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Clinton Heylin. The Double Life of Bob Dylan: A Restless, Hungry Feeling (1941-1966). Little, Brown and Company, 528 pp. Paperback. 978-0-316-53521-2.

REVIEW by Thomas M. Kitts, St. John’s University, NY.

In 2016, the George Kaiser Family Foundation and the University of Tulsa announced the acquisition of the Bob Dylan Archive, a vast collection of over 100,000 items spanning Dylan’s career. With recordings of studio sessions, live performances, private and professional films, outtakes, letters, drafts of songs, and more, the archive has already advanced Dylan studies and challenged previous conclusions. Clinton Heylin, “the world’s foremost Dylan scholar” according to Rolling Stone (Greene), buried himself in the archive for ten weeks as he researched The Double Life of Bob Dylan: A Restless, Hungry Feeling (1941-1966), an exhaustive, extraordinarily detailed, and energetic text that illuminates the early Dylan. The book ends just prior to July 29, 1966, the date of Dylan’s motorcycle accident.

This reviewer, for one, appreciates Heylin’s obsession with getting the Dylan story right. The labyrinthine journey for Heylin is complicated by his subject, who is notorious for his lies, exaggerations, and self-mythologizing not only in interviews but also in the “unreliable” Chronicles, Vol. One, “the liar’s autobiography” (155, 308). Dylan, for example, never toured as a pianist with Bobby Vee, as he claimed. He played one gig with Vee before the singer decided he did not need a piano player. Nor did Dylan learn his “way of singing,” as he said, from farmhands and others while living in Kansas and South Dakota, places he never actually lived (110); he learned from records, friends, and books. Nor did masterpieces like “Mr. Tambourine Man” burst from his imagination in fifteen minutes—a “concoction” (246) exposed by the various draft manuscripts of the song in Tulsa. Great songs, like “Tambourine Man” and “Like a Rolling Stone,” resulted from Dylan’s fairly regular writing process: the lyrics were “typed first, probably typed again (and again), and only then hand-corrected” (336). Dylan worked hard to construct a narrative of his life, even demanding that, in 1963, his parents give no further interviews after being quoted in Newsweek and subverting one of his tales.

Heylin’s title suggests the binaries that Dylan lives, unites, and transcends. In many ways, The Double Life reveals the immense contradiction, the immense polarity that is Dylan. (I’m thinking of Emerson in “Compensation” who wrote, “Polarity, or action and reaction, we meet in every part of nature . . . in male and female . . . in the systole and diastole of the heart; in the undulations of fluids and of sound” [156].) Dylan, as publicist Anthea Joseph once wrote, may have had a public and private self (see Heylin 312), but the future Nobel Laureate was much more complicated than that. Like the excellent chess and poker player he was, Dylan could be manipulative and calculating—Heylin speculates that the non-appearance on the May 1963 Ed Sullivan Show may have been planned, with Dylan believing his walk off would generate more publicity than his performance. But Dylan would often unveil quick “mood swings,” which became “harder and harder to control” (409), and he could be rash to the detriment of his career—signing three bad contracts without professional consultation within a year. Similarly, as Joan Baez reports, “occasionally [Dylan] would exhibit a sudden concern for another outlaw, hitch-hiker, or bum” (265), but rarely was he kind to those near him. Sooner or later, friends would fall victim to his “hatchet mouth” (282) and “verbal bayonet” (430). As journalist and sometime friend Al Aronowitz put it, “To be the constant targets of digs from Bob was the price each of us paid for hanging out with him” (364). To other contemporary artists, Dylan could be haughty and intimidating, humiliating Donovan and Phil Ochs, and making Paul McCartney wait for an audience with him. I’m reminded of what Ray Davies said of John Lennon: “Lennon wasn’t [competitive]. . . . He just thought everyone else was shit” (qtd. in Kitts 104). It is no coincidence that Lennon was the Beatle with whom Dylan got along best, at least during those initial meetings. However, with his heroes, like Woody Guthrie and the Rev. Gary Davis, the generally stingy and arrogant Dylan could be deferential and humble. Once, while sharing the bill with Davis, Dylan was alarmed to hear the minister was earning only $75 for the gig. Dylan promptly gave Davis half his $50 fee, proclaiming that Davis should never earn less than $100 for a performance (88).

Of course, Dylan’s songs reflect his immense polarity. He could be sensitive, tender, and vulnerable as in “Boots of Spanish Leather” and “Love Minus Zero/No Limit,” both about Suze Rotolo, but he may have also written some of the most insensitive, mean-spirited songs in existence. What Heylin calls his “put-down” (141) or “finger-pointing” (233) songs were brutal, like “It Ain’t’ Me, Babe,” also about Suze, or “Ballad in Plain D,” about Suze’s “parasite” sister and mother, “both suffering from the failures of their day.” (Dylan admitted to being “a real schmuck” for writing the latter song [260].) Similarly, Dylan would appear nonchalant and even uncaring in performance, only to ask eagerly what others thought. As the subtitle proclaims, the young Dylan was “restless” and “hungry.” The constant tapping of his foot or shaking of his leg signaled his restlessness. Izzy Young, owner of the Folklore Center, only saw Dylan motionless after he gave the young star a less than flattering comment after a performance. (The quivering leg was observed well before amphetamines became part of the singer’s steady diet.)

