If you want to send a message, call Bob Dylan and his cue cards.
True, Dylan’s iconic performance of “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” in which he tosses aside a series of cue cards with the lyrics written on them, is not technically a music video but a scene from the film, “Don’t Look Back.”
Still, in the last 50 years, it has been parodied (“Weird Al” Yankovic has done it twice) and imitated so often that its format has worked its way into all aspects of pop culture. One recent example, James Blake’s oddly mesmerizing video for “Don’t Miss It,” updates the technology from cue cards to the iPhone – but, like all lyric videos, there’s a little Dylan in there. Another recent "Subterranean" take, Wednesday’s plea for social justice from Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, goes old school. Like Dylan, Jenkins gets across his message with nothing but words markered on poster board.
He's not alone. Here are five times folks with something to say heeded the call of the Nobel Prize winner from Hibbing.
1. Malcolm Jenkins gets the most important aspect of Dylan’s original performance: Sometimes a message is even more powerful if you keep your mouth shut.
2. Artists including the Flaming Lips and rapper Evidence have borrowed the “Subterranean Homesick Blues” format (and Christian Bale did a cuecard-for-cuecard reinterpretation of it in the film, “I’m Not There”) but the most artful video take may be INXS’s “Mediate,” in which members of the band are especially deft at the disdainful toss of the cards.
3. The romcom, “Love Actually” is controversial – is it romantic or grounds for a restraining order? – but even haters remember the scene where a pre-“The Walking Dead” Andrew Lincoln expresses his love for Keira Knightley via cue cards.
4. In the satire “Bob Roberts,” writer/director/actor Tim Robbins summoned the protest-anthem fervor of Dylan for a pre-greed message that is practically the anti-Dylan.
5. Appropriately, pop artist Ed Ruscha came up with the most elaborately pretty cue cards in his take on “Subterranean,” which even includes two guys talking in the background, just like the Dylan original (one of the guys in Dylan’s video was poet Allen Ginsberg).