Bob Dylan collaborator T Bone Burnett explained why the pair had recorded a series of songs to be released on a “one-of-one” basis.
The first of those, a new version of “Blowin’ in the Wind,” will be auctioned on July 7 and it’s expected to sell for between $700,000 and $1,200,000. It’s recorded on a format being marketed under the brand name Ionic Originals, based on a hybrid medium that’s said to use the best elements of CD and vinyl to generate a more faithful reproduction of the performance.
“There are two things I think it is important to know for people who are concerned about the exclusivity of what we are doing,” Burnett told Variety in a new interview. “An Ionic Original is not a ‘copy.’ It is an original recording. We are not contriving scarcity. This is actually scarce. It is a unique, handmade, original recording. We have all been conditioned to accept the terms of and react to things from the frame of mass production. This is not that.”
He said the pair had begun discussing the “one-of-one” notion a few years ago, in response to the way “recorded music has been commoditized to zero over the last 20-30 years.” He continued: “Because we work in an age of mechanical reproduction, musicians have had to accept the definition of the value of their music from the government, from corporations, from technologists, from record companies, from streamers.
“[W]e have taken matters into our own hands, and we control the means of production and we control the copyright. We’ll be able to explore: What is the value of a song? What is the true value of Bob Dylan singing ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ 60 years after he wrote it, in this environment?”
The aim, he added, was to “enter a music space in the fine arts market. Because music is to the United States as wine is to France – it’s the most valuable and important part of our culture. And for the last 25-30 years, we’ve had parts of the audience telling us that we ought to put our music out for free. This is a chance for us as artists to work at complete autonomy.
“It’s something both Bob and I have done to the degree we could for our whole lives, but this is a chance now to do it not just for Bob, but for many other artists who are gonna do this with us, who’ve already signed up. With any luck, this is the way I’ll spend the rest of my working life, doing these beautiful one-of-one pieces of high art.”
Burnett declined to reveal how many tracks Dylan had recorded for the Ionic Originals line, but noted that they’d agreed that “it would be easier to sell one of these for a million dollars than a million of them for $1.” On the motivation for choosing “Blowin’ in the Wind” as the first release, he said: “It’s a historic song, to premiere this new technology. It’s the song that kicked things off for Bob. And there’s no bigger song than this.”
Burnett went on to analyze the enduring appeal of “Blowin’ in the Wind.” “Nobody has any idea what it means, but everybody knows it has something to do with civil rights,” he noted. “But what does it mean that the answer is blowing in the wind? Does it mean it’s blowing toward you; does it mean it’s being blown away from you? It doesn’t dictate a meaning. And that’s the beautiful thing Bob’s always done. He’s always proposed the right questions. That’s much more valuable than somebody giving you answers, especially the kind of people we have giving us answers these days.”
Bob Dylan Albums Ranked
Not so surprisingly, Bob Dylan’s recording career has lots of ups and downs. That’s bound to happen when you stick around for more than 50 years and release three dozen albums during that time.