A Mighty Wind

Bob Dylan has made a special recording of his 1962 song “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

It is special specifically because there is one copy of the song recorded last year on an analog disc developed by T Bone Burnett.*

One copy. Recorded by Dylan. A one-shot.

It is going to be auctioned at Christie’s in London this coming July.

There are thoughts that it might go for $1.26 million.

This could be the definition of “irony”:

In a description of “Blowin’ in the Wind” that appears in secondhandsongs.com there’s this:

“In a 1978 interview, Dylan confirmed that “’Blowin’ in the Wind’ has always been a spiritual. I took it off a song called ‘No More Auction Block’ — that’s a spiritual and ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ follows the same feeling.””

“No More Auction Block” is about selling people, not pop songs.

Over $1-million for a Dylan song created in a special format.

I would think he would come over to somebody’s house and sing it for less than that.


One could make the argument that Dylan is creating a singular work of art with this recording in a way analogous to, say, something like the work of Andy Warhol.

Christie’s (in New York) sold a Warhol 1964 silkscreen of Marilyn Monroe (“Shot Sage Blue Marilyn”) after four minutes of bidding (!) for $195,040,000. The proceeds of the auction went to the charitable foundation of the estate of two Swiss art dealers who owned the painting.

In its description of “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” Christie’s noted that Warhol had done several silk screens of Marilyn Monroe before this particular execution, which has “Shot” in its title because a woman, Dorothy Podber, “a sometime performance artist” who had “an ocelot which she took for walks around New York’s Central Park,” visited the Factory, pulled a gun out of her purse, shot a bullet through the five just-completed silk screens of Marilyn, replaced the gun and left. (This is not the woman who shot Warhol. She was Valerie Solanas and that happened in 1968, 4 years after the Marilyn incident.)

Alex Rotter, chairman of 20th and 21st Century Art at Christies, said this of the work: ‘The painting transcends the genre of portraiture, superseding 20th century art and culture. Standing alongside Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, and Picasso’s Les Demoiselle d’Avignon, Warhol’s Marilyn is one of the greatest paintings of all time.” While there is certainly some commercial bloviation there, based on such effusive praise it is not hard to think that Dylan thinks that “Blowin’ in the Wind” supersedes much of the music produced in the 20th century and consequently it deserves the same kind of financial rarity of the Warhol (although I might liken Dylan’s object to be more along the lines of Duchamp’s Air de Paris).

That said, it has seemed that Bob Dylan is something of the 20th century** Walt Whitman, a bardic American poet. Which got me to thinking about how well Whitman—albeit a deceased one (he died in 1892)—did in terms of his work at auction.

The highest price for a first edition of Leaves of Grass went for $305,000 or 24% of what the Dylan recording is expected to go for—and while Whitman can’t sign any more copies, Dylan conceivably can turn out one-offs of “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35,” “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” “Like a Rolling Stone,” “Positively 4th Street,” and many others.

Earlier this year Dylan sold his entire catalog to Sony Music Entertainment for an undisclosed amount of money. It is reckoned to be in the $100-million to $200-million vicinity. Commenting on the sale, Dylan said, “I’m glad that all my recordings can stay where they belong.”

And soon there will be a recording that will probably end up in an atmosphere-controlled vitrine.

Clearly, Dylan won’t have to work on Maggie’s farm no more.


[Curious coincidence: Shortly after Dylan’s release in 1963 (yes, recorded in ’62), Peter, Paul & Mary released their version of the song. It made it to number 2 on the Billboard pop chart. Number one was Stevie Wonder’s “Fingertips.” Three years later Wonder did a cover of “Blowin’ in the Wind.” It made it to the top 10 of the Billboard Top 100 and number one on the R&B chart.]

*This is an “Ionic Original” disc from NeoFidelity, Inc., a company established by Burnett. According to the NeoFidelity boilerplate: “Ionic’s patented technology leverages advances in nanotechnology, material sciences and materials to develop a new physical audio format in which purpose-engineered coatings and underlying composite polymers are applied to a traditional acetate substrate specifically designed for the superior reproduction and preservation of analogue sound.” Erm, yes. Burnett is quoted as saying the disc “advances the art of recorded sound and marks the first breakthrough in analog sound reproduction in more than 70 years, achieving dramatic improvements in listening experience and durability.” The fact that there is durability associated with the disc in question is rather amusing given that the person who buys it for whatever it goes for isn’t likely to listen to it over and over and over again. However, there is the upside for the purchaser that if this disc is immensely durable this will permit it to be sold to another purchaser who will sell it to another purchaser, over and over and over again.

**Yes, I know he is still alive and that it is now the 21st century, arguably the better part of his body of work is associated with the 20th.

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