The Times They Are A-Changin': Dylan turns tables to become DJ

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The Independent Culture

For starters, don't necessarily expect to be able to hear what this new radio presenter is actually saying. Indeed, if may be that if you're a casual listener to XM satellite radio, unsure of what you were hearing, you might wonder if some ageing, mumbling man had forced his way into the studio and seized control of the microphone.

You would be wrong. That gravelly voice would belong to Bob Dylan. The Washington-based radio service announced this week that Dylan - the man who wowed an earlier generation with his near-incomprehensible lyrics - is now set to try and win over another generation as a DJ and presenter.

"Songs and music have always inspired me. A lot of my own songs have been played on the radio, but this is the first time I've ever been on the other side of the mic," the musician said in a statement. "It'll be as exciting for me as it is for XM."

Dylan, 64, is set to breathe life into his latest incarnation next March, when he will begin a weekly, hour-long show presenting music apparently selected by himself. The man who wrote classics such as "Mr Tambourine Man", "Like a Rolling Stone" and "The Times They Are A-Changin'", will also be offering commentary on music and other matters and will interview a yet-to-be-announced series of special guests. In addition, he will be taking e-mails from listeners.

Nathaniel Browne, a spokesman for the radio service, which requires listeners to pay a subscription, said the project to recruit Dylan had been in negotiation for more than a year. He said Dylan was a subscriber to XM, which was how initially he had become involved.

"Dylan is one of the most reclusive icons in the music business," he told The Independent. "For him to sign up to XM is a big deal. We are thrilled."

Though famous for guarding his privacy, in recent years Dylan has allowed some of the veils to be lifted. An autobiography he published last year, Chronicles Volume 1, spent 19 weeks on The New York Times' bestseller list.

To coincide with the release of the memoir, he granted his first television interview in 19 years, warning his most hardcore fans, who might like to think otherwise, that he was no prophet.

"I never wanted to be a prophet or a saviour - Elvis maybe. I could see myself becoming him. But prophet? No," he said.

He added: "My stuff [they] were songs, they weren't sermons. If you examine the songs, I don't believe you're going to find anything in there that says that I'm a spokesman for anybody or anything really."

Earlier this year, Dylan worked with the director Martin Scorsese on the documentary No Direction Home, about the development of his career.

For those who have followed Dylan's career from the days when he moved from northern Minnesota to New York and changed his name from Robert Zimmerman, his decision to reinvent himself - this time as a radio presenter - will not be particularly surprising. Indeed, at various points in his life, he has been quick to break new ground.

In the mid Sixties, as his fame as a folk singer was growing, he started using electric instruments. This move, first encapsulated on Bringing it All Back Home, initially upset some of his purest folk-loving fans and he was booed at the Newport Folk Festival of 1965.

However, he stuck with the new "folk-rock" style and by the end of the year had released what may be his best-known album, Highway 61 Revisited.

Likewise in 1973, as his critical success was starting to decline, Dylan made his acting debut, starring in the filmPat Garrett & Billy the Kid, to which he also contributed the soundtrack song "Knockin' On Heaven's Door".

During the late Seventies, he was writing born-again Christian music, but several years later he returned to his Jewish roots in the form of the 1983 album Infidels, produced by Mark Knopfler.

XM said that Dylan was a regular listener to Hank's Place, one of its shows dedicated to country music and apparently named in tribute to the late country star Hank Williams. A typical play-list includes songs such as "Lovesick Blues" by Mr Williamsand "Please Help Me I'm Falling" by Hank Locklin.

Dylan will join a roster of celebrities, already recruited by XM as it battles with its smaller competitor, Sirius Satellite Radio, which has recently announced the signing of the "shock-jock" Howard Stern.

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SUGGS (Graham McPherson)

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