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Say it ain't so Bob

Say it ain't so, Bob Dylan! After all the years of times a changin' you go off to China and let the yuppie comrades dictate your set list?

Don't you know that there are hundreds of thousands of us around the world who would gladly pony up a buck or two to enable you to thumb your nose at them? Jeez, if you caught me after a couple of pints I'd kick in a twenty spot myself!

What were you thinking, man? After fifty years of freewheelin' you throw it all away, and for what?

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It's not as if I don't have experience of the matter. Back in '94 when Black 47 was the hottest thing since fried bread certain promoters would request that we not perform our version of "Danny Boy" as it celebrated the life of a gay Irish construction worker.

Such conduct abruptly ended when it became obvious that we would then definitely play the bloody thing.

Likewise, during the war we performed selections from our IRAQ CD every night, losing both gigs and fans in the process. No big deal, if you're going to talk the talk then you better be prepared to walk the walk.

But what were Mao's children going to do, Bobby? Throw fried rice at you if you slipped in the beautiful, if somewhat innocuous, "Blowin' In The Wind"?

The least you could have done was fire off a blistering version of "Masters of War," and let them yuppie comrades know they should get their butts out of Tibet.

Still, it's been a long time since you were overtly political. By the mid 60s you seemed to tire of the whole idea. It begs the question if you were ever really political, or were always just an astute weatherman who could tell which way the wind was blowing?

Be that as it may you have written some of the great protest songs, whether by accident or design. That's because you're a first class poet, albeit a cruel one. You once accused the great Phil Ochs, a bona-fide politico, of being a mere journalist (ouch!).

Water under the bridge now. But you did write "With God On Our Side," perhaps the second best protest song. That you were inspired by numero uno, "The Patriot Game," is neither here nor there. Dominic Behan was less than thrilled and tried to haul you into court.

That great day never occurred because it was pointed out that both of you had lifted the melody from the traditional "Merry Month of May."

Despite these little pinpricks I still consider you one of the great artists of the 20th Century - right up there with Joyce and Picasso. And if I hadn't heard your voice sneering "Like a Rolling Stone" from a cloth-covered radio I'd still be sculling pints back in Wexford.

The great thing about you, Bobby, is that after 50 years you're still relevant. Your voice may now sound like Lady Gaga scraping her nails on a rusty cowshed, but you've always got something to say.

It may be thirteen years since you released "Time Out Of Mind" but there are some of us still blown out of the water by its enduring depth and magic.

Despite having had the good fortune to share managers with you, and be friends with one of your players and your best biographer, you're still a mystery to me.

All three of these people testify that you're a master of the mind game who will toy endlessly with people's perceptions. Maybe that's what your bowing down to the comrades is really all about - a further tinkering with the foundations of our admiration?

Most of your acolytes would have pulled the show from principle or pragmatism. But the mystic joker, as ever, didn't give a damn.

Ah well, it's good to know you still matter, Bob. I only have one question for you. "How does it feel to be on your own... still the one and only rolling stone?"