Bob Dylan has signed off on a new song ‘Letter To America’ by Australian singer songwriter Mike McClellan approving of the use of one of his lines in the song.
“A letter to the America I loved but have lost. It includes a quote from Bob Dylan, which he very kindly gave me permission to use,” Mike says.
At the end of the song Mike sings, “‘It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there’”, a reference to Dylan’s ‘Not Dark Yet’ from 1997’s Time Out Of Mind.
“I realized that I should seek approval from Dylan’s Australian publishing representatives. They sent me several forms to complete, advising me it would take a month or so before I might hear anything, and, ‘oh, by the way, his copyrights are very protected and it’s unlikely that you will be granted permission to use his words,” Mike says.
“Thinking I’ll drop the idea I then remembered that my friend Danny O’Keefe, who lives in Seattle, is one of the rarest of all songwriters – he has a co-write with Dylan. I emailed him. He replied with the e-mail address of Bob’s manager Jeff Rosen saying: ‘I humbly suggest that you rewrite the ‘Bob’ lines as I’m guessing there’s not a chance in hell that Jeff/Bob will grant you permission to quote him in a song. Jeff is very protective of Bob’s copyrights and I think he’ll turn you down as a matter of business. Good luck.’
“The following day, I e-mailed Jeff Rosen attaching the lyrics. To my complete surprise, he replied within the hour saying: ‘Hey Mike, thank you for your note. We are okay with your use of Bob Dylan’s line in your song’.”
“I was deeply moved by the novels of John Steinbeck, the spare language of the short story writer and poet Raymond Carver and the elegant poetry of Robert Frost. I absorbed and rejoiced in the diversity of American music; it seeped into my blood in ways that I only came to fully understand when I began to write songs for myself”.
Mike wrote the song after watch the decline of the United States over decades and its acceleration in the last four years.
“And now I have watched as the things I found disturbing have been amplified many times over by the ascendancy of Donald Trump and all he represents. But he is not the cause. He’s a symptom of American decline, a decline that has been evident for some time. I grieve for the America that once seemed to offer so much hope. The song is my distress at that decline. I hope they can turn it around”.
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