by Larry Fyffe
Influenced by William Blake, and Emanuel Swedenborg, Bob Dylan manufactures his own mythologies – one in which the singer/songwriter reveals his unique ability to
time-travel to the ‘Old West’ of America with a dusty-cloaked fellow named Jesus, an outlaw from another time who escaped from being crucified.
Intrepid investigators at ‘Untold Dylan’ have been able to decode this secret mythology and provide it to our readers. In the mythology, masked Dylan is a singing rabbi who rides around in space and time with guitar and harp in hand; sitting in a saddle that’s strapped to his faithful horse named ‘Forest’, a white stallion he also calls ‘Sylva’ – it’s a strange upside-down world where nothing is at it seems.
Following be more bits and pieces, put together by ‘Untold’ detectives, of that previously unknown Blakean/Swedenborgian puzzle – one example, the Bible tells us of a woman who hangs around with Jesus:
And certain women which had been healed Of evil spirits and infirmities Mary called Magdalene Out of whom went seven devils (St, Luke 8:2)
In the alternate universe found in Bob Dylan’s artistic creations, the singer/songwriter transfers this biblical story into a ‘gnostic’ one; Jesus emanates into ‘Billy the Kid’, an outlaw of the Old West. In the song below, the Masked Rabbi notes that Cowboy Jesus carries on his old habits:
Hang on to your woman if you got one Remember in El Paso, once, you shot one Up in Santa Fe you brought one Billy, you been running for so long (Bob Dylan: Billy 4)
Back in His bible days, before getting arrested, we are told that Jesus shares the companionship of woman other than Mary Magdalene:
And Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herold’s steward, and Susanna
And many others, which ministered unto Him their substance
In more recent times, according to the decoded mythology, Christ (speaking in the first person), tells of fond memories He has of Joanna way back then:
Louise, she's all right, she's just near She's delicate, and seems like a mirror But she just makes it all too concise, and too clear That Johanna's not here (Bob Dylan: Visions Of Johanna)
Apparently, the closest Cowboy Jesus ever comes to using His own name is when He calls Himself ‘Jessie’. Having emanated into another American outlaw, this time Southern sympathizer Jessie James, Christ’s afraid of getting shot in the back by one of his fellow gang members; his name is Robert Ford. The Lord’s paranoid. And with good reason, a long time ago, Christ escapes from being crucified after his friend Judas turns Him over to the authorities:
Ain't gonna hang no picture frame Well, I might look like Robert Ford But I feel like a Jessie James ..... I got a woman in Jackson I ain't gonna say her name She's a brown-skin woman But I love her just the same (Bob Dylan: Outlaw Blues)
A scan of the Holy Bible tells us who that woman in the above song be:
Look not upon me, because I am black Because the sun hath looked upon me My mother's children were angry with me They made me the keeper of the vineyards But my own vineyard have I not keep .... I am the Rose of Sharon, and the Lily of the Valleys (The Song Of Solomon I:6; 2:I )
In the unraveled Dylanesque mythology, Rosie appears at other times as well; in the first person (speaking as though he were the Cowboy), the Masked Rabbi tattle-tales on the antics of the time-drifting Jesus:
And every time, you know when the well breaks down I just go pump on it some Rose Marie, she likes to go to big places And just set there waiting for me to come (Jim James: Going To Acapulco ~ Bob Dylan)
In an analogical song penned by the Masked Rabbi is told the story of his traveling back in time with the Cowboy Jesus to the shores of the Nile River in ancient Egypt. Jesus, who of course is not yet born, speaks in the first person again, and it’s all about His emanation into the physical body of Moses.
But the finish of that story will have to wait for another day. As Mr. Spock of ‘Star Trek’ would say, “It’s fascinating”:
Though nothing looks familiar to me I know I've stayed here before Once, a thousand nights ago With the girl from the Red River Shore (Bob Dylan: Red River Shore)
Untold Dylan: who we are what we do
Untold Dylan is written by people who want to write for Untold Dylan. It is simply a forum for those interested in the work of the most famous, influential and recognised popular musician and poet of our era, to read about, listen to and express their thoughts on, his lyrics and music.
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You’ll find some notes about our latest posts arranged by themes and subjects on the home page of this site. You can also see details of our main sections on this site at the top of this page under the picture. Not every index is complete but I do my best.
But what is complete is our index to all the 604 Dylan compositions and co-compositions that we have found, on the A to Z page. I’m proud of that; no one else has found that many songs with that much information. Elsewhere the songs are indexed by theme and by the date of composition. See for example Bob Dylan year by year.