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Dylan Revisited, in Light of Starbucks Deal

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Bob Dylan's decision to make his music available through the Starbucks coffee empire prompts a tongue-in-cheek reinterpretation of some classic songs from the coffee-house era.


Has Bob Dylan abandoned his ideals or just gone back to his roots? A debate is raging among Dylan fans now that he's given exclusive rights to sell his new album, "Bob Dylan: Live at the Gaslight 1962," to Starbucks, which bears about as much resemblance to the coffee houses in which Mr. Dylan began his career as Godzilla does to a newt. Some of Mr. Dylan's fans believe that this arrangement with the American coffee colossus violates his oft-voiced anti-establishment ideals. But I think that, as it so often does, Bob Dylan's music speaks for itself. We now have a whole new way to interpret the works of America's most analyzed musical poet. Over the distance of four decades we can now hear clearly that in one of his earliest works Bob Dylan sang lovingly of the buzz he felt after imbibing a grande latte.

(Soundbite of "Mr. Tambourine Man")

Mr. BOB DYLAN (Musician): (Singing) Take me on a trip upon your magic swirling ship. My senses have been stripped. My hands can't feel to grip. My toes too numb to step. Wait only for my boot heels' heavy wandering.

SIMON: Mr. Dylan was living on West Fourth Street in Greenwich Village, a famously avant-garde neighborhood that was then rife with a peculiar crime. Vandals would break into apartments and sabotage household appliances. It was a political act. They called it Woody's Revenge after Woody Guthrie to decry materialism in American life. Bob Dylan sympathized with their goals but still he sang a lament about coming home to his cold-water flat to find that he beloved espresso pot had been damaged.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. DYLAN: (Singing) ...the pump don't work 'cause the vandals took the handle.

SIMON: Today we can marvel at Bob Dylan's keen vision of the future. One night at the old Gaslight, Mr. Dylan cursed over his long wait for a grande cappuccino. Joan Baez and Phil Ochs had already been served. An idea came to him: a chain of coffee houses using modern brewing technology to speed up slow lines and rapidly deliver coffee orders. It's perhaps his signature song.

(Soundbite of "The Times They Are A-Changing")

Mr. DYLAN: (Singing) The line, it is drawn. The curse, it is cast. The slow one now will later be fast, as the present now will later be past. The order is rapidly fading and the first one now will later be last. Oh, the times they are a-changing.

SIMON: It's all so clear now, isn't it? Truly, he is a troubadour for our our times.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. DYLAN and Ms. JOAN BAEZ: (Singing) One more cup of coffee for the road. One more cup of coffee 'fore I go.

SIMON: And the time is now 18 minutes past the hour.

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Simon Says

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NPR's Scott Simon Shares His Take On Events Large And Small

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