Before he was twenty, Dylan, ambitious and hungry for stardom, arrived in New York City. He may not have been sure whether he wanted to be Woody or Elvis, a poet or a rock ’n’ roller, but he had a vast imagination, a powerful intellect, and an epic memory. A number of those close to Dylan noted how he “soaked up everything” (Liam Clancy, 83) like “a sponge and a half” (Eric von Schmidt, 91), and friend Victor Maymudes called him “an electrical condenser, a capacitor filling up with information and ultimately exploding on paper with songs” (124). Robbie Robertson, echoing many others, said, “Bob probably knew more songs than anybody walking the earth” (433). In the early years, Dylan imitated his musical heroes, Guthrie, Davis, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, among others, but by spring 1963, he was imitating no one, and shortly after he united Woody and Elvis, poetry and rock ’n’ roll—sometimes with the same song. Consider his acoustic version of the traditional folk song “Baby Let Me Follow You Down,” to which he added verses, followed a few years later by his thunderous and wailing live rendition.

Songs burst out of Dylan at a frenetic pace in these early years. Many were surprised by the number of words, the number of lines in a Dylan song. Like Whitman, who a century earlier had liberated poetry from the constrictions of meter and vocabulary, Dylan liberated the pop song from restrictions on musical and lyrical length. A defining moment for Dylan may have come a day after Christmas in 1963 when he met Allen Ginsberg, one of Whitman’s poetic sons. His own fiercest critic, Dylan pushed himself at a torrid pace to create something that not only matched Ginsberg and Whitman, but “something that [could stand] alongside Rembrandt’s paintings” (123). So many lines and songs were coming to Dylan that he would often forget them as soon as he wrote them down. In a crowded room, he might isolate himself to write, sometimes leaving behind scraps of paper. Some of these scraps or drafts have found their way to Tulsa and some have been lost forever. Referring to the 1965-66 period during which Dylan wrote and recorded Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde, Heylin laments that these lost scraps, this “detritus . . . could connect the dots on surely the greatest creative burst in the history of popular song” (289).

Heylin approaches Dylan’s life with all the attention of a detective—as when he traces the manuscript trail of “Like a Rolling Stone” and refers to the “worrying incongruity” of the song’s appearance on the stationery of the Roger Smith Hotel (336). Yet his painstaking investigation never grows tedious as his energetic and lucid prose keeps the text moving and the reader focused. Never is Heylin livelier than when he is sarcastic, even snarky: he attacks fellow Dylan biographers like Howard Sounes, a “professional dirtdigger,” and those who failed to recognize his subject’s greatness, like the “tin-eared” Mike Porso (96), owner of Gerdes Folk City, who did not grant Dylan immediate headlining status. Most importantly, the text provides a detailed account of Dylan’s early development and creative genius. Double Life is indispensable to Dylan scholars, a game changer in Dylan studies. I anxiously await future volumes of Heylin’s prodigious biography.


Works Cited

Emerson, Ralph Waldo. “Compensation.” The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, edited by Brooks Atkinson, Modern Library, pp 154-71.

Greene, Andy. “Clinton Heylin Wrote Eight Bob Dylan Books. Then He Realized He Needed to Start All Over.” Rolling Stone, 11 May 2021, https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/bob-dylan-biographer-clinton-heylin-interview-double-life-book-1166784/. Accessed 15 Oct. 2021.

Kitts, Thomas M. Ray Davies: Not Like Everybody Else. Routledge, 2008.



Bob Dylan and the Arts: Songs, Film, Painting, and Sculpture in Dylan’s Universe.  Edited by Maria Anita Steffanelli, Alessandro Carrera, and Fabio Fanuzzi.  Roma: Edizioni Storia e Letteratura, 2020. vii + 257 pp.  €18,00/$20.50 U.S.

REVIEW BY Mark DeStephano, Saint Peter’s University

Volume 35 of the “Biblioteca di Studi Americani” (Library of American Studies), this work is a collection of essays which is the fruit of collaboration between Italian and American scholars.  The book is divided into three sections: (1) Literature and Linguistics/Letteratura e Linguistica; (2) Music and Cinema/Musica e Cinema; and (3) Art/Arte. The collection contains articles that are written in both Italian and English, and offers a unique appreciation of the diverse creative elements that are present in Dylan’s work, especially those originating in Italian culture. In her introduction to the section entitled “Literature and Linguistics/Letteratura e Linguistica,” Maria Anita Steffanelli reminds readers that “Bob Dylan is a multimedia artist, a songwriter who crosses over the confines of music, language, and performance so as to sculpt and chisel, to improvise and to devote himself to the cinematographic turn, to design, to paint, and to dedicate himself to graphics” [“Bob Dylan è artista multimediale, un cantautore che attraversa i confini di musica, linguaggio e performance per scolpire e cesellare, improvvisare e darsi alla regia cinematografica, disegnare, dipingere e dedicarsi alla grafica”—all translations are my own] (4). And thus, the purpose of this collection is revealed, “In the essays that are offered, the position of the artist is evaluated with regard to the arts in which he has engaged, giving attention to sound, to the word, to the visual element, and to gesture” [“Nei saggi proposti si valuta la posizione dell’artista rispetto alle arti in cui si cimenta, dedicando attenzione al suono, alla parola, al elemento visuale, al gesto”] (4). Steffanelli’s introduction to the section includes a brief synopsis of each of the articles, including those of Caterina Ricciardi, “Bob Dylan: disincanti” [“Bob Dylan: Disenchantments”], Giulio Carlo Pantalei, “Machivellerie dylaniane: letteratura italiana ri-visitata” [“Dylanesque Machiavellianisms: Italian Literature Revisited”], Massimo Bacigalupo, “Reading Ricks Reading Dylan,” Daniele Baglioni, “Pronouns in Dylan’s Early Songs. An Insight into Dylanesque Personal Deixis,” and Renato Giovannoli, “Retorica trasformazionale. Il canzoniere di Bob Dylan come palinsesto biblico” [“Transformational Rhetoric: Bob Dylan’s Songbooks as Biblical Palimpsest”]. This impressive array of studies considers Dylan’s work from several unique perspectives, challenging those who hear or study Dylan’s work to consider that, as Caterina Ricciardi observes of “Desolation Row,” for example, “Bob Dylan is a champion/model of intertextuality in his reverse use of sources—in the manner of antiphrasis—in this poem of his that approximates the flipping of citations in the so-called Postmodern but which in reality is still a legacy of Modernism” [“È un campione dell’intertestualità, Bob Dylan, nell’usare le sue fonti a rovescio—in modo antifrastico—in questa sua poesia vicina ai ribaltamenti citazionali del cosiddetto Postmoderno ma in realtà ancora di eredità modernista”]. It is ironic that the Italian term “campione” can be translated as both “champion” and “model,” highlighting, as do all of the collection’s essays, Dylan’s virtuosity and confirming his place in intellectual history.

