08/23/2005 06:59 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Dylan, Havens and Earle: You're All Sellouts

When I was a lot younger than I am now, I worshipped singer-songwriters like Bob Dylan and Richie Havens.

When I was only a little younger than I am now, I worshipped singer-songwriter Steve Earle.

They all spoke to me of a path away from suit-and-tie conformity, of finding your own artistic path and sticking to it. I remember taking refuge in Dylan's poetry of non-conformity at the same time parental units were freaking out because -- like other children of the 60s -- I wasn't conforming in the way they wanted.

But I don't worship or admire Dylan, Havens and Earle anymore. Why? Because they have embraced aspects of the corporate beast.

Once the questing rebel who thumbed their noses at those people with acquisitive priorities, Dylan has sold his inspiring songs and Havens his soulful voice to brokerage houses dedicated to providing their customers with guidance on how to make more money to buy things. Like bigger cars to pollute the planet and bigger houses to sprawl the land.

That's not the Dylan I know from "Chimes of Freedom," nor the Richie Havens I know from "Freedom."

Last night I heard Dylan's own rendition of "The Times They Are A Changin'," played in a commercial for an HMO which is part of a health-care system that makes health care unaffordable for the same types of downtrodden people Dylan used to sing about. And that his first idol Woody Guthrie took up six-stringed "This Machine Kills Fascists" arms for.

And Steve Earle? His views are indeed courageous, but he is also the fellow who recently sold the title track of The Revolution Starts Now to Chevy for a truck ad.

Chevy trucks that run on fuel that cause global warming, fuel that brightens the ledgers of the oil companies Earle despises.

Don't get me wrong. I have no problem with the likes of Steve Earle, Bob Dylan and Richie Havens maximizing their names for personal wealth.

But not in a way contrary to the legacy that got you your name in the first place.

What would Neil Young do? What would Pete Seeger do? What would Joan Baez do?

What would Phil Ochs and Woody Guthrie have done?