Bob Dylan met his longtime friend Louis Kemp at summer camp when they were both teenagers. Only a few years after this, Dylan’s life changed dramatically when he became a musician, but he remained friends with Kemp. They spent a great deal of time together over the years, and Kemp was one of his closest friends outside the music industry. While being friends with a celebrity may seem like it would have its benefits, Kemp said that Dylan actually ended one of his relationships with a prank phone call.
Bob Dylan met his friend Louis Kemp when he was a teenager
Dylan met Kemp and another close friend, Larry Kegan, at a Jewish summer camp when they were all teenagers. They got to know each other when Dylan still went by the name Robert Zimmerman.
“I would say Larry and I were his best friends, sure,” Kemp said in the book down the highway by Howard Soundes. “My friend is Bobby Zimmerman, and I don’t relate to him as Bob Dylan — that professional person… I was never a fan. I was a friend of Bobby Zimmerman, and that’s a whole different relationship from what most people have.”
They remained friends after Dylan rose to fame, but Kemp said he always thought of Dylan as a person, not a musician.
Bob Dylan accidentally ended his friend’s relationship because of a phone call
After Dylan became famous, Kemp visited him in New York City. He was in a relationship at the time, and Dylan encouraged him to call his girlfriend.
“Keep in mind that prank calls had been a part of our MO as teenage troublemakers,” Kemp wrote in his book Dylan & Me. “And, although we were grown men now, with careers and commitments, we’d both retained our fundamentally youthful sense of humor. What some might call childish behavior, the two of us still found funny as hell. So, the minute I got back to Bobby’s place, I called my girl in Minneapolis.”
Kemp put Dylan on the phone, telling his girlfriend that she’d be talking to his friend “Ricky.” Dylan teased her about the relationship until she hung up, irritated. Later, when Kemp had returned to Minnesota, he admitted that she’d been talking to Bob Dylan.
“I guess I wasn’t prepared for how mad she’d get at our little prank,” Kemp wrote. “I had embarrassed her, she insisted. I had mortified her. After that night, I never saw her again.”
While Kemp felt bad about the prank, he said he valued the memory of making the call.
“Looking back, I’m not particularly proud of the effect our little prank had on a perfectly sweet girl,” he wrote. “But I do cherish the memory because it was then that I knew Bobby and I were still our old selves.”
The friends are no longer as close
In 2001, Kegan had a fatal heart attack, and Kemp called Dylan to break the news. After the conversation, they grew more distant.
“I broke the news to him. We had a long conversation,” Kemp said. “After 2001 we weren’t in touch.”
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Kemp doesn’t discuss why they grew apart, but he said that they’re still friends, just not close ones. He said this is the case with many people in Dylan’s life of him.
“Most of the people around him are employees,” he said.