In his introduction to section two, “Music and Cinema/Musica e Cinema,” Alessandro Carrera makes note of Dylan’s remarkable contribution to film, first made in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid: “A film had never been seen in which the most pathetic scene was ‘doubled’ by an ‘extra-diegetic’ song, as film theoreticians say, that no one in the scene sings and which is totally superimposed over the action” [“Non si era mai visto un film in cui la scena più patetica venisse ‘raddoppiata’ da una canzone ‘extra-diegetica’, come dicono i teorici del cinema, che nessuno canta in scena ed è totalmente sovrimposta all’azione”] (70). Equally fascinating is Carrera’s assertion that the different aspects of Dylan’s interior being are revealed in something of a mysterious, hidden way:

In Dylan, these secret relations are present for anyone who wants to discover them, but not at the visual level. They are developed amidst the verses of songs and his voice, which sings them, not amidst the images and the music. As an author of songs, as a singer, Dylan is always in dialogue with other voices and with other songs, while as an author of images he does not find another that approaches his own, remaining closed, within his difficult, multiple identity, not managing to construct a bridge over which others might be able to pass [In Dylan, questi rapporti segreti sono presenti per chi li vuole scoprire, ma non a livello visivo. Si istituiscono tra i versi delle canzoni e la sua voce che li canta, non tra le immagini e la musica. Come autore di canzoni, come cantante, Dylan è sempre in dialogo con altre voci e con altre canzoni, mentre come autore di immagini non trova un suo prossimo, resta chiuso nella sua difficile, multipla identità, non riesce a erigere un ponte sul quale altri possano passare.] (71)

Dylan’s genius and complexity as a songwriter and musician and are brought to light in the remaining articles of this section, which are far-ranging, exploring numerous aspects of Dylan’s artistic environment and creation: Cesare Cusan, “Renaldo & Clara: Painting a Film” [“Renaldo & Clara: dipingere un film”], Alessandro Carrera, “Between the Shulamite and the Queen of Sheba: The Love Poem that Bob Dylan Could Not Write,” Elèna Mortara, “How the Winds Are Blowing: Joan Baez & Bob Dylan.  A Personal Medley of Music, Memories, and Visions,” Chris Lowe, “The Greenwich Village Folk Scene; Was It Ever What It Used to Be? YES!: the Story Behind the Show,” Alex R. Falzon, “Ring Composition in Mr. Tambourine Man,” and Mario Gerolamo Mossa, “Don’t Look Back and “Ghost” of Like A Rolling Stone: Philology, Composition and Cinéma Vérité.”

The third and final section of this collection, “Art/Arte,” is particularly intriguing, not only because of its general consideration of the relationship between painting and music (who would have suspected that there was a connection between Van Gogh and Dylan!), but also because of its exploration of painter Norman Raeben’s profound influence on Dylan’s life and thought, a topic which merits extensive scholarly attention in the future. This collection offers a number of highly informative essays that help readers to consider some of the ways in which Raeben’s attitude towards life and his instruction of his pupil Dylan transformed the latter’s way of perceiving the world, and ultimately led to Dylan’s refashioning of his musical art. This section, which is dedicated to the artistic underpinnings of Dylan’s thought, concludes with an intriguing and well-illustrated presentation of Dylan’s roots in Minnesota, adding to the section’s fascinating panoply of perspectives on the songwriter’s intellectual and personal foundations: Fabio Fantuzzi, “Introduzione,” Maria Anita Steffanelli, “Another Side of Bob Dylan: “Dylan Is van Gogh. Van Gogh Is Dylan,” Claudia Carr Levy, “Norman Raeben,” John Smith Amato, “Art for Life’s Sake: The Work and Legacy of Norman Raeben,” Roz Jacobs, “The Idiot and the Genius,” Nico Stringa, “Norman Raeben: una modernità compatibile” [“Norman Raeben: A Compatible Modernity”], Fabio Fantuzzi, “Painting Songs, Composing Paintings: Norman Raeben and Bob Dylan,” and David Pichaske, “The Minnesota Connection of Bob Dylan’s Art.”

This volume demonstrates the increasing interest in and knowledge of Dylan’s works internationally, and represents a particularly significant contribution by Italian scholarship to the emerging field of Dylan Studies. The strength of the work lies in the breadth of areas that are studied, as well as the careful research and the meticulous crafting of the articles. A minor weakness—and it pains me to say this as a Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures—is the fact that some of the articles are written in Italian, which somewhat narrows their accessibility to those who would be interested in the work. Nonetheless, both the editors and the authors of the articles of this collection are to be congratulated for their careful scholarship and great creativity in their study of a vast array of themes, and the excellent contribution their work makes to international Dylan Studies.



