The hopes of millions of The Big Lebowski fans were dashed earlier this week when it was revealed that tantalizing images of Jeff Bridges back in his Dude duds were not for some sort of sequel, but rather a Super Bowl commercial for Stella Artois. The Dude doesn’t even appear until halfway through the ad, which focuses on Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie Bradshaw character from Sex and The City.
Bob Dylan’s “The Man in Me” begins playing when the Dude enters the bar, but if you listen closely you’ll note that it’s not the Dylan original but rather a soundalike that was probably much cheaper to license. The 1970 New Morning cut wasn’t widely-known outside of Dylan circles when it appeared in the opening credits to the Big Lebowski, but as the status of the movie grew over the years, it too became a beloved classic. Jeff Bridges even recorded his own version of it and always plays the tune when he does a show with his band, the Abiders.
Dylan didn’t perform “The Man in Me” live until his famous Budokan gigs in 1978. It was in the regular rotation on that tour, but then vanished until the second night of the Never Ending Tour a decade later. It popped up regularly throughout the Nineties, and you can hear him play it at an Atlantic City gig on November 19th, 1999 in this clip. The Big Lebowski tanked at the box office the previous year, but by this point it was already picking up a new audience thanks to VHS and DVD rentals and airings on cable. The first Lebowski Fest was held three years later.
This Atlantic City concert came at a real peak moment for Dylan as a live performer. Guitarist Charlie Sexton joined the band over the summer and was already bringing them to new heights. Many Dylan aficionados see his original tenure in the band from 1999 to 2002 as one of the greatest periods of Dylan’s live career, up there with the 1966 electric tour, the 1975/76 Rolling Thunder Revue and the gospel shows of 1979/80. The 2018 tour marked an incredible return after years of lackluster shows, even if “The Man in Me” hasn’t made an appearance in eight years.