by Larry Fyffe
The lyrics of Bob Dylan’s gospels, according to Kees de Graaf, ultimately demonstrate that singer/songwriter Bob Dylan personally holds ‘The conviction that there’s only one road to salvation’ (de Graaf: Trouble No More). Bob Dylan, from a Jewish background, gives due respect to many of the teachings of Jesus, but it is folly to assert that, at the same time, he puts down the individualistic and goodly spiritual beliefs of others.
Whatever Dylan’s spiritual beliefs may be (who knows for sure?), the ‘one road’ assertion on the part of de Graaf is sheer conjecture. The oft double-edged meanings in so many of Dylan’s gospel lyrics de Graaf dismisses as nothing more than subterfuge used by the songwriter in order not to alienate fans who are not hard core Christian believers – that is to say, those in the know, the true Christian ones, are not fooled as to what Dylan’s really means.
According to de Graaf it would seem, Bob Dylan does not really intend to leave a message that is open to interpretation as regards to the extent of the unconditional love of Jesus:
The lyrics above, apparently, do not present God as an Existentialist who lets the cards fall where they may. Nevertheless, this is a theme that appears in others work of Dylan as well – there’s a ‘God’, but He’s mysterious and dark, quite unknowable. Where’s God when you need Him? Why did He forsake the passengers aboard the sinking Titanic? Where’s water-walking Jesus? Which side is He on?
Though there be widespread disagreement about the historical facts of Jesus’ life, Dylan represents Him in the lyrics of a number of gospel songs as a holy man, among holy men, who tries to bridge the Great Divide. However, the degradation by dogmatic church leaders of, say, the Inuit spiritual way of life by fur traders and by Christian missionaries, Dylan does not let go by the board unquestioned:
That religions pass out milk while they practice cultural genocide, and indeed worse, raises the numbered hairs on the back of Dylan’s head:
There are too many questionable things that are done for the benefit of organizations based on religion. In the name of religion, things are undertaken to accommodate the selfish wants of its leaders and followers – doings that actually oppose Christ’s teachings, that scare Dylan off:
Artistically compelled, Dylan is both dark and light in creative energy, filled with irony, antihypocrisy disdain, satire, and humour; metaphorical, allegorical, and alliterative in style:
Going by his song lyrics, Bob Dylan or his persona is anything but a religious zealot; and an apocalyptic one, in the literal sense, he shows himself not to be.
There’s always a bit of light glowing somewhere.
Greedy capitalists too, but it’s self-serving religious leaders and opportunistic followers that Bob Dylan especially criticizes:
What else is on the site
1: 500+ reviews of Dylan songs. There is an index to these in alphabetical order on the home page, and an index to the songs in the order they were written in the Chronology Pages.
2: The Chronology. We’ve taken the songs we can find recordings of and put them in the order they were written (as far as possible) not in the order they appeared on albums. The chronology is more or less complete and is now linked to all the reviews on the site. We have also produced overviews of Dylan’s work year by year. The index to the chronologies is here.
3: Bob Dylan’s themes. We publish a wide range of articles about Bob Dylan and his compositions. There is an index here.
4: The Discussion Group We now have a discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook. Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link
5: Bob Dylan’s creativity. We’re fascinated in taking the study of Dylan’s creative approach further. The index is in Dylan’s Creativity.
And please do note The Bob Dylan Project, which lists every Dylan song in alphabetical order, and has links to licensed recordings and performances by Dylan and by other artists, is starting to link back to our reviews