Bob Dylan. Bootleg Series Vol. 16: Springtime in New York. Columbia Records, 2021.

REVIEW BY Nicholas Birns, New York University

This review will largely refer to the two-disc standard version of The Bootleg Series, Vol. 16: Springtime in New York, but it will also reference three cover songs that appear on the deluxe five-disc version.

The years between 1980 and 1985 saw the emergence of what one might term the sustainable Bob Dylan, the Dylan who evolved the model of live performance that he would continue for the remainder of his career, the Dylan no longer part of a period style or even of the history of rock ’n’ roll, but someone continuously and dynamically building on his own oeuvre, “keeping on keepin’ on,” as he himself would put it. This period also marks the peak and end of his overtly Christian phase and the beginning of the cultural affect that would mark the rest of his career: almost but not quite post-Christian, post-hippie, post-radical, and articulated in a mode at once personal, magisterial, and abstract.

“Angelina,” the first song on the two-disk album, uses rhyme both in a bravura and in a provocative way. We marvel at “concertina” and “subpoena,” but “Argentina” creates far darker reverberations, considering the political repression there which, in the early 1980s, was at its height. The song combines prophecy (conjured by sundry Biblical tropes), love-lyrical stateliness, and intense yearning for the inaccessible beloved. What makes “Angelina” a great Dylan song is how it samples so many of his idioms and how one cannot quite know whether its mode is rapture, tribute, elegy, or rage. Had it been included on the original Shot of Love, it would have fundamentally changed the character of the album, having a less strictly religious tone.

The far more upbeat “Need A Woman” addresses some of the themes of yearning and discontent found in “Angelina.” Though searching for a love that “doesn’t have to be condemned,” the song is more optimistic about reaching that goal than “Angelina.” It also engages the listener much more in the search for community and understanding. “Let’s Keep It Between Us,” a song left off Shot of Love to the consternation of many, strikes a middle note between the fundamental introversion of “Angelina” and the honky-tonk community of “Need A Woman,” demonstrating Dylan’s ability to allow for upshifts and downshifts in the intensity of conviction and ferocity of address within the song. The fundamental irony—that of the speaker urging his beloved to keep their love between them, while in fact bringing it to the attention of a large audience—is inherent in the mode of lyric address. Though it has been speculated that the secret teased in the title references anything from interracial love to a Christian allegory, fundamentally it is a secret no less hidden for being, in its articulation, an open secret.

“Price of Love,” also left off Shot of Love, is another more upbeat song. That the price of love is going up might normally be a cause for lamentation, or at least annoyance, but the song finds a mode of rejoicing. “Don’t Ever Take Yourself Away,” another outtake, is more lyrically and musically intense. One of the joys of listening to this music sequentially as an album is the contrasting and complementary levels in which the singer either emotionally pours himself into the lyrics or jauntily and playfully steps back from them. The Caribbean, reggae-like inflection of “Don’t Ever Take Yourself Away,” and the lyrics’ combination of exhortation, warning, and plea, gives the song a relaxing lilt that yet requires a listener’s rigorous attention.  “Fur Slippers” is another outtake and another love song, though focusing on a person not an object. “You can keep my girlfriend,” the song ends, but “bring back my fur slippers today.” The down-and-out, vernacular posture of this song is and would have been familiar to longtime aficionados of Dylan, leading into the explicit proletarian protest of “Yes Sir, No Sir.” This song, which could easily have been a Woody Guthrie or, in Dylan’s era, a Bruce Springsteen song, is a ruthless and searing denunciation of the exploitation of factory work; if it had originally appeared on Shot of Love, it would have sounded a strongly anti-authoritarian note. In general, the outtakes from Shot of Love would have ramified and even questioned the album’s identity as a declaratively Christian work. Similarly, “Lord Protect My Child,” an Infidels outtake in its heartfelt soulful invocation of prayer and apocalypse, would have been easily at home on any of the three evangelical albums.

With “Jokerman,” on the Infidels album, and “Blind Willie McTell,” an Infidels outtake, we move towards the mid-1980s and the post-Christian Dylan. “Blind Willie McTell” recounts the life of a Black musician from the Delta who is a renowned figure in the history of the blues. This tribute by one musician to another is an instance of Dylan sounding his adoptive musical roots but is also, in its own way, a cry against racial injustice in the idiom of “Hurricane” and “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll.” It is a song that makes the listener slow down and take stock, and that pulses with both empathy and lamentation.

“Don’t Fall Apart on Me Tonight” appears here in a grainier, less heavily orchestrated and produced version than on Infidels, and Dylan articulates the lyrics in a much blurrier way than on the album. Though less streamlined, the bootleg version sounds more levels of anguish and uncertainty as it traces the course of a relationship across the detritus of spiritual and pop-cultural upheaval.

