Bob Dylan has produced a Superbowl commercial for Chrysler.
Naturally, there are shrieks of ‘sell-out’ from the masses. Some have joked that he’s become a car salesman.
But these people fail to understand Dylan, his life, his music, his business and his career.
For the singer, real name Robert Zimmerman, always has been a vociferous money-maker, conservative, protectionist and patriot.
He has properties spanning the world, an enormous back catalogue of music spitting out royalties by the minute, art exhibitions and various other businesses.
Indeed, Dylan and his former manager Albert Grossman were locked throughout the eighties in a lengthy and bitter legal financial battle.
And one of the first things Dylan did after the acrimonious divorce from first wife Sara Lownds left him broke, was to emerge from his reclusive life in Woodstock and embark on touring again in order to replenish his bank accounts.
Bob, now in his 70s, still has a family to support – ex-wives, children and grandchildren – and a natural commercial instinct.
Yet the Chrysler commercial is only the fifth in a career spanning more than 50 years. The others were for Victoria’s Secrets, Apple, Pepsi and Chevrolet. Hardly the signs of a corporate cash cow, is it?
Dylan doesn’t put his name to political causes easily. During his early career – much to the frustration of radical contemporaries – he shunned political events and refused to be labelled a protest singer.
‘They’re calling me an anarchist? Did you hear that? Jeez, pass the anarchist a cigarette,’ he said in England in the 60s at the height of Dylan hysteria.
He even moved away from Greenwhich village innew York where ‘revolution was in the air’ to live a humble life in Woodstock with his wife, children and dogs spending hours every day with a painter who supported the Vietnam war. During this period Dylan said he kept a gun at home he called ‘the great equaliser’.
Most notably though, American industry is a cause Dylan strongly believes in.
The demise of the car manufacturing in Detroit turned the city into a ghost town, and it left thousands of working families bankrupt and destitute.
And it is Dylan’s support of the working man that the advert shows most. Just look at the last shot of the commercial – Dylan playing pool in a bar surrounded by guys fresh from the factory, mine, truck or production line.
He has always advanced the cause the underdog – black Americans in the 1960s, wounded soldiers, farmers (See YouTube for the Live Aid clip when he unexpectedly and much to the horror of Bob Geldof asks for some of the money raised ‘for the people in Africa… maybe a million or two’ to go to American farmers so they can pay mortgages to the banks) and good ol’ fashioned American blue collar workers.
We see this in songs such as ‘The Ballad Of Hollis Brown’, ‘Working Man’s Blues’ and ‘Union Sundown’.
It is Union Sundown from the 1983 album Infidels that has the strongest links with Dylan’s Chrysler ad.
‘You know, this shirt I wear comes from the Philippines / And the car I drive is a Chevrolet
It was put together down in Argentina / By a guy makin’ thirty cents a day.
‘Well, it’s sundown on the union / And what’s made in the U.S.A / Sure was a good idea / Till greed got in the way.’
Compare this to the last line of the Chrysler commercial.
‘So let Germany brew your beer, let Switzerland make your watch, let Asia assemble your phone, we will build your car.’
Dylan supporting Chrysler, who manufacture their cars in America, is also supporting the hard-working families who depend on the industry for jobs, food and shelter.
It is a cause that has spanned his career, and also fits with Dylan’s patriotism and conservatism.
Not to mention his love of cars.
So we shouldn’t be surprised by his advert.
As John Baky, a curator of a collection of Dylan material housed at Philadelphia’s LaSalle University, said: ‘If the 100 million pairs of eyes are smart they will just sit back and enjoy his Super Bowl commercial for what it is – vintage Bob. And truly, I bet he really doesn’t care what anyone thinks.’