BOB DYLAN APPROVES OF MIKE McCLELLAN’S LOVE LETTER TO AMERICA
Australian singer, songwriter, Mike McClellan, has written a remarkable, emotionally charged song called Letter To America… and has Bob Dylan’s approval to use two of his most famous lines.
McClellan, who first hit the charts in the mid 70s with songs such as ‘Song And Danceman’ (which was voted Song Of The Year at the Australian Annual Industry Awards in February 1975), concludes the song by quoting the last two lines from Not Dark Yet, one of Bob Dylan’s finest songs – ‘It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there’.
“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.’
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’.”
McClellan has been a long-time student of American politics and culture having studied it at university many years ago. It is that interest that inspired this powerful 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”.
In parallel with Mike’s admiration were aspects of American culture that disturbed him. – the institutionalised racism, the destructive McCarthy era, the headlong rush into the Vietnam and Iraq wars and the insidious assumption of American superiority, in all things.
“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”.
‘Letter To America’ is available now from Spotify, Apple Music and all major digital platforms.
And Bob Dylan has a copy.
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