Even I don't always agree with my opinion

 

Bob Dylan Sells Out To Pepsi – Big Surprise!

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Posted February 23, 2009 by jim young in Business

– jim young

Bob Dylan has sold out. I know that sounds very 60s cliché, but how else can it be said, except that perhaps I should add “again” to it.

For this is not the first time Dylan has been accused of “selling out”.

The first time of course, being at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 admittedly wasn’t really a “sellout” so much as Dylan broadening his artistic horizons. Sorry Pete – you were just wrong about that.

And since then Dylan has gone through many similar metamorphoses throughout his musical career that should also not be interpreted as “selling out.” I’ll defend him there.

But selling out to the proverbial “establishment” just doesn’t seem right for somebody like Dylan.

From Funeral Homes to Victoria’s secret and now Pepsi in his latest commercial with Will.I.Am leads one to question, “what the fuck was he thinking?”

And to add insult to injury there are a couple of clips in the Pepsi commercial that could be interpreted as supportive of the ongoing war overseas.

Just how many songs has Dylan written and/or recorded? (No really – that last question is not totally a rhetorical question – I’d really like to know.)

Can he really need the money? If so, I’d rather see a benefit concert for Bob Dylan in the same fashion that Dylan supported the farmers.

Does Dylan really believe in those products so much that he wants to give his personal endorsement to them? Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with any of the products, but the commercialization of Dylan songs just somehow seems to be wrong, don’t you think? Just as wrong as the first time I heard “Blowin’ In The Wind” on Muzak.

I just don’t get why Mr. Zimmerman would do this.

– 30 –


11 Comments


  1.  
    Kory

    There is a major flaw with the supposition that Bob Dylan has “sold out”. The problem with that argument lies in the idea that Dylan once “bought in” to something. He has at no time in his personal life, nor career as an artist, done this; or at least never with the presupposition that time could never possibly change his opinions, his views, his journey, and derivatively his trail. If we reach back to the sixties, which seems to be the foundation of Jim’s argument (and a weak one at that mind you but I will draw back to this point later on), let us not forget that this is the man who penned those iconic lines which generation after generation have recycled as their own; “don’t criticize / What you can’t understand / Your sons and your daughters / Are beyond your command / Your old road is / Rapidly agin’. / Please get out of the new one / If you can’t lend your hand / For the times they are a-changin’.” There is a great comical irony in the idea that the one artist most associated with acting as a troubadour for arguably the most influential decade of the Twentieth Century, commanding that one “better start swimming’ / or [he’ll] sink like a stone” is now being accused of “selling out” because of his persistence to continuously change and reinvent himself as an artist, performer, poet, and voice for a generation. What I set out to argue is this; that Bob Dylan has never permanently bought into an ideology his whole life, therefore it is an unfounded accusation to accuse him of selling out; to briefly examine the life and influence of other artists beyond who can be revered as never selling out, and where they are now and how their determination and persistence to remain stagnate in a forever changing world has failed to impact future generations as much as, a) it could have had they been willing to let themselves grow, and b) as much as those artists who had the ability to metamorphose with the times; and finally to show how Dylan evolved from a nineteen year old “protest” singer from Greenwich Village in 1962 New York City to a 68 year old country and blues singer who has sold the rights to one of his songs to Pepsi.

    Dylan’s entire life has been a sell-out of sorts if you want to look at it that way. From the time he left his hometown of Hibbing Minnesota to attend Minnesota University in Minneapolis he began making up stories of where he was from, his religious and cultural background, as well as falsifying his musical history with Bobby Vee. Before he even stepped foot in New York City at the age of 18 he had already sold out on his family and his roots. As he arrived in New York, the tales of his youth stretched and grew exponentially and the more known he became in the village, the more exaggerated his background became. Was this a strategy to get recognized? Probably. Was this all a marketing ploy to create a more authentic voice tapped into the pulse of the folk movement that was beginning to take shape in the Village at the turn of the decade? Seemingly. Was this an invented scheme to assist in molding the mystery behind the artist? Most likely. Did it all work? Most definitely. So if you went to grade school with Robert Zimmerman in the early fifties in Hibbing, and in 1962 were hearing about this great hobo kid named Bob Dylan performing Woody Guthrie songs in the café’s and bars in Greenwich Village, you would probably say to yourself and to all those who would listen, “what a sell out”. Dylan is an Elvis fan, a Bobby Vee fan, a Carl Perkins fan. What is this Kingston Trio crap? What a sell out!”

