Don't diss the Dylan

Over at
Noise Pollution blogger Stephen Walker wrote a silly post today accusing Bob Dylan of selling out, in relation to his infrequent appearances in commercials for products including lingerie and a Cadillac. It’s the sort of post that seems to have been written not to make a point but to evoke outrage-fuelled responses from readers. In which case, well, it worked. Here is my (rushed) response, published in the comments section.

It’s a bit much to accuse Dylan of selling out on the evidence of two or three commercial appearances in a career that’s chalked up nearly half a century in the public limelight. Take a look at just about any other big name star, many of whom are decades his junior, are you’ll get dozens upon dozens of commercial gigs, so many you could never fit them into a blog post. Remember this is a man who ‘demanded’ a few years ago when coming to Melbourne that his hotel room be equipped with ashtrays, hot and cold running water and windows that open and close. Not exactly J-Lo.

And here is a much better response from somebody else - 'Patrick Bateman' nonetheless - which, the last sentence in particular, had me literally nodding in agreement.

Some people will never get it when it comes to Dylan. He's not a god, he's not a leader, he's not your personal political/philosophical consultant, he's not a martyr or a hero - and he's been telling you this all along, if only you'd listen.

He has consistently made choices which are designed to communicate the above to you, to all of us, as clearly as possible. Going electric, going reggae, going gospel, disappearing, reappearing, being wilfully obtuse and then shockingly open, abandoning his folk roots then returning to them when no-one thought he would.

It may also shock you to think that he might actually be (or have been) a beer drinking, womanising, cadillac driving kind of guy - but he has never tried to hide it. There are plenty of Dylan songs with car references, girl references, alcohol references... see for example 'Summer Days' from the album Love & Theft: "well I'm drivin' on the flats in a Cadillac car, the girls all say "you're a worn out star" - my pockets are loaded and I'm spending every dime...

Perhaps you should actually listen to Bob's radio show - he lets a lot more of his personality out than you might expect. Bob's been telling people not to have expectations of him for 40 years now, but some of you are still asking him to be the young man from 1963. It wouldn't surprise me at all if he has been doing these commercial precisely BECAUSE they go against the image that many people have of him, an image which is far more of a projection than anything that was ever a reality.

1 comment:

  1. Speaking of selling out, which i would never dare accuse dylan of, does your theory of 'sell out first, get serious later' apply to musicians too? Or just actors?