From his days in Greenwich Village to his surprising turn in a Super Bowl commercial, Bob Dylan has repeatedly been accused of selling out. He has always responded to those accusations in style: by pretty much ignoring them. At 72, and after a 50-plus-years career, the singer/songwriter and poet’s ability to shake the murky waters of this country’s public arena is unquestionable. A tribute to this border-crossing underdog is more than well deserved.
French record label Buda Musique will release such a tribute in album form on February 11. The album, titled From Another World, is a testament to the power of Dylan to reach beyond the borders of geography, culture, and time. In it, musicians from around the world cover some of Dylan’s classics, with lyrics translated to their own languages. There are artists from Egypt, Burma, Taiwan, and even the aboriginal peoples of Australia. The album makers believe Dylan’s music was part of an epoch that “led America toward a new dimension.” After listening to these songs you’ll probably believe that too: they’re great.
I don’t blame Dylan for advertising an Italian-American automaker during the Super Bowl. I even think mentioning Detroit by name was a good thing, especially at a time when Detroit is so bankrupt people are offering free houses to writers. The infamous commercial kicks off by asking, “Is there anything more American than America?” I don’t know what that means, but listening to this album I feel compelled to ask: is there anything more American than a Romanian Gypsy version of “Rainy Day Woman” with a sprinkle of Latin flavor? Only Dylan.
Get a taste of this record by downloading this Dylan cover by Buena Vista Social Club’s Eliades Ochoa. It’s mesmerizing, it’s in Spanish, and it’s free.