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Bob Dylan sells entire song catalog to Universal Media Group

The catalog runs from Dylan's 1962 "Blowin' in the Wind" to "Murder Most Foul," released earlier this year, the music company said Monday.
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Bob Dylan, the trailblazing troubadour whose songs became anthems of the Civil Rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s and who is widely considered one of America's greatest songwriters, has sold his entire catalog to the Universal Music Group, the record company announced Monday.

The deal means that more than 600 of Dylan's copyrighted songs written over nearly 60 years — "from 1962's cultural milestone 'Blowin' In The Wind' to this year's epic 'Murder Most Foul,'" the press release said — are now owned by the media giant.

"It is no exaggeration to say that his vast body of work has captured the love and admiration of billions of people all around the world," Lucian Grainge, Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group, said in the press release announcing the deal.

"I have no doubt that decades, even centuries from now, the words and music of Bob Dylan will continue to be sung and played—and cherished—everywhere," Grainge added.

While the record company is contractually barred for revealing how much it paid as part of the "landmark deal," a source familiar with the deal told NBC News that the sale price was “a sizable nine figure amount, north of $200M.”

A spokesperson for Bob Dylan said he can’t comment on any numbers involved in the deal and also said that Dylan will not be making any statement regarding the deal. But whatever the final figure, it's a far cry from the $100 advance Dylan pocketed when he signed his first music publishing deal in 1962.

This deal also means more of Dylan's music will likely wind up in commercials, movies, TV shows and "any place where familiar music can be monetized through licensing deals," said Syracuse University music history professor Theo Cateforis.

"At one time, back in the 80s or 90s there may have been considerable resistance to this kind of 'selling out,' but this has become a more common practice over the past couple of decades," Cateforis said.

Dylan, who is 79, made his indelible musical mark by blending folk music with rock and roll and poetry to create what the Nobel Prize judges called "new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition" when they honored him in 2016.

Starting in 1962 with his self-titled debut album, Dylan emerged from New York City’s Greenwich Village folk music scene to write iconic songs like "The Times They Are a-Changin," "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall," and "Like a Rolling Stone" that became part of the soundtrack of the 1960s and continued to resonate with the generations that followed.

Dylan has sold more than 125 million records around the world and his catalog includes rock classics like “Forever Young,” “Tangled Up In Blue,” “Gotta Serve Somebody,” “Make You Feel My Love,” and the Academy Award-winning “Things Have Changed.”

His songs have been covered by everybody from Jimi Hendrix ("All Along the Watchtower") and The Byrds ("Mr. Tambourine Man") to Guns N' Roses (“Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”) and Jeff Buckley ("Just Like a Woman").

In total, Dylan’s songs have been recorded more than 6,000 times, according to Universal.

Musically, Dylan had a profound influence on British invasion bands like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Who. His disciples include master songwriters like Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, and Bruce Springsteen.

Rappers like Public Enemy's Chuck D have also cited Dylan as an influence.

"There is not a bigger giant in the history of American music," President Barack Obama said when he awarded Dylan the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. He said Dylan's "unique gravel-y power" and artistic voice redefined "not just what music sounded like, but the message it carried and how it made people feel."

Obama also admired Dylan's swagger.

After Dylan performed at the White House for the first time in 2010, Obama said in a Rolling Stone interview that Dylan "was exactly as you'd expect he would be."

"He wouldn't come to the rehearsal; usually, all these guys are practicing before the set in the evening," Obama said. "He didn't want to take a picture with me; usually all the talent is dying to take a picture with me and Michelle before the show, but he didn't show up to that."

In 2016, when Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature — the first songwriter to win the prestigious prize — he made himself scarce. Not only could the committee not find him, Dylan skipped a meeting with Obama to celebrate his win.

Eventually, the Nobel Committee located him and Dylan accepted his Nobel Prize in March 2017.

Last month, a cache of Dylan records and memorabilia sold at auction for roughly a half-million dollars. Among the artifacts was a long lost interview in which Dylan revealed that he wrote "Lay Lady Lay" for Barbara Streisand to sing.

Born Robert Allen Zimmerman in Duluth, Minnesota, Dylan grew up in the area's Jewish community. In the transcript of the wide-ranging 1971 conversation with his friend Tony Glover, Dylan also reflected on his decision to adopt a new name.

"I mean, it wouldn't've worked if I'd changed the name to Bob Levy. Or Bob Neuwirth. Or Bob Doughnut," Dylan told Glover.