Bob Dylan And Cowboy Jesus Part III

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
(St,Luke 8:3)

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.

We welcome articles, contributions and ideas from all our readers.  Sadly no one gets paid, but if you are published here, your work will be read by a fairly large number of people across the world, ranging from fans to academics who teach English literature.  If you have an idea, or a finished piece send it as a Word file to Tony@schools.co.uk with a note saying that it is for publication on Untold Dylan.

We also have a very lively discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook with around 5500 active members. Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link 

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.

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13 Responses to Bob Dylan And Cowboy Jesus Part III

  1. Tim Roach says:

    Larry what have you started This Bob Dylan and the Cowboy Jesus Series will be another
    never ending Tour. Keep up your well researched writings on Alias. “I’m out here a thousand miles from my home/and heres to Cisco and Sonny and Leadbelly too” Song to Woody.

  2. Larry fyffe says:

    Stay tuned for the next exciting episode of the Masked Rabbi……with Tony’s excellent selection of videos!

  3. Larry fyffe says:

    * is as it seems…

  4. Tim Roach says:

    Confession, i am. living on some Australian Mountain Range

  5. Larry fyffe says:

    You’ve already confessed once, no need to confess again

  6. Tim Roach says:

    Thanks my son,” On the Santa Fe Trail”, there was an Inn called,”The Lambert Inn” later to become ,”The St James Hotel” Cimmaron, New Mexico. Ghosts of, “Blind Williie McTill” and other guests Annie Oakley, Whatt Earp, Billy the Kid, Jessie James (room 14), Buffallo Bill Cody and Bat Masterson who drove out the worst and most Murderer most Foul. Rancher/Cowboy the New Mexico bad boy CLAY ALLISON. SO many Alias’es. “Gazing out the window of the St James Hotel”

  7. Larry fyffe says:

    Interesting ….to be completely honest, the only one I never met was
    Clay Allison…so I looked up his bio.

  8. Tim Roach says:

    So” Evil is alive and well” / Most of the time/ Father and Son observations.

  9. Tim Roach says:

    Mace Bowman was the only Cowboy that out drew Clay Allison. Are you listerning Mr President Most Foul.

  10. Larry fyffe says:

    Used to watch ‘Railway Detective’ starring Jim Davis – I see in one episode the detective chases down Clay Allison whose coach flips over and killer Clay’s back is broken; in real life Allison dies in a like manner but he’s not being chased.

    These were the kind of western series that were on TV when Bob Dylan was growing up.

  11. Tim Roach says:

    “Down we go on our own Shield” Jakob Dylan.”Boom Boom Thunder”.

  12. Tim Roach says:

    Larry i used to race home to watch TV ,”The Munsters”. Creepy is still better than Creepy.

  13. Tim Roach says:

    George Floyd died/he was free/but he was killed/it was enforcement by a knee.

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