Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along: Chrysler Cruisin’ With Mr. D

 

It’s been clear for a long time that Bob Dylan really doesn’t give much of a shit what people think of him, especially his most devoted fans. From the git-go, he’s sneered at those who wanted to enshrine him as a prophet, or a sage. He has always been the ultimate wise ass when it came to dealing with reporters or interviewers, especially those who made the mistake of asking particularly lame questions.

When he went electric at the Newport Folk Festival in the mid-‘60s, the folkie crowd just went apeshit, and even the saintly Pete Seeger wanted to cut the power source to young Zimmy’s electrified guitar. But Dylan just went his own way, though he was booed and hooted at while singing “Maggie’s Farm” with the great Michael Bloomfield adding a little guitar wizardry in support.

And though most of us who’ve been tracking the blood on Bob’s tracks for decades now have been dutifully following him through all of his permutations, he just may have gone too far with that ad he made for Chrysler, a bit of free trade that gives new meaning to the phrase “selling out.”

It’s difficult to enumerate all the levels of betrayal to be found in Dylan’s act of pimping for Chrysler. Those who don’t have a problem with Bob’s rather self-aggrandizing stroll through the halls of corrosive corporate corruption will say he’s just putting his skinny shoulder to the wheel, attempting to help a struggling economy and Chrysler workers keep those paychecks rollin’ in.

But for those of us who adopted Bob Dylan all those years ago when his was a voice that raged against the machine, it was dispiriting as hell to see him prostitute his legacy (and ours) in such a shameless way, peddling his very soul and self, merging his identity with a car company in a commercial in which he said “let us build a car for you,” thus making it clear that Bob Dylan had decided that workin’ for Maggie on that farm was, finally, the way to go.

And was I alone in finding the ad just a little creepy, with the faintly spectral figure of ol’ Bob seen in a tracking shot, from behind, and then in fleeting glimpses right up until the final moment when he went Full Monty balls out whore for the Man, looking like death warmed over, the emblematic and incipient corpse of an entire generation not now, nor forever, young?

He was, and he remains, my generation’s most significant voice, and his genius cannot be denied. He is, quintessentially, American, but he also embodies both the best and the worst of the times we all were a’changin’: a half-assed poet/obscurantist who can, for a fee, write a line as dopey and tautological as the one in that Super Bowl ad in which he croaked: “There’s nothing as American as America.” Not his brightest observation, nor his proudest moment. Or ours.

Comments

  1. Joe Willis says:

    I, too, am disappointed (to say the least) in Dylan’s apparent character flaws. Just shows how we must separate the art from the artist. If we looked deeply into the character of all the great artists, we wouldn’t have much art left. I still admire Dylan’s genius as a writer/observer. Good column, though. And I also enjoyed your recent piece about Judy Collins.

  2. Murray Suid says:

    Jaime,

    I believe that the cancerous growth of advertising is harming our civilization. I can no longer listen to the local news radio station because it’s 50% ads, maybe more, since they slip ads into headlines like, “And now here’s the XYZ weather report,” with XYZ being a company that paid to have its name in the lead-in.

    So I understand your feelings about Mr. Dylan’s selling out. But I don’t get why you think his actions reflect badly on us. As if his legacy were my legacy, or his selling out means that I’m a sell out.

    Celebrities live their lives, have to pay their bills, make their decisions. One thing we still have left in this country is our ability–as individuals–to sell out or not sell out, to be complicit with commercialization by–for example–watching the Super Bowl. (I didn’t watch it but if I had, it would have been my decision.)

    Go ahead, feel bad that you have been betrayed by believed in Bob D., whom you once admired. That makes sense. But don’t led his corruption serve as a commentary on the way you live your life.

  3. Donny F. says:

    What a fucking shame that poor Bob Dylan fell short of your expectations. I suppose he should have called you first to make sure he does everything the way you want him to.

    What ever he does is none of your goddamn business. Its a free country, old crotch.