I was originally going to put this in the comments on the It's Alright Ma discussion, but it was running a bit long (I've been thinking about this all day) so I decided to put my rambling thoughts here.
What I think Dylan was trying to say (with It's Alright Ma) is that despite all their tricks and marketing gimmicks to get you to buy crap that you don't need, people are just people, even the President of the United States. Despite that, you still have to watch out for them. I think that's really powerful and that's why this is one of my favorite of Dylan's songs.
Alright. Now I'll give my thoughts on Dylan. (Keep in mind this is coming from someone removed from this time period, looking at it from the outside). Lately he's been letting his songs be used in ads for Victoria's Secret and a couple of car ads. People should be outraged by this, but you really didn't hear a lot about it. Why aren't people madder about this? When Dylan switched to electric guitar in the 60s people went nuts and wanted to tear him apart. Well that was the boomer generation and boy do I have a bone to pick with the Boomers.
The Baby Boomer generation is probably the most talked about and overrated in recent history. There's a whole mythos built up around hippies and Woodstock and the 60s in general. Let me put it right out there: It's all bullshit.
Dylan is a good example of the hypocrisy that the Boomer's represent. They held him up as their idol, their own genius god who represented everything they stood for. But that was wrong. Dylan never belonged to anybody and when he got tired of writing protest songs he stopped and switched to something else. Naturally they were pissed off, but they really shouldn't have been. They were supposed to be the open minded generation espousing that everything had value and that if we just embraced that ideal, the world could live peace. So of course they booed Dylan at concerts and called him Judas and he had to leave out the back door where ever he played. Already they failed to live up to their ideals and exposed themselves as hypocrites. Then came The Rolling Stones concert at Altamont Speedway which ended the peace and love era with violence and death and bad acid trips.
The hippies didn't solve anything. The Vietnam war ended in 19freakin75 after the country almost tore itself apart and the world continued on the down slide it's still in today. The hippies all got jobs in marketing and as executives still trying to preach their love everybody hurray for humanity bullshit (not that I think they believed it anymore) while selling the myth that their generation accomplished anything. But, to quote Eric Cartman, "All they did was smoke pot and smell bad."
I said Dylan does not belong to the Boomers or to anyone. Dylan just does what he wants even if it's not the most popular thing in the world. (Like switching to Christianity and back despite being Jewish.) So when he started letting his songs be used in ads, the boomers certainly didn't care. They discarded him a long time ago and only recently picked him back up again to propagate their bullshit "hooray for the 60s" myths.
So, is it hypocritical for Dylan to let his songs be used in ads? Well, if you say that then you assume that he's the same person he used to be back in the 60s. He's not. Despite that he's still Bob Dylan, and he's pretty much going to do what he wants, whether people like it or not and make some extra money off the boomers who now buy expensive cars and underwear.
So...feel free to rip me apart on this. I welcome it. I've got to get writing today's story...