July 6, 2017


Wrestling with the complex Gospel according to Bob Dylan, once again (Terry Mattingly, 7/03/17, On Religion)

[D]ylan told People magazine in 1975: "I didn't consciously pursue the Bob Dylan myth. It was given to me - by God. ... I don't care what people expect of me. It doesn't concern me. I'm doing God's work. That's all I know."

What does that mean? Marshall collected material from stacks of published interviews and has concluded that two words perfectly describe Dylan's approach to answering these questions - "inscrutability" and "irascibility." Plus, it's hard to know when Dylan is being "serious, cranky or playful."

Nevertheless, faith language always plays a central role. Marshall cites waves of examples, including a time when Dylan was asked if his raucous "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" - with its "Everybody must get stoned" chant - was code for getting high. Dylan wryly noted that many critics "aren't familiar with the Book of Acts."

In his Nobel lecture, Dylan also stressed the role great literature has played in his life, dating back to grammar school days. Once again, there were religious themes.

"Moby-Dick," for example, combined all "the myths: the Judeo-Christian Bible, Hindu myths, British legends, Saint George, Perseus, Hercules - they're all whalers." "All Quiet on the Western Front" mixed politics, nihilism and horror, and Dylan noted that he has never read another war novel. In that book, "You're on the real iron cross, and a Roman soldier's putting a sponge of vinegar to your lips."

With "The Odyssey," he said readers have to live the tale, wrestling with gods and goddesses. "Some of these same things have happened to you. You too have had drugs dropped into your wine. You too have shared a bed with the wrong woman. You too have been spellbound by magical voices, sweet voices with strange melodies."

In the end, a song's impact on each person is what matters. "I don't have to know what a song means. I've written all kinds of things into my songs. And I'm not going to worry about it - what it all means," said Dylan.

Posted by at July 6, 2017 2:17 PM