Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Dylan's Blowing in the Wind Gets a New Twist in Super Bowl LIII

I first heard the song when Eddie Hilliker loaned me The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan of which "Blowing in the Wind" was the opening track. Its breadth and heartfelt simplicity was striking. I was in seventh grade.

This weekend millions of people will be hearing that same, simple yet thought-provoking song in an Oscar-nominated commercial featuring the Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales and wind power. OK, no, I made that up about an Oscar nomination, but it really is a beautifully filmed spot. And like everything else Bob does it's generating buzz.

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When we took our daughter to college--the University of Minnesota, Morris--we were surprised to learn that the wind turbine there supplied 60% of the school's electrical power. The school is located on the flatlands of Western Minnesota and as you drive that long stretch of two-lane blacktop from Sauk Center to Morris, the wind turbine in the distance serves as the first sign that you are nearing your destination.

When several years later my daughter and her husband went back to Morris to marry, the wedding taking place in a park near what are now two wind turbines. Dylan was part of that experience as well, as I walked her down the "aisle" to Love Minus Zero/No Limit.

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As for the commercial, it is a remarkable piece of camerawork, filmed entirely in a single shot. By drone? The title of the spot is "Wind Never Felt Better" which has multiple layers to it.

It opens with the wind blowing on a dog's face, the little fellow clearly enjoying it. Then the camera pulls back and we see those famous Clydesdales pulling the Budweiser wagon across a field. Toward the end, just as the wind is mentioned for the first time in the song, the angle shifts again to reveal the turbines generating electricity.


The choreography is simply splendid. Every facet shows a masterful touch. From the opening emotional connection to the final logo on one of the turbines as the camera pulls away, every detail seems to have been considered.

Some may suggest that Dylan has sold out once again, permitting capitalists to degrade this anthem of the Sixties. In response I would suggest otherwise. What a great way to resurrect this important song, to widen its reach in a new era, in a period of time as turbulent as those early days of cultural upheaval. And just as the wind is generating energy for Budweiser now, "Blowin' in the Wind" energized a generation.

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Here are the lyrics for the whole of the song, still worth pondering today.

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
Yes, ’n’ how many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, ’n’ how many times must the cannonballs fly
Before they’re forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

How many years can a mountain exist
Before it’s washed to the sea?
Yes, ’n’ how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, ’n’ how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn’t see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, ’n’ how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, ’n’ how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

Copyright © 1962 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1990 by Special Rider Music

Dylan has performed the song live 1552 times since April 1962, most recently at the Beacon Theater in New York this past December 1. The song has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and ranks #14 on Rolling Stone's list of 500 greatest songs of all time.

Related Links
Kate Street's Simplemost account of the new Budweiser spot.
Wind Energy Statistics
Infographics and Stats from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA)

TRIVIA: Today is the 60th Anniversary of the evening when Bobby Zimmerman went with his friend Louis Kemp to see Buddy Holly and the Winter Dance Party at the Historic Duluth Armory.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

He played it December 3 at The Met in Philadelphia. I was there.

Ed Newman said...

Ah, -- I actually wondered about that. It is not the first time a "fact" is incorrect on BobDylan.com
Thanks for the correction and the visit.
e.

lord koos said...

I'm a huge Bob Dylan fan, but in the context of the NFL's blacklisting of Colin Kaepernick for protesting police brutality and killing of black people, the fact that Dylan allowed this song to be used in this particular Superbowl I find to be disgusting. Especially since the song was originally written about the civil rights movement! At a time when many other artists boycotted the bowl in support of Kaepernick, Dylan's decision to let the song be used not only cheapens his own legacy, it seems a complete sellout of whatever ideals he once had.