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Bob Dylan peeved about iPods, Johnny Cash’s comeback

By Dean Goodman
April 29, 2009

Bob Dylan may have starred in a television commercial for iTunes, but don’t look for him to become an iPod pitchman anytime soon. 
r1078coverIn a Rolling Stone magazine cover story, the 67-year-old troubadour rails against modern technology like cell phones, iPods and video games. The man who wrote “The Times They Are A-Changin’” almost 46 years ago evidently thinks the times have changed a little too much. 
“It’s peculiar and unnerving in a way to see so many young people walking around with cell phones and iPods in their ears and so wrapped up in media and video games,” Dylan told interviewer Douglas Brinkley, a professor of U.S. history at Rice University in Houston.
“It robs them of their self-identity. It’s a shame to see them so tuned out to real life. Of course they are free to do that, as if that’s got anything to do with freedom. The cost of liberty is high, and young people should understand that before they start spending their life with all those gadgets.”
Dylan teamed up with Apple’s iTunes music store in 2006 to promote his new album “Modern Times.” A commercial showed him singing and playing guitar while an iPod-sporting woman danced to the music. He released his latest album “Together Through Life” this week.
In the Rolling Stone interview, Dylan also expressed some backhanded nostalgia for the early recordings of his old friend and duet partner Johnny Cash, in the process describing the country legend’s acclaimed 1990s comeback albums as ”notorious low-grade stuff.”

Cash died in 2003, riding high on a decadelong comeback masterminded by producer Rick Rubin. Over that time, they recorded a series of Grammy-winning albums that showcased Cash’s acoustic side. But Dylan said he started missing Cash ”10 years before he actually kicked the bucket.”

“I tell people if they are interested that they should listen to Johnny on his Sun records (of the 1950s) and reject all that notorious low-grade stuff he did in his later years. It can’t hold a candlelight to the frightening depth of the man that you hear on his early records. That’s the only way he should be remembered,” Dylan said.


I agree with Bob 100%. He isn’t my ‘spokesman’, but I think he’s spot-on regarding young people and ipods, cell phones and video games. Losing the ability to interact, face to face, will be humankind’s downfall.

Posted by Cynthia | Report as abusive

Hmmm…I’m not sure I agree with Bob here. The very same things that he hates people to say about his music, as in that he should only be remembered for what he did when he was young, he is saying about Johnny. Johnny was best in the 50′s no doubt. But there is still good stuff throughout all of his career. Same goes with Dylan, Haggard, Jones, etc.

Posted by Jay | Report as abusive

I hate to disagree with “the little genius”, as Haggard called him, but Johnny Cash put out some terrific stuff in the 90′s, and Rick Rubin did a great job rekindling the legacy of a great man. His record company had dropped Johnny, and he was driven to get his acoustic music out before he passed. He worked hard on those albums and deserves credit for following his heart and muse. The “Hurt” video is pure art. C’mon Bob, we let you do whatever you want and have stuck with you through the years. It’s paid off with your last four cd’s, so thanks for that. You’ve done lots of great things since “Rolling Stone”, and so did Johnny since “Walk the Line”. But don’t disrespect the final efforts and art from your old time friend and supporter, the Man in Black. He deserves better.

Posted by san diego steve | Report as abusive

I think Jay is dead on with his comment — and that’s coming from a HUGE Dylan fan.

Posted by tr | Report as abusive

It must be remembered Grumpy Bob likes one thing today and dislikes the same tomorrow. The hidden subtext in his Johnny Cash commentary is the Man in Black didn’t record any Dylan tunes during his Rick Rubin years but sang songs by Danzig, Trent Reznor and Nick Lowe. Bob is probably nostalgic for the Cash of his youth; some of us miss the Dylan who made “Infidels”. Bob should try channeling some of his technoanger into his music and extract himself from this lonesome cowboy phase he’s mired himself in for the length of the 21st century. He’s a sly devil wrapping sentiment in barbed wire but it’s why we’re so drawn to Mean Old Bob.

Posted by savage henry | Report as abusive

I don’t think Bob was bitter that Cash didn’t record his songs – they recorded together on Nashville Skyline and they were really great friends. Have you seen the footage of Dylan on Cash’s TV show? Awesome.

I think that Bob Dylan has a nostalgia for the music of the 50s (and earlier) and he has a point that, maybe like himself, the years caused wear and tear that reduced the fire and power of Cash’s talent. I actually loved the later American Recordings Johnny Cash did in the 90s…

Bob’s opinions are his. I really liked his comments on technology… I agree with him 100% about the dehumanizing properties.

Posted by TJ | Report as abusive

Agree with Mr. Zimmerman on the tech jazz…it’s all such a bore, but on Cash, hell the recordings on Rubin’s label are great, some of the best stuff ever. Love ya, Bob, but you’re dead wrong on Cash.

Posted by Brice | Report as abusive

Recent Bob Dylan is unlistenable to fans of soulful music, whereas Johnny Cash kept getting sharper and developing his unique voice until his death. Sour grapes, Zimmerman.

Posted by lcl82 | Report as abusive

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