    And then there was the already mentioned example of Newport Folk Festival, 1965. Dylan comes out on stage with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and knocks the socks off all the Baez chanting folkies and the shatters the earplugs of Pete Seeger. This is arguably the largest and most documented “sell out” in musical history. Dylan performed a new song that day called “Like a Rolling Stone”, and was booed off of the stage after only 3 songs. Rolling Stone magazine went on in 2007 to list the most important, influential and overall greatest songs of all time. Number one? – “Like a Rolling Stone”. Since Jim has already concedes this point, and most likely anyone taking the time to read this knows the history of Newport, I will refrain from going further. But again, if you were a hardcore Dylan folk fan in 1965 you were most likely caught saying “what a sell out”. What followed was a tour of the UK with Ronnie Hawkins band “The Hawks” (later to be known as “The Band”) where night after night they were booed off the stage for playing electric songs, ironically with lines like “you know there is somethin’ happening here / But you don’t know what it is / Do you / Mr., Jones”. These songs would later make up the album “Blonde on Blonde”, an album that would go on to be ranked the 13th best album of the 1960s by Time Magazine). Dylan fans were screaming at his abandonment. Finally, after 2 years of road abuse and booing fans, the rest of the sixties began to catch up with Dylan, and through radio play of rock imitations of his songs by bands like The Turtles, The Byrds, The Animals, and Jimi Hendrix, the hippie generation noticed that Dylan was actually tapped into something great and the music moves from 3-chord jingles like “She loves you yeh, yeh, yeh, / She loves you yeh, yeh, yeh. / With a love like that, / You know you should be glad.” to “For though they may be parted there is / Still a chance that they will see / There will be an answer, let it be.” (Which, just a side note sounds a lot like a song written 8 years earlier: “Yes, ‘n’ how many times can a man turn his head, / Pretending he just doesn’t see? / The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,”). And when the generation that defined music as a pop-culture wanted to celebrate its influence, where did they turn? To where Bob Dylan was of course, in a small country town in upstate New York where he was trying to live peacefully with his wife and four children, recording country and blues music with a Nashville twang influence, completely removed from the magnifying glass and pressure of being “a voice for a generation”. Woodstock happened where it did in 1969 because The Band and Dylan and Van Morrison and George Harrison had been living there for four years. They moved there to get away from the pressures being put on them by the rest of the sixties generation, and once again, when the times caught up to them, who did not play at Woodstock? The Beatles, Van Morrison, and Bob Dylan. Instead, they packed up and moved to California. Again, “what a bunch of sell-outs”. The 70s saw Dylan experiment with country, blues, jazz and even complete musical albums with no lyrics (“Self Portrait”). No lyrics? I guess here we can say that Dylan was selling out to poets. The 80s brought religion to Dylan’s music. Who was he selling out on now, atheists? The 90s saw him revisit a remaking of an old bluegrass sound and rockabilly tunes overlaid with lyrics of reflection and recognition of mortality, “I just don’t see why I should even care / It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there”. I guess here he is selling out to the youth ideal of ageless perfection and Neil Young-type philosophers who believe “it’s better to burn out, then to fade away.” Man, Kurt Cobain must have been furious with Dylan on that one. Oh yeah – he killed himself.

