Andrew Ferguson of The Weekly Standard takes a run at Bob Dylan and his fans here, on the occasion of the singer’s recently-released Christmas album. He calls us fans, “the battered wives of the music industry,” and, in an even more vivid image, compares us to “Baby Huey dolls, those inflatable figures with the big red nose and the rounded bottom, weighted so that when you punch them — punch hard, punch with all your might — they bounce right back, grinning the same frozen, unchangeable grin.” This because Dylan allegedly holds his fans in such contempt and will not hesitate to dump the most awful recordings and live performances on them.
Ferguson is a facile writer with a knack for the biting dig. He certainly lands a few solid blows, and the many detesters of Dylan will undoubtedly be heartened by all his invective.
I can do no better in response to this than Sean Curnyn of Right Wing Bob. I would put heavy emphasis on the particularly unfortunate fact that Ferguson chose this album — all the royalties of which, you may recall, Dylan has announced will be given to hunger-related charities — to run the singer down for cupidity. It is also peculiar that he arraigns the man for publishing his songs “under the auspices of the particularly ruthless copyright enforcer BMI,” without ever taking a moment to notice the many Dylan tunes that have been adapted and released very successfully by other musicians. To adduce just a couple examples: Jimi Hendrix, U2 and Dave Matthews Band have all released acclaimed versions of “All Along the Watchtower”; Johnny Cash and June Carter recorded a rendition of “It Ain’t Me Babe” that may well be more famous than Dylan’s original; and the Grateful Dead frequently played covers of Dylan tunes, often hilariously botching the complicated lyrics. A friend of mine who has seen countless Grateful Dead shows says there were times when the listener could be forgiven for thinking he mistakenly wandered into the wrong concert.
One thing we can be sure of: people will continue to love and hate Bob Dylan.