I now want to depart from the track-by-track discussion of the songs on the two-disc version and go to three covers included on the five-disk version: “We Just Disagree,” “Sweet Caroline,” and “Abraham, Martin and John.” Without putting too much interpretive weight on the lyrics, the first two songs are very secular, even though their content can be allegorized as figuratively spiritual. “We Just Disagree,” originally recorded by Dave Mason in 1977, is a breakup song, perhaps one might say almost the Platonic form of breakup songs. As such it is totally about a relationship between two human beings, really nothing beyond that relationship, and its break-up. “Sweet Caroline,” originally recorded by Neil Diamond in 1969, on the other hand, is not just about a love that is mutual and successful but that involves a larger vision of human community. This is why it has become as much of a community song as a song to one woman possibly can. Even if one sees Dylan’s performance of the song as a tacit tribute to his relationship with Carolyn Dennis, a possible personal valentine in the mode of “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands,” the performance was a collective offering and involved its audience in an emotional conjuring of community. But “Sweet Caroline” conjures community in a very “this world” picture (especially as “Caroline” is not a Biblical name), and does not involve calling a people to a spiritual awareness beyond an earthly condition of empathy and affection. Both songs thus link Dylan not only to segments of musical pop culture that might have been thought too trivial or too commercial to be aligned with the kind of work we associate with him. But these songs provide a bridge between his born-again Christian work and his secular, or at least post- born-again work.

Only those alive and active at the time can appreciate what a gap there would have been between the audience associated with “We Just Disagree” and “Sweet Caroline,” and the audience for the music that had made Dylan famous. This gap is as wide as the one between the implied ideology of pre-Christian Dylan and the implied ideology of the three Christian albums. One can imagine, for instance, an eleven-year-old at the time liking pop songs of the day and a sixteen-year-old sibling, a Dylan aficionado, looking down snobbishly at the younger kid, only to find Dylan himself celebrating and even learning from that which many of his avowed fans wound disdain.

This has been our familiar trope in Dylan studies: ending up far cornier and middle of the road in affect and less stereotypically hip than categorizers would deem, the Dylan who (as depicted in Chronicles, Vol. 1) would rather go to the Rainbow Room to hear Frank Sinatra, Jr. than the Fillmore East to hear the Doors or the Who.

The larger problem here is one familiar to students of literary and cultural history, that differences between high and popular in a given period always tend to iron out with time if read from the vantage point of later history. It is hard for people in the twenty-first century to distinguish between court and religious painting from the Renaissance, or between learned and popular histories from the early Middle Ages. The period style envelops all. Dylan’s covers of the two popular songs actually acknowledge this and frame himself and cultural history in a way that others would wind up doing much later—that is, what Dylan was doing was going to eventually happen anyway.

A third cover, “Abraham, Martin, and John,” written by Dick Holler and recorded by several artists, including Dion and Smokey Robinson in the late 1960s, raises a different set of questions. The song is a tribute to three martyred American leaders, Abraham Lincoln, John. F. Kennedy, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Written just after King’s assassination, it recognizes his stature; even though King was the only one of the three martyrs who was never President, the song anticipates King’s own holiday and place as a central figure in American civil religion. Dylan’s cover puts him more directly within the context of  “the long 60s” than do most of his songs after “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times They Are a-Changin’” and also looks forward to Dylan’s direct engagement with the martyrology of President Kennedy in 2020’s “Murder Most Foul.” The presence of the late Clydie King on the cover of “Abraham, Martin, and John” not only makes the song’s response to the tragedies of American history an interracial one, but makes a central point about Dylan’s engagement with Christianity as such. Given the influence of gospel idioms on the three Christian albums, and the presence of Regina McCrary and (Dylan’s eventual wife) Carolyn Dennis as backup singers, this period is not just one of engagement with Christian spirituality for Dylan, but of a crossing of racial boundaries.

Dylan’s born-again Christian phase tallies in a peculiar way with broader cultural history because it begins in 1979 and ends by 1983. If, for instance, it had begun in 1981, Dylan’s born-again Christianity would have been very directly linked with the election of Ronald Reagan, the rising power of the evangelical Christian right, and would have been understood as in more direct political alignment with these larger trends. That this phase developed in the era of the rise of Reaganism but in the end perhaps had a motion contrary to that rise makes it very different in terms of how we interpret Dylan’s evangelical period historically.

It is also pertinent that Dylan’s born-again Christian songs do not seem to have any continuing influence in the evangelical Christian community today, although I am not in a position to assess this comprehensively. It is always a struggle to remember that these three songs are in fact not on any of the three Christian albums but in fact on the post-Christian album Infidels. Thus Dylan may have gone through a born-again Christian period, and he may have written a song advocating or defending Israel. But he did not write a song advocating or defending Israel on a record in which he appeared to be an avowedly born-again Christian. This fact introduces at least a minimal level of discursive irony or anomaly in the situation. It alters the context in which we read the song. Equally, it has to be acknowledged that the song came out after Israel’s June 1982 invasion of Lebanon and, despite Israel’s post-1967 military occupation of Palestinian territories, it would have sounded very different had it been written just a year before that. It is clear that Dylan, for lack of a better phrase, alternates in the lyrics between direct advocacy, when the neighborhood bully, who plays by the rules, is outnumbered—and direct irony, when he is called a neighborhood bully even as the song itself does not agree. Obviously, the song criticizes the idea of Israel as a neighborhood bully. But both the discursive stance of the lyrics and Dylan’s own articulation of them—even more so on this album’s outtake than in the original cut on Infidels—are ambiguous. In the outtake, there is more spring in his singing of the lyrics, and they resound a little more ambivalently than authorial intention might have desired, particularly because the neighborhood bully is personified and given he/him pronouns. Whatever one might think of the politics of the song, Dylan’s vocal rendition of the lyrics’ ironic posture is compelling, and involves both the manifestation of emotion and also its restraint.