    This brings me right into point number two – call it what you want, but “he that gets hurt / Will be he who has stalled”, or in other words, “maintain so true to your ideals that you are unwilling to waiver, and watch out what happens to you.” For the sake of playing fair, I will allow us to pigeonhole Dylan into a troubadour of the sixties and nothing more. Let’s compare him to others from that generation, who through words, music, and artistic expression were tapped into the pulse of a generation and had the influence over thousands of others into demanding rights, freedoms, and the liberty to question and defend authority. Jack Kerouac – drank himself to death. Neal Cassidy – died of a heart attack, most likely related to drug abuse. Timothy Leary – spent a life on the run from authority and was eventually sentenced to 95 years in prison, released in 1976 and died in 1995 after his daughter committed suicide associated with mental illness (Leary continued to use psychedelic drugs his entire life after prison). Ken Kesey – never wrote anything of substance after “Cuckoo’s Nest” and died in 2001. Jim Morrison – drank himself to death. Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix – drug overdose. Richard Manuel – killed himself. The list could go on, but my point is this; I challenge anyone to name one artist or performer who has refused to metamorphose with time and who has failed to reinvent himself on a continuous basis, yet who has maintained exceptional influence and success over five decades as Dylan has done. Artists who fail to find new ways to reach new generations, whether it be through new art forms, new mediums, or even commercialism, will flounder and eventually fail altogether, maybe even to a point to dismiss what greatness they may have had at one time. Should we award those who refused to sell out? Jim Morrison, Axl Rose, Kurt Cobain, Scott Weiland, Brad Nowell? Their careers were short lived and are isolated to one period in time which stunts any possible greater influence they could have had for longer periods. Should we celebrate their falsely acclaimed integrity and chastise Dylan for selling out? It does not make sense to do so.

    Finally, let’s take a look at the ad itself and Dylan’s part in it. It is a Pepsi ad which message is “every generation refreshes the world.” I believe the root of the argument being presented is that Dylan has sold out because he has allowed his song to be used by a corporation to advertise a product. Response – so what? I had stated earlier in this essay that this a weak foundation for argument, and here is why: the presumption that “selling out to the establishment just doesn’t seem right for somebody like Dylan … [and that] the commercialization of Dylan songs just somehow seems to be wrong” presents the argument that Dylan has been against advertising, marketing, corporation, establishment or whatever other term you want to associate the business of media and pop culture with. How is permitting the use of a song to inspire young kids to “be the change [they] want to see in the World” (Gandhi) seem to be wrong? The message is “refresh the world”, and I do not pretend to be ignorant to the fact that it is being used as a sales-pitch product push. But the flip side of the argument is where would the world be without commercialization? How are records sold? How do kids learn about music, history, or become inspired? In Jim’s ideal world, it is through dinner conversations, reading materials, and I guess the classroom. Yet this is not reality. In today’s world it is through television and the internet. So seeing a black and white image of a man they may recognize from photographs or the sixties, or history books, or album covers and then being able to associate him with a certain song or sound, enough to trigger interest and research to learn more about how this black and white singer from the 60s fits with Pepsi’s message and Will.I.Am – well, where is the harm in that? I doubt that Dylan needs the money, that his consent is not an offspring of greed, nor was the advertisement about his belief in the products they are marketing. It is nothing more than his eternal search to find new meaning in his music for people who want to listen. After he reached fame as a twenty year-old, and his life was put under an eternal microscope he realized “you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed / you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” Maybe he has just lost his ability to care, for no matter what road he decides to travel on, there will be critics to document his every wrong turn. So he plays on for those who do not judge, those who can look at his musical career as a sea-faring journey subject to winds of change. And for those who are still stuck in the port of the 60s, what a fascinating expedition they have missed.

