By Larry Fyffe
Though he composes a number of gospel songs that have an aura of seriousness, Bob Dylan is not beyond burlesquing sacred writings that are taken literally, rather than figuratively, by religious leaders – an admirer of Mark Twain he be. Along with classical mythologies and folk tales, the holy scriptures of Judaism and Christianity escape not the acid tongue of Bob Dylan.
Given quite a licking is the biblical story of a dangerous God who gets upset at Adam and Eve due to their involvement in the Eden debacle; God commands Adam to multiply the human race by becoming the Father of the Shady Bunch; turns out God likes roaming meat eaters more than He likes stay-at-home vegetable growers – the First Man’s one-and-only Eve gives birth to Cain, and then to Abel, but sheep herder Abel is killed by his jealous brother; a lot later Eve produces Seth to replace the murdered son; in the meantime, back at the farm, Cain gets married (who else can it possibly be to but a sister?):
(Genesis 4: 1,2, 8)
Taking on the persona of Cain, Dylan sings a sorrowful song to his sister, straight faced while I cried:
The Gnostics solve the incest problem to their satisfaction by positing the existence of tiers of Spirits above the material Earth.
A Marksist for sure, Dylan draws from the artistc well of yore. There be imps from fairy tales; naughty characters from the Bible; outlaws from the Old West – the apostle Judas who betrays Jesus for pieces of silver; the apostle Thomas who doubts everything unless he sees it; Tom-Tit-Tot, a hairy fairy similar to Rumpelsiltskin, the spinner of straw into gold; the French Tom Thumb who makes a fortune from the magic boots he steals off an ogre whilst the monster’s numb with sleep; Buffalo Bill, the ‘Indian killer’ who befriends the native American Chief Sitting Bull:
The nursury rhyme referred to:
(Sing A Song Of Sixpence)
No doubt about the Dylanesque ‘rhyme twist’ here: high/pie; rye/pie.
In another song, the murdered singer/songwriter John Lennon, Dylan compares to John the Baptist:
Bob Dylan’s song lyics show the influence of Mark Twain’s satirical ‘Letters From Earth” as well as the influence of what the singer/songwriter considers the figurative writings found in the Holy Bible.
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