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Bob Dylan’s entire catalog bought by Universal Music

Bob Dylan, in gaucho hat and bolo tie, stands on stage behind a microphone.
Bob Dylan performs in France in 2012.
(David Vincent / Associated Press)

Bob Dylan’s entire catalog of songs, which spans 60 years, is being acquired by Universal Music Publishing Group.

The deal covers copyrights to 600 songs, including “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” and “Tangled Up in Blue.”

The influence of Dylan’s body of work may only be matched by that of the Beatles.

Financial terms were not disclosed Monday, but the catalog may be the most prized in the music industry. Four years ago, when Michael Jackson’s estate sold the remaining half-share that it owned in the artist’s catalog, it fetched $750 million.

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“Brilliant and moving, inspiring and beautiful, insightful and provocative, his songs are timeless — whether they were written more than half a century ago or yesterday,” Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group Sir Lucian Grainge said in a statement Monday.

Dylan’s songs have been recorded more than 6,000 times by various artists from dozens of countries, cultures and musical genres, including Jimi Hendrix’s version of “All Along the Watchtower.”

On his first album of original material in eight years, Bob Dylan sings of betrayal, dismemberment and rock ‘n’ roll.

Joan Baez, Bryan Ferry and folk singer Odetta have put out tribute albums, but Dylan’s influence is impossible to measure. Patti Smith, Adele and Sting contributed to an album honoring him for his human rights work in 2012.

Announcement of the catalog purchase comes a few weeks after Dylan’s unpublished song lyrics and musings about anti-Semitism sold at auction for nearly half a million dollars.

Dylan first entered the public consciousness via New York’s Greenwich Village folk scene in the early 1960s.

He was influenced by blues musician Robert Johnson and folk singer and songwriter Woody Guthrie but added a lyrical depth to his music that eventually earned him the Nobel Prize in literature in 2016. He was the first songwriter to receive the award.

Princeton University professor Sean Wilentz has never had any trouble seeing Bob Dylan as a crucial literary figure.

When he brought an electric guitar on stage in 1965, he split the music community in what was then considered a radical departure for an artist.

Dylan then produced three albums back to back in slightly more than a year, works that changed the course of rock ‘n’ roll that decade, starting with “Bringing It All Back Home.”

He released “Rough and Rowdy Ways” last June, his first album of new material in eight years. Los Angeles Times pop music critic Mikael Wood said the album “rolls out one marvel after another.”

Dylan topped Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time in 2015, and the song “Like a Rolling Stone” was named by the magazine as the best ever written.

Dylan has sold more than 125 million records globally.


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