Rob Sean Wilson, in his book Be Always Converting, Be Always Converted, has understood Dylan’s poetics as one of conversion, but not as a determinate conversion to Christianity. Instead there is a continual self-reinvention, in which every turn has some spiritual potential, whether hidden or manifest. The first track on the second disk of the bootleg, “Foot of Pride,” exemplifies these quick, propulsive, and contrary motions and is replete with religious and apocalyptic imagery: days of wrath, days of judgment, lions tearing the flesh of people. That there “ain’t no coming back” when the foot of pride comes down would seem to make outcomes less alterable than both Wilson’s analysis and previous lyrics of Dylan’s, such as “the loser now / will be later to win,” would have it.

The most obvious way to interpret “when the foot of pride comes down ain’t no coming back” is that once pride is overthrown, it cannot come back in a merely cyclical or thermostatic way, that a pride rising too high will be thrown down irrevocably. Some of the song’s many case-study examples—which, like those of “Tangled Up in Blue,” seem at once many different stories and different avatars of only one story—are straightforward parables of humbled pride, such as the businessman named Red who, like Samson, is brought down by the luscious temptations of a Delilah.

The situation is complicated here by the fact that in “Too Late,” a song late on the first disc of the album, Dylan uses much of the imagery and even the exact language of “Foot of Pride,” there linking them not to a spiritual humbling but simply to lost opportunities, it being too late to bring these possibilities back. But the expression of these lyrics on “Foot of Pride” involves not simply a missed destiny or a humbled pride but a misappropriated faith. In the lines, “In these times of compassion when conformity is in fashion / Say one more stupid thing to me before the final nail is driven in,” “times of compassion” is clearly sardonic, as there is only so much compassion conformity will permit. In “They like to take all this money from sin / Build big universities to study in / Sing ‘Amazing Grace’ all the way to the Swiss banks,” it is not just the hypocrisy and the hidden greed of those who misappropriate faith that Dylan satirizes, but their sense of their own sublimity, their own perfection. This is what the foot of pride epitomizes, and also what makes the downfall so definitive: it is not just an outer fall, a coming down in the world, but an inner fall, a fall of belief into corruption. The song expresses at least as much of a conversion from Christianity, or a critique of the self-arrogated superiority of those who call themselves Christians, as a conversion to Christianity from a more worldly perspective. It reminds me, to at least some degree, of two of Robert Lowell’s deconversion poems, “Beyond the Alps” and “After the Surprising Conversions.”

The way Dylan enunciates the words in “Foot of Pride”—almost monotonal, lacking any prophetic urgency, but nonetheless ominous and insistent—is similar to the vocal style of “Jokerman,” which started off Infidels and, in a more jaunty way, is a critique of posturers and hypocrites. “Sweetheart Like You,” which follows “Jokerman” on Infidels and “Foot of Pride” on Springtime in New York, seems also to have applicability to these themes of social critique even though ostensibly it is a romantic lyric address to a woman. That the refrain quotes a cliché—“What’s a sweetheart like you doing in a dump like this?”—makes the song, however, far less personal. I’ve even heard one theory that the figure addressed is the Virgin Mary. More personal is the subsequent “Someone’s Got a Hold on My Heart.” This latter song seems to address a personal involvement even though the lyrics, with mentions of Babylon and voices in the wilderness, take elements of prophetic critique present in Dylan’s songs of conversion—and deconversion. “I and I,” with its reggae Rastafarian influences, conjures an intimate association between self and God, a sense that the self might be God or be close to God, that is surely outside any traditional Christian anthropology, especially an evangelical one. Again, Dylan’s off-kilter enunciation does not totally commit him to any doctrine and makes the phrase “I and I” more a question about the inner and outer self than a wholesale identification of the self with God. “I and I” can also be read as a self-doubling, self-dissociation, or self-scrutiny; or conversely as a variation on Charles Taylor’s idea in Sources of the Self—namely that the personal “I” or identity can only be secured through the existence of a higher power. The presence in the lyrics of the Biblical “eye for an eye” also at once highlights the more peaceable nature of “I and I” and suggests its practical impossibility in a world where revenge and retaliation still reign. The version on Springtime in New York is described as an “alternate take”  from the one on Infidels, and Dylan’s articulation of “I and I” in which the words are more slurred together indicates a tangled relation between selves and their different levels of magnitude and awareness, as opposed to the more mellow personal/spiritual quest of the “standard” Infidels version.

“Tell Me” is a straightforward love song, even one of courtship, though the lyrics’ ostensible position is that of a lover seeking reassurance he has not been abandoned by his beloved. “Enough Is Enough” is set away from any spiritual landscape and instead takes place in the joyous yet sinister old-timey honky-tonk world in which so many of Dylan’s lyrics find their residence. The backup singing by Dennis, Debra Boyd, and Queen Esther Marrow on “Tight Connection to My Heart” adds racial and gender diversity to what might not be Dylan’s most bravura song, but which is a pleasant and pace-changing listen. It begins the final group of songs, those which either were included in or were cut from 1985’s Empire Burlesque. On this album, the entire question of conversion or critique has faded and the internal evolution and quest for sustainability takes the foreground. “Seeing The Real You At last” is a title as ominous as it is tantalizing. The lyrics point to a reality somewhere in-between: the person’s “real you” is perceived as not evil, but is nevertheless not unambiguous. And there is a sense in which the singer himself is encountering his own “real you” and thus the subject of the song is as much self as other. As has been frequently noted, the lyrics from the Empire Burlesque period have a determined ambiguity and even literariness to them, something found even in the most heart-baring “Emotionally Yours.” This song, potentially a bit too sweet in tenor, is made rougher by Dylan’s weird pronunciation of “Emotionally” to rhyme with “Sally” (more so than is true on the album version), foregrounding the word in a more detached way as language as much as a state of feeling. “Emotionally Yours” is both a love song and a breakup song, and this is where the sweetness turns sour. The song is addressed to a woman who has broken up with the singer, but is also suggesting on one level they will always be together. This connection, though, will only be manifested as an enduring emotional attachment, not as a couple. The bootleg version sounds less plaintive and melancholy than that released on Empire Burlesque; the tenderness of the Empire Burlesque version is replaced by a more fine-grained sincerity. “Clean Cut Kid,” a song originally slated for Infidels but not used until Empire Burlesque, is a stark parable of social maladjustment, a tale of somebody who tries to play by the rules but finds that society forces him to break those same rules—which society hypocritically itself observes on the surface but not in fact. The Springtime In New York version of “Clean Cut Kid” is also described as an alternate take on the remixed version in Empire Burlesque, and one would say that while the album version was more a political editorial on the state of America, and specifically connected to the Vietnam War experience, the bootleg version is a more generally pertinent cultural diagnosis.

