One of the caveats attached by Bob Dylan to his one and only interview in support of new album Shadows in the Night was that 50,000 copies of the album, out Feb. 3, be freely distributed. And so, next week, that number of randomly chosen AARP The Magazine subscribers will receive something very special in the mail: a plastic-wrapped copy of the February/March issue with Dylan’s collection of Great American Songbook interpretations included within.
It was Dylan’s idea to leverage AARP’s vast and well-matched magazine audience on behalf of his 36th album, featuring covers of compositions that date back to the 1920s. EIC Robert Love, who worked as an editor at Rolling Stone from 1982 to 2002, does not normally write the cover story, but in this case, he was more than happy to travel last fall to the San Francisco Bay Area and spend a couple of hours at a hotel with the famed singer-songwriter.
“Bob decided he wanted to talk to older Americans, and he came to the only place where we deliver 35.2 million of them,” Love tells FishbowlNY via telephone. “I think this also shows how the magazine has changed. If you look at the covers for the last year, you will see for example the Melissa Etheridge–Sheryl Crow cover, which is a very youthful, music-oriented cover. I think these covers are quite good, and reflect a change in the way the magazine thinks.”
Because Dylan’s album is being released at the very beginning of next month, AARP has generously made the exclusive interview available online starting Thursday. The magazine also plans to post an extended version of the current print-Web Q&A in a few weeks.
An additional highlight for print readers is the spectacular full-page illustration of Dylan that takes up the inside-right first page. The portrait was drawn by the multitalented Tim O’Brien, who currently also has something in Esquire.
“We came up with the concept of Dylan as a crooner, and Tim just ran with it,” explains Love. “Tim is, according to our art director, a rock star of illustrators. He was delightful to work with.”
Adds O’Brien via email to FishbowlNY: “When I was in art school working late nights, I started to listen to Bob Dylan. Hearing what art could come out of a young man in his 20s was inspiring and might have even pushed me to strive more in my work.”
“I have loved Dylan my whole life. Now that I’m 50, he’s still ambitious and striving and it’s remarkable that he still pushes me to want to be a better artist. I also admire his desire to be out there working, almost like Woody Allen. It’s as if working is life. I loved painting his portrait.”
This article originally appeared in FishbowlNY, part of the Adweek Blog Network.