Bob Dylan is being investigated for alleged racism in France just weeks after collecting the country's highest cultural prize, the Legion d'Honneur.

The iconic singer-songwriter is the subject of a criminal probe after a Croatian community organisation complained that comments he made during a magazine interview with Rolling Stone incited racial hatred.

Dylan reportedly said: "If you got a slave master or (Ku Klux) Klan in your blood, blacks can sense that. That stuff lingers to this day. Just like Jews can sense Nazi blood and the Serbs can sense Croatian blood."

His remarks allude to ethnic tensions between Serbs and Croatians dating back centuries. This has ignited into mass murder during the Croatian Ustasha Nazi regime of World War II, and later during the war in Bosnia.

The complaint was lodged by Croatie Ambassade de Croatie en France (CRICCF) after the remarks appeared in the French edition of the long-running rock magazine.

Under French law, any complaint of racism triggers an investigation - whatever the merit of the claim.

But Dylan being the subject of preliminary charges by the French authorities is surprising, considering how much lavish praise was heaped upon him. French culture minister Aurelie Filipetti recently hailed the US singer as a "subversive cultural force that can change people and the world."

In response to the allegations neither a spokesman for Bob Dylan nor Rolling Stone made comment.