The times are a-changin’ so fast these days in singer-songwriter land that you really do need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows.
A chastened Bruce Springsteen is backing away from a controversial corporate deal, while his musical big brother, the inscrutable Bob Dylan, is becoming a corporate sellout.
Springsteen drew rare fan anger with his recent agreement to sell a greatest hits collection exclusively at Wal-Mart. The deal with the retailer, which has a less-than-stellar reputation among the labor and human rights sets, seemed at odds with The Boss’ voice-of-the-workingman image.
Springsteen, to his credit, is now calling the deal “a mistake.”
“We just dropped the ball on it,” he told The New York Times, adding, “It was a mistake. Our batting average is usually very good, but we missed that one. Fans will call you on that stuff, as it should be.”
Dylan, meanwhile, runs the risk of alienating his fan base by going commercial -- literally: His 1960s protest anthem, "Blowin’ in the Wind," is set to be used in a TV ad for the parent company of a British supermarket chain. And now there’s word from Billboard that he may be shilling for Pepsi during the Super Bowl – singing a new song with will.i.am, who’s on the verge of overexposure.
Springsteen, of course, will be at the Super Bowl himself -- as the halftime attraction.
It’s fittingly bizarre that the alternately converging and diverging paths of the two most successful heirs to the Woody Guthrie troubadour mantle will somehow lead them to Super Sunday showcases amid corporate controversies.
Springsteen, who’s set to go out on tour soon, did what his fans hoped and expected by rebuking the Wal-Mart deal.
Dylan, who never seems to stop touring – singing his classics in a somehow endearing croak that sounds like a frog with a frog in its throat – is doing what his fans expect most from him: confounding them.
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992.