. And I didn’t want to do that. Plus, I had a family and I just wanted to see my kids.
DYLAN, Spin magazine, December 1985: In 1966 I had a motorcycle accident and ended up with several broken vertebrae and a concussion. That put me down for a while. I couldn’t go on doing what I had been. I was pretty wound up before that accident happened. It set me down so I could see things in a better perspective. I wasn’t seeing anything in any kind of perspective. I probably would have died if I had kept on going the way I had been.
Esquire interview with Sam Shepard: It was real early in the morning on top of a hill near Woodstock. I can’t even remember how it happened. I was blinded by the sun for a second. . . . I just happened to look up right smack into the sun with both eyes and, sure enough, I went blind for a second and I kind of panicked or something. I stomped down on the brake and the rear wheel locked up on me and I went flyin’.
Was Dylan riding his Triumph? John Hammond speaks…
“John Bauldie interviewed John Hammond in 26 October 2006. The interview was published in issue 44 of The Telegraph fanzine, Winter 1992. The topic turned to Dylan’s motorcycle crash. Hammond said, “Ah, the crash. Well, Jack Elliott had left a bike in Bob’s garage up there. It was an old AJS, a great old bike, 500 single, the kind you can break your leg trying to kickstart. The tyres were flat and I think Bob wanted to have the thing repaired, so… but maybe I shouldn’t say this. This is for Bob to talk about it if he wants to talk about it. It’s not my place to talk about it. Bob did get hurt. I imagine it shook him up to the point where he looked at his life very carefully.” Jack Elliott confirmed his ownership of an AJS 500 (which he says he took back to America from England in 1963) in an interview with the Montreal Gazette.”