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A song for Dylan’s deal with Universal

THIS WEEK Bob Dylan sold his song catalogue to Universal Music Publishing Group. Mr Dylan, like other musicians, has not been able to tour during the pandemic. Cashing in now will spare him the bureaucracy of future tax payments. Universal’s chief executive, Jody Gerson, has not disclosed how much the group paid. Mr Dylan has put his thoughts about the deal into ballad-form. It came into our hands thanks to a Mr Tambourine Man.

 Hey! Ms Universal, Ma’am, play my songs for me
In the clouded covid mourning I’ll sell ’em all to you
My weariness amazes me, I’m branded on my feet
I have no one to sing to
And the ancient empty street’s dead set for streaming

 We live in a commercial world
Love don’t have any place
Life is in mirrors, death disappears
Up the steps into the nearest bank

 Papa’s bank book wasn’t big enough
And I was standin’ on the side of the road
Lord knows I’ve paid some dues gettin’ through
Tangled up in red tape

I never said nothing, there was nothing I wrote
I went with the woman
In the long black stretch-limo

Oh, Bob said to Jody G, “Name me a sum”
Jody says, “Man, you must be puttin’ me on”
Bob say, “No.” Jody say, “What?”
Bob say, “You must pay what I want Jody
But next time they play my songs you’re in the mon
Ey.” Jody says, “When you want this payin’ done?”
Bob says, “In structured payments in the next three tax years.”

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a financier?
Yes, ’n’ how many deaths will it take till he knows
That the live-performance industry is in severe recession?
Yes, ’n’ how many years can some people exist
Before they capitalise their ongoing revenues?
The answer, my friend, is contained on p96 of the offer document

I ain’t gonna work on no one’s farm no more
No, I ain’t gonna work on no one’s farm no more
Well, I tried my best
To find the highest price
And Universal wants me
To sell it to them
So I ain’t gonna work on no one’s farm no more

Ring them opening bells at the NYSE
So the people will know
Oh it’s rush hour now
Ring them closing bells for the chosen few
who will judge when the dividend is due
Bring them Nobels for the child that cries
When innocence dies 

You say you’re lookin’ for someone
Who’s never venal but always strong
To protect you and defend you
From the greed you think is wrong
Someone to turn their back on Mammon’s law
But it ain’t me, babe
No, no, no, it ain’t me, babe
It ain’t me you’re lookin’ for, babe

How does it feel
How does it feel
Like a complete tycoon
Like a rolling stone?

 Hey! Ms Universal, Ma’am, play my songs for me
In the clouded covid mourning I’ll sell ’em all to you

©Universal Music Publishing Group

This article appeared in the Leaders section of the print edition under the headline "Knock-knock-knockin’ on Jody’s door"

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Author: | Post link: https://www.economist.com/leaders/2020/12/12/a-song-for-dylans-deal-with-universal
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