Monday, February 14, 2005

Bob Dylan and Religion

There is a very interesting article about Bob Dylan in the Religion and Ethics Weekly. Here are some representative samples:

As he approaches his 64th birthday, one is tempted to speculate that he is also tamed, enjoying a new kind of fame -- that of the establishment. Yet such acceptance -- an honorary Ph.D. from Princeton, a set of Grammys, a Kennedy Center Honors award from President Clinton, among many other accolades after a decade and a half of being dismissed as passé and something of a has-been -- has made Dylan no easier to understand, no easier to parse, and no less compelling a writer, one who both shapes and is shaped by the best and worst of America.

You can pick your badge of honor or outrage. He sang in Mississippi during the civil rights movement, denounced the war in Vietnam, embraced a strident and judgmental Protestant fundamentalism, lauded the poetry of the gay Beat and Buddhist poet Allen Ginsberg, condemned corporate greed, remained silent on Central America, celebrated Zionist nationalism, failed to credit members of the band on one of his major albums, and appeared in a Victoria's Secret lingerie commercial.

...He is the subject of dozens of books and hundreds of academic articles and numerous college courses. Most recently, suggesting the range of treatment Dylan elicits from scholars, literary critic Christopher Ricks has published DYLAN'S VISION OF SIN and New Testament scholar Michael J. Gilmour has written TANGLED UP IN THE BIBLE: BOB DYLAN AND SCRIPTURE.

...From his first recordings, when he was still apprenticing himself to the folk and blues traditions, religious concerns and moral motifs have permeated the work as they do those musical traditions. Religious and biblical language has been a consistent but always complex and sometimes contradictory element. As he said in a 1963 interview, "There's mystery, magic, truth, and the Bible in great folk music. I can't hope to touch that. But I'm going to try."
I could give you more, but I don't want to bug ya.

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