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Music News: Radio Dylan on XM

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Whoever would have pegged Bob Dylan as a radio show host? And yet, that is exactly the move he has made for XM Satellite radio. The program will begin next March and Bob will be choosing the music and hosting the show. Strange from someone who has always been so reclusive and private. One almost expects uncomfortable silences and dead air. But Dylan, now 64, has decided to take on the show.

Dylan who has been called everything from a prophet to “The Poet of a Generation” has always denied and eluded such labels, and remains chameleon-like, constantly morphing and changing not only his physical exterior, but the way he sounds and sings as well, which varied from album to album, making him a difficult character to pigeonhole, though journalists have tried. The Dylan of D.A. Pennebaker’s Don’t Look Back footage is different from the Dylan of The Rolling Thunder Review footage featured in Renaldo and Clara.

Now at the age of 64, should it surprise us that Dylan has decided to change and morph again into a new role for a new era? Certainly, Dylan has done things that have surprised or even disgusted some fans such his appearance in a Victoria’s Secret advertisement, the poor 60 Minutes Ed Bradley interview, and selling his albums at Starbucks and the like – moves that have upset some fans who have viewed Dylan as “selling out.”

Ultimately, what many fail to see is this: Dylan is a merchandiser who wants to sell and promote his art just like anyone else, and to make a buck while doing so. Again, and I’ve written this before, why he should be held to a different standard than the rest of us seems more than a little bit unfair.

The plan for the show is for Dylan to have specials guests, provide commentaries, and offer up his own mix of music. According to The Hollywood News, “A film based on the life of Dylan, starring the likes of Christian Bale, Richard Gere, Cate Blanchett and Richard Gere, entitled I’m Not There: Suppositions on a Film Concerning Dylan, is to go into production in early 2006.”

Is this radio program and the timing all coincidence, or is this yet another promotional chance for Dylan to garner attention for the upcoming film? Either way, it will be interesting to see what Dylan has to say. After so many years of what has been self-reclusiveness and a strongly kept silence, it will be interesting to hear what Dylan has to say, provided he really does speak and doesn’t play coy games as he has so often done when expected to speak. No Direction Home, directed by Martin Scorsese, showed us that Dylan has plenty to say, but only to those he trusts (in that film, it was his manager who was the interviewer). If it is that Dylan we see, then we look forward. Let’s hope there are podcasts on the Internet so that we can all tune in.

Over the course of four decades, Dylan has released forty-four albums. Who knows what the future holds? Besides the film, perhaps we’ll see more of Dylan. We’ll certainly see him next summer when he comes touring around these parts, provided he still plans to tour, which as far as I’ve heard, he does.

We’ll just have to see how it all plays out.


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About Sadi Ranson-Polizzotti