    There are more than just a mere few arguments that can be made about Bob Dylan’s character, the mystery behind the man, his career choices, and his path to success. Perhaps the largest debate is whether or not all that he has done in his career was actual true artistic inspiration motivated by his refusal to let anything but the music determine his path, or is he just an advertising genius with a talent for words who has always been tapped into how to manipulate the media into building up an icon to create fame and legend. It is my contention that the further back we look at his career, the stronger the argument for the latter holds weight. During the sixties when Dylan was exposed as a Jewish kid from small town USA with a perfectly normal upbringing unlike all the stories he had come up with about his background, one could convincingly doubt his talent and genius. But as the decades have moved on, and his musical talents and artistic genius have continued to develop and awe our culture, the argument has lost all of its steam. The problem with some people out there is that they refuse to acknowledge what came great after they no longer existed at the nucleus of culture and change. And unfortunately, I don’t think this is any more evident than with people from the sixties. The irony of it all, is that the very social-invention they are most proud of (and rightfully so), that being the decision and lesson to simply not just stand there and take whatever you are told and taught without discovering for yourself whether it is something you believe to support, is the same one they struggle with as an aging generation today. Although I am too young to speak with certainty, I am willing to bet that one of the most hated phrases of a teenager in 1968 would have been when an adult argued “well, that’s not what it was like when I was a kid. And we did it right.” I can only imagine the disgust or reprimand the adolescent would have had with that statement. Yet here we are, in 2009, debating about the “voice of the sixties generation” and how he has disappointed his generation because he is not acting in a way he would have fifty years ago. It is a good thing he is not, or he would never have gotten out of their alive.

    “People see me all the time and they just can’t remember how to act / Their minds are filled with big ideas, images and distorted facts / … / Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your mouth / Blowing down the backroads headin’ south. / Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your teeth, / You’re an idiot, babe. / It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe.”




  2.  
    Jim

    Holy shit! Just out of curiosity are you Bob Dylan’s wife, his bastard child or his homosexual lover? I ask because you seem to be very passionate and emotional in your defence of Dylan.

    The concept that to “sell out” you first have to “buy in” is not without merit. But what defines “buying in”?

    Does not lending your name and support to any given philosophy, concept or protests automatically constitute “buying in?”

    Steven Page of the Bare Naked Ladies was recently quoted as saying, “When you put your name to something, you put yourself out there.”

    The very fact that Dylan wrote songs of protest against war and the establishment suggests that he “bought into” the “movement” of the 60s.

    Personally I just don’t accept the implication that Dylan did any of this for anything less than that he believed in what he was singing. He was paid very well for it – but I still don’t believe that was Dylan’s primary motive.

    So I think you are giving Dylan way too much credit in suggesting that it was all marketing – which is a major basis in your debate here – from the beginning.

    Of course anyone, at any time, is perfectly free to “change his opinions, his views, his journey and derivatively his trail.” I think you and I both agree on that point. And to that end, I say “good for him”.

    But depending on the “changes” isn’t that in fact the very definition of “selling out” from whatever the individual may have first “bought into”?

    Hindsight, as they say is 20-20. So it’s pretty easy for Dylan to say today that what he really meant in the 60s was something that is more conducive to what he is preaching (or not preaching) today.

    With the wealth of material that Bob Dylan has provided over the years, I dare say one could weave just about any story and use Dylan quotes to support their case. Over-analysing the music and importance of the 60s – or any era for that matter, is not something new.

    As John Lennon once said, “We hated all the shit they wrote and talked about Beethoven and ballet, all kidding themselves it was important. Now it’s happening to us. None of it is important. It just takes a few people to get going and they con themselves into thinking it’s important. It all becomes a big con.”

    And while we’re on the topic of the Beatles – they for one, refused to “sell out” and allow their songs to be used for commercials and yet it never prevented them from changing, growing and reinventing themselves.

    I have a great deal of respect for Bob Dylan and for his songs, ideas, and philosophies, but I do not regard Dylan – or any one for that matter – as an infallible god. There is much truth in Dylan’s words” don’t criticise what you don’t understand.” But let us not forget, this is the man that criticised John Lennon for changing his name from John Winston Lennon to John Ono Lennon. And your point “Mr. Zimmerman” was?

    MY point is – even Bob Dylan might sometimes fuck up. Isn’t it just possible that Dylan sometimes ends a day – as we all do from time to time – asking himself, “What was I thinking?”

    I also have great respect for Dylan’s ability to see even today’s “times they are a-changin'”. But how does that relate to “selling out” (I remain steadfast in this accusation) to Pepsi and other commercial ventures?

    The point is – if Dylan can’t reach the “Pepsi Generation” through any other medium than “Pepsi” Commercials” – maybe he doesn’t really speak for that (or any) generation anymore.

