Ever since Super Bowl XLVIII, great debate has flourished over whether legendary folk- turned rock n’ roll artist Bob Dylan has “sold out” to Chrysler. I am not only going to inform you of the reasons Dylan is not a “sellout,” but I am also going to show how his recent acts share transparency with his actions at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965.
Dylan’s advertisement with Chrysler serves as a reintroduction of vernacular music to the 21st century listeners. He is forming a new audience whether people realize it or not. Adam Minter of the Bloomberg View eloquently states, “If, as Dylan’s songs and nostalgia seems to suggest, he badly wants a renaissance in American manufacturing (and the lifestyles it enabled), then there’s simply no better way to accomplish that.” This is true because, being from a working middle class family in Minnesota, he understands the drive one must have to provide in a challenging economy. As Dylan said, “You can’t import the heart and soul of every man and woman working on the line.”
This move not only starts to show transparency with the ideas Dylan had identified with since the Folk Blues Revival when singing “protest songs,” but with ideas he embodied when he went electric. He has always revolved his music around American history to have his audience look to what our nation has to offer, and what it can continue to provide with the help of its people. In the 1960’s folk music scene Dylan submerged the listening audience in songs such as “Only a Pawn in Their Game,” “Masters of War,” and “A Hard Rain Is Gonna Fall,” which portrayed the current status of social and political standings at that time. His recent ad for Detroit resonates with his behavior of challenging his own norm by going electric in 1965. He not only did it on a popular platform (music festival= Super Bowl), but went against people’s ideas they had about him in a very loud and blunt fashion over something that needs changing (Detroit’s economy). Going electric and making a commercial both contradict what his fans expect of him.
This is the exact reason why his music does not falter: because he keeps shaking the grounds of his audience–that is what keeps his vernacular style of music alive and well. Instead of condemning this artist we should be thanking him. As Dylan himself would say, “You can’t fake true cool.”