“New Danville Girl” follows this song about the ravaging of American masculinity with a portrait of a tortured masculine soul wandering around Texas seeking for the new Danville Girl as an inaccessible ideal. It is a song much more about loneliness than any possible connection, and the celebration of the woman’s beauty only serves to underscore the singer’s despair. The songs from the Empire Burlesque era delineate the way that, up until that album, Dylan was defining himself; from that album onward, he was probing further into a self he has in his songs already begun to know and understand.

The songs on Springtime in New York mark the transition of Bob Dylan from a rock star to a genre-transcending artist who has developed one of the most sustained and influential careers of our time. It takes him through conversion and critique in a complex dynamic in which neither term gains definitive mastery. More specifically, Springtime in New York spotlights the early 1980s as a pivotal period to examine in Dylan studies, and it foregrounds Dylan as an intriguing cultural actor in the early 1980s—an era whose meaning and legacy is still taking shape today.



Chrissie Hynde. Standing in the Doorway: Chrissie Hynde Sings Bob Dylan. BMG Rights Management (UK), May 2021.

Emma Swift. Blonde on the Tracks. Patrick Sansone, Tiny Ghost Records, August 2020.

REVIEW BY Christine Hand Jones, Dallas Baptist University

Big Girls Contain Multitudes

The women who have covered the songs of Bob Dylan have left an indelible mark on his career and his compositions. Joan Baez’s sincere soprano helped make Dylan famous in the early 60s, and Adele’s soulful alto helped keep him relevant in the early 2000s. Judy Collins, Mary Travers, Odetta, Nina Simone, and many others brought Dylan’s work to a broader listening public by putting their own spin on his songs. In the deft hands of these skilled singers and interpreters, Dylan’s lyrics and melodies take center stage, and his songs develop in surprising ways. Two new collections of Dylan covers, Standing in the Doorway by Chrissie Hynde and Blonde on the Tracks by Emma Swift, add valuable contributions to the collected works of Dylan’s female interpreters. As with the best interpretations, these albums not only highlight the depth and beauty already inherent in Dylan’s work, they also add new layers of meaning that neither Dylan nor any male interpreters could hope to achieve. When Hynde and Swift cover Dylan, they also uncover a range of feminist interpretations that shine uniquely in the female voice.

Chrissie Hynde released Standing in the Doorway in May 2021. The raw, folk-rock recordings represent Hynde’s pandemic lockdown work, with nine rich, intimate renditions of Dylan classics (Grow). At seventy, the Pretenders lead singer is just a decade behind Dylan, and her band’s hit song “I’ll Stand by You” is a classic. So, Standing in the Doorway feels less like a tribute to a songwriting hero than a cozy jam session with a friend. Her choice of material spans Dylan’s career, though she lingers on 80s-era Dylan, with stripped-down versions of several songs from Infidels and Shot of Love. Hynde’s raspy alto and contemplative arrangements evoke the best of Johnny Cash’s American series of recordings. Even without bass or drums, Hynde’s recordings sound full and rich with doubled-acoustic guitars and simple add-ons like piano, mandolin, and the occasional whirring organ or harmonium. Every now and then Hynde counts the songs off or clears her throat, and wind and birdsong contribute to the album’s organic sensibility. Taken together, these sonic details serve as the perfect frame for Hynde’s dark, velvety voice.

 Hynde’s warm, emotionally-honest delivery brings listeners up close and personal with classic Dylan tunes “Tomorrow is a Long Time” and “Love Minus Zero (No Limit).” The title track, “Standing in the Doorway” seems practically written for Hynde’s raw, expressive vocal tone. But where she really shines is on her acoustic revisions of the early 80s songs that have suffered from the ravages of poorly aging production trends. Standing in the Doorway opens and closes with songs from the third of Dylan’s “gospel” albums, Shot of Love. She starts with “In the Summertime,” a great tune that Hynde elevates with gentle backing vocals, a pleasantly ringing tambourine, and a droning organ. The song ends with laughter, fading guitars, and sounds from nature that allow the listener to linger in a summer garden. She closes her album with “Every Grain of Sand,” a gospel song of grace and maturity. But where Dylan strains after an impassioned but elusive gospel fervor in his Shot of Love performance, Hynde takes the listener to church in a different way, evoking Dylan’s version from The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3. When she sings the phrase “In the time of my confession” in her crackling contralto, we see the candle-lit chapel instead of the blazing Pentecostal revival tent. Such intimacy is exactly what the song needs to put the listener’s focus on its contemplative philosophical musings.