    All I’m saying is, if Dylan continues to be relevant to my generation or yours – or any other – why does he need Pepsi to validate him?

    Criticise me if you like for criticising Dylan, but then aren’t you, in fact, defeating your own “don’t criticise what you don’t understand” defence?




  3.  
    Jesse

    Hmm, both have some good thoughts on the issue. I think Kory has done a little more research oh just has a little bit of knowledge on Dylan under his belt.

    But, I think this whole discussion is not really about winning or losing. It comes down to differ in opionion, Jim thinks one thing, and Kory thinks another. On the whole Dylan life though, I must agree with Kory, he convinced me. Sold me on it if you will. Plus, it was one sick commercial, Pepsi or not. It had truth, a killer tune, amazing artist, and a good choice of examples to what have changed over the years.

    But good points and very interesting ideologies on both sides.




  4.  
    Jim

    Hey Jesse – thanks for your input even if you do seem to be sitting on the fence a bit. Just so you know – if you’re sitting on the fence because you’re not sure where you want to go – that’s always cool. Nothing wrong with that. “Sit as long as you need to, to clear your head before you jump”, is always good advice.

    But if you’re just worried about hurting someone’s feelings then I would have to say “Get the hell off the fence!”

    No one here will, or should have hurt feelings just because someone doesn’t agree with what they think or say. As the French philosopher Volaire once said, “I may disagree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

    Of course you’re going to lean towards what Kory has to say. When it comes right down to it, all Kory really accomplished with his endless babble that sounds like it came right out of the Encyclopedia of Bob Dylan textbooks, was lend support to my position that Dylan is a sell out, by demonstrating that Dylan has been a sellout all his life. Although I do think that many of the examples Kory used to support his/my theory were a bit of a stretch.

    No one is disputing the creative genius of the Pepsi commercial in question. It was artistic, hip and with the times whether your not you agree with the politics of it or the inappropriateness of using a Bob Dylan song to promote a commercial product. (I would have used Joan Baez’s much better rendition of “Forever Young”, but that’s just a matter of personal taste.)

    On another point I would have to say that I take exception to Kory’s subtle implication that I am stuck in the 60s.

    Personally I don’t know anyone who is “stuck in the 60s”. The only ones that even come to mind would be Dr. Johnny Fever from the TV show WKRP or maybe Cheech and Chong – but gee – isn’t that just their comedy routine?

    Stuck in the 60s. What does that even mean? Does the desire to want to hang on to the ideologies of the Age of Aquarius and strive to live in a world of peace and brotherly love condemn one to “being stuck in the 60s”?

    If so “hang me from your cross, nail me to your tree, I plead my guilt before your courts, go crucify me.”




  5.  

    “Anyone who does a TV commercial is off the artistic roll call forever.” – Bill Hicks
    Bill discussed this very kind of thing, and tore up the sell outs of his day in his act. And no matter what that ridiculous Dylan apologist thinks, if you take that thing deep inside you, that voice of eternal truth that has chosen you as it’s mortal microphone, and sell it for a pile of cash to a greedy, soulless corporation like Pepsi, then you are a sell out, end of argument. To quote Hicks you are now “just another whore at the big capitalist gangbang.” Or to quote me, you are now lower than a maggot living in a glob of dog shit on the heel of a discarded sneaker at the bottom of a landfill. Does that clear it up for you Dylan apologists? Fuck Dylan. He didn’t need the money but he took it anyway and thereby left a shit stain across his entire legacy.




  6.  

    I really like your post. Does it copyright protected?




  7.  
    Jim

    All of my material is copyright protected.

    However if you want to use any portions of it please email me to let me know where it will be used and for what purpose and I will consider granting permission for its use.

    Thanks,

    Jim




  8.  

    You know so many interesting infomation. You might be very wise. I like such people. Don’t top writing.




  9.  
    Jim

    “Might”? – Just kidding. Thanks for your encouragement.




  10.  

    You know, I don’t read blogs. But yours is really worth beeing read.




  11.  

    Some of us even don’t realize the importance of this information. What a pity.





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