Last month, mumbly folk icon Bob Dylan gave a concert in Beijing. He didn't play some of his more explicitly political songs, and he didn't mention the iconoclastic artist Ai Weiwei, whom the Chinese government had disappeared just days earlier. Reports circulated that Dylan had submitted a set list beforehand so that Chinese authorities could approve of it.

People started wondering: Where was Dylan the rabble-rouser, Dylan the dissident? Where was "Blowin' in the Wind" and "The Times They Are A-Changin'"? New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, in particular, took Dylan to task, saying he'd "broken creative new ground in selling out ... He sang his censored set, took his pile of Communist cash and left."

Well! Bob Dylan isn't having any of that. Today, the singer released what Rolling Stone calls an "unprecedented" letter on his Web site, saying, basically, that the Chinese government never gave him a word of guidance or warning about what songs he could or couldn't perform. "We sent them the set lists from the previous 3 months," Dylan writes. "If there were any songs, verses or lines censored, nobody ever told me about it and we played all the songs that we intended to play."

Dylan also asserts, somewhat tetchily (and contra reports), that his Beijing show was very well attended, thanks for asking. "According to Mojo magazine the concerts were attended mostly by ex-pats and there were a lot of empty seats. Not true," he writes. "If anybody wants to check with any of the concert-goers they will see that it was mostly Chinese young people that came. Very few ex-pats if any. The ex-pats were mostly in Hong Kong not Beijing. Out of 13,000 seats we sold about 12,000 of them, and the rest of the tickets were given away to orphanages."

Here's the full text of Dylan's letter:

To my fans and followers

Allow me to clarify a couple of things about this so-called China controversy which has been going on for over a year. First of all, we were never denied permission to play in China. This was all drummed up by a Chinese promoter who was trying to get me to come there after playing Japan and Korea. My guess is that the guy printed up tickets and made promises to certain groups without any agreements being made. We had no intention of playing China at that time, and when it didn't happen most likely the promoter had to save face by issuing statements that the Chinese Ministry had refused permission for me to play there to get himself off the hook. If anybody had bothered to check with the Chinese authorities, it would have been clear that the Chinese authorities were unaware of the whole thing.

We did go there this year under a different promoter. According to Mojo magazine the concerts were attended mostly by ex-pats and there were a lot of empty seats. Not true. If anybody wants to check with any of the concert-goers they will see that it was mostly Chinese young people that came. Very few ex-pats if any. The ex-pats were mostly in Hong Kong not Beijing. Out of 13,000 seats we sold about 12,000 of them, and the rest of the tickets were given away to orphanages. The Chinese press did tout me as a sixties icon, however, and posted my picture all over the place with Joan Baez, Che Guevara, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. The concert attendees probably wouldn't have known about any of those people. Regardless, they responded enthusiastically to the songs on my last 4 or 5 records. Ask anyone who was there. They were young and my feeling was that they wouldn't have known my early songs anyway.

As far as censorship goes, the Chinese government had asked for the names of the songs that I would be playing. There's no logical answer to that, so we sent them the set lists from the previous 3 months. If there were any songs, verses or lines censored, nobody ever told me about it and we played all the songs that we intended to play.

Everybody knows by now that there's a gazillion books on me either out or coming out in the near future. So I'm encouraging anybody who's ever met me, heard me or even seen me, to get in on the action and scribble their own book. You never know, somebody might have a great book in them.