Some Blowback In The Wind About Last Week’s Dylan Column

I managed to annoy some erstwhile liberal friends with last week’s column criticizing Bob Dylan for that Chrysler commercial
he did to wrap up our recent Super Bowl debaucheries. Dylan defenders descended on my words like locusts on a Mormon grain field, gnashing their mandibles while arguing, as best I could make out, that ol’ Bob had a right to sell out if he wanted to, and that if he wanted to be a pawn in the game played by the corporatists, he had every right to do so.

And that’s true, of course. This is America, after all, and as Bob himself says in that commercial, “there’s nothing more American than America.” Duh.

But I was a little surprised at the latitude these good folks extended to my generation’s most venerated icon and genius. Their arguments made me think more about why it was so discouraging
to see this legendary figure whoring for a car company. What came to mind was the following story.

In 1965, I found myself among a small minority of Americans who had come to see the escalating war in Vietnam as an insult to our national values, a foreign imperialist adventure that put us on

the side of a corrupt South Vietnamese regime. More viscerally, we were beginning to see lots of guys my age coming home in body bags, or torn apart in gruesome ways, fighting in a country most Americans couldn’t even locate on a map. It began to seem imperative to speak out.

So, one bright spring day, my young wife
and I joined a march against the war that wended its way from Berkeley into Oakland. Even in the residential areas of Berkeley, we weren’t very popular, but I naively hoped
that when we got to Oakland, we’d garner some encouragement from people in the black neighborhoods. We were maybe three thousand strong, and it was daunting when we began to draw increasingly vociferous jeering from the black residents in the neighborhoods we were marching through. The black people I knew back then were in the civil rights movement, and they were as dubious about the war as I was. But the wider black community, then and now, tends to be as patriotic as any other, and patriotism is all too often conflated with support for whatever military adventure is current. It would be

a couple more years before Martin Luther King spoke out against the war and, to those working class black people, I’m sure we looked like a bunch of lame-ass commie-sympathizing honkies from that damned university. In other words, they saw us pretty much the way most Americans saw the “hippies,” the “freaks,” the “counterculture,” and the nascent anti-war movement.

Just when it started getting a little scary,
a black kid put his speakers in his second- story window and blasted Dylan singing “The Times They Are a Changin’.” Our spirits were renewed, our courage and resolve strengthened.

So, when some of my liberal friends chided me last week for thinking Bob Dylan meant something he never meant to mean, I couldn’t help but think they were full of shit.

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  1. Murray Suid says:

    Jaime, I’m offended when a company gets hold of a song written by someone who is dead and hence has no say about how his intellectual property can be used.

    I’m not so bothered when someone who is alive decides to sell out. To me, selling out is a familiar part of the American scene.

    Of course, it’s fine with me if an essayist chooses to comment on one particular act of selling out. I might even choose to read a novel that is about what happens when someone sells out.

    I can see a philosopher or sociologist using the Dylan incident to comment on the American soul…or lack thereof. A psychologist could use the story as a way of introducing the fact that many people change their views as they age.

    But at the personal level–at my gut level– I don’t care what the 2014 version of Bob Dylan thinks or does. It’s his life; he’s welcome to it. Bob’s actions change nothing about how I view those anti-Vietnam-War days, nor what I think about capitalism or music or advertising.

    Bob Dylan isn’t nearly as important to me as my wife, grandkid, neighbor, or e-Pal. He’s just another celebrity. I’m thinking about him today only because you shined a light on his recent decision to sell out.

    1. frank jenks says:

      I have always loved Bob Dylan but do not find his current commercial to be “whoring for a car company”. Yes, i am liberal and i did write my disapproval for your (Jaime) disdain for the commercial. I remember years ago i went to my first Bob Dylan concert. It was the famous (for this area) concert in the cow barn (Pauline Davis Pavilion) in Red Bluff,Ca. I drove from Chico to see the closest thing to “God” i could imagine. You see Jaime i had basically the same vision of Dylan as you. When i got to Red Bluff and actually saw the great man for the first time i felt like i was seeing a sort of “God”. To me, and i have always had a tough time finding God, Dylan was about as close as you can get. Anyway he began to sing and he didn’t really sound like the records. The songs weren’t as good but still i was seeing “God”. He never talked to his disciples. Just one song after another. So you ask, what is the point? The point is, i realized about half way through this concert that Dylan was not “God”. So, did he let me down? No, i loved the concert and have seen him several times since. He always gives good music and a friendly demeanor but he is not the prophet. I objected to your original column because i don’t feel Dylan owes me anything in his old age. I still feel he has every right to make as many commercials as he wants. If these commercials help him settle into a comfortable retirement then i am happy. He has given us so much with his music he owes nothing more.

  2. Pat says:

    When youre a stupid liberal, its easy to turn everyone against you for your narrow views.

  3. Chuck says:

    Speaking of full of shit and selling out. Looks like Jaime Oneill has sold out to the “progressive” party of brainless f-tards, and is so full of shit that he pisses off both political sides when he pens his bullshit.
    At least he has Murray, his lap dog and worshipper to lick his heels.