The stand-out track from Hynde’s covers of 80s-era Dylan is “Blind Willie McTell.” Recorded for Infidels, “Blind Willie McTell” never made it to the actual record. Multiple bootleg versions reveal the song’s stunning potential, with Dylan never landing on a definitive interpretation. Still, Jonathan Lethem calls the song a “masterwork,” “a vision of the original sins of human history through the lens of a memorial blues, a casual epic totally unified in terms of tone, imagery, and narrative implications” (162). Chrissie Hynde’s spooky, folk version of “Blind Willie McTell” fulfills the song’s vision with a recording that stays true both to the folk-blues roots of Dylan’s youth and the bluesman to whom the song pays homage.

In keeping with the style of the rest of the album, Hynde begins “Blind Willie McTell” with simple piano and acoustic guitar. On the second verse, a low drone fades in beneath it all, elevating the tension, as every crack in Hynde’s voice contributes to the song’s chilling images. In verse three, a high, keening organ demonstrates the “tribes a-moanin’” on the slave ships. Ghostly mandolin and percussive bass pulses create the sounds of the song’s “chain gang” and yelling “rebels.” Then the song bursts into a glorious organ and mandolin duet before the denouement in the final verse. As we gaze with Hynde out of “the window of the St. James Hotel” and ponder the corruption of mankind, she returns to simple piano and guitar, only to build the whole thing back up again, ending with the wails of eerie mandolin. If the album’s title, Standing in the Doorway, is meant to be a metaphor for Hynde as she looks into the room of the incomparable Dylan, I’d say she underestimates her abilities. Hynde’s rendition of “Blind Willie McTell” is a revelation. She’s not just lingering in the doorway of someone else’s genius; she’s taking her own part in the retelling and interpretation and rewriting these songs in the process.

Bringing a worthy interpretive offering of her own, Nashville-based Australian singer-songwriter Emma Swift released Blonde on the Tracks, her alt-Americana collection of Dylan covers, in August of 2020. Generally, Swift’s recordings are sunnier than Hynde’s, with her lilting soprano alternating between ethereal leaps and gospel growls. Vintage reverb on her vocals and bright, droning pedal steel lend her recordings the nostalgic glow of Dylan’s Nashville Skyline days. Meanwhile, the warm, overdriven tones of Robyn Hitchcock’s brilliant electric guitar work bring a touch of nineties grunge into the mix. Swift is a millennial— barely—born in 1981, and her cover choices run the gamut of Dylan’s career, from the 60s to the present day with her cover of 2020’s “I Contain Multitudes.” This year Rolling Stone called her “Queen Jane Approximately” #18 in the 80 Best Dylan Covers (Emma Swift). Swift’s gentle, Americana version of the song sparkles with her fine vocals and Robyn Hitchcock’s Beatles-inspired guitar riffs. When Dylan sings “Queen Jane,” it sounds as if he is offering mutual help and support to someone named Jane, and critics love to argue about whether or not there is a real-life Queen Jane who inspired Dylan. By contrast, Emma Swift transforms the song into something approaching the mystical. Her “Queen Jane” invokes the aid of a sister or friend, and this shift stems equally from the implications of a narrator gender-swap as from Swift’s otherworldly vocal style.

This reinvigoration takes place with other 60s classics that Swift recasts. On “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands,” Swift’s voice toes just the right line between pretty and gritty, as if splitting the difference between Dylan’s original and Joan Baez’s cover. Amazingly, she takes the tempo a bit slower than Dylan, pushing the eleven-and-a-half minute song to almost a full twelve minutes. But Emma Swift makes those twelve minutes fly. Swift’s crisp enunciation highlights each surreal image as it hits our consciousness, and her flawless vocal delivery reinforces the song’s gorgeous melody. The slow-build of her arrangement sets up the climactic arc of the choruses so that by the time we arrive at the dramatic descent of “my warehouse eyes” we are emotionally primed for what follows. As each chorus closes with that ambiguous question, “sad-eyed lady, should I wait?” we are prepared to wait right alongside the narrator, especially if that narrator happens to be Emma Swift.

Even if we only consider the musical beauty of Chrissie Hynde’s and Emma Swift’s interpretations, we find two strong albums, worthy to stand alongside the many collections of other female artists who have covered Dylan’s work. Both women have created enjoyable renditions of Dylan classics that bear each woman’s distinctive mark, while putting Dylan’s superb writing in the spotlight. But these musical contributions are only a starting point. These covers are at their most powerful when they reveal new ways of understanding Dylan’s work from a female perspective. Such a perspective comes into focus with the one song that appears on both records: “You’re a Big Girl Now.”

Dylan’s “You’re a Big Girl Now” is a tender, personal exploration of love and heartbreak. Its revealing style and subject matter make it everything a singer-songwriter is “supposed” to write. Hynde’s version, like Dylan’s, is intimate and acoustic; her voice cracks in all the right places. And yet, the gender shift inevitably changes the song’s emphasis and message. Where the repeated phrase “you’re a big girl” sounds more than a little bitter coming from Dylan to the lover who has grown away from him, in the mouths of both women, the phrase sounds like a piece of motivational self-talk, or at least a pep talk to another woman. When Dylan sings, “You were on dry land, you made it there somehow,” the listener understands that he has been left out in the rain. But when Hynde sings it, it sounds like an affirmation to the girl in question—a celebration that she has made it after all. Dylan’s bird metaphor, in which he sings a lonely song for the girl who has left him, sounds like personal empowerment when Hynde and Swift say it. As bright female harmonies join Swift on the line “I’m just like that bird,” we hear Emily Dickinson’s “thing with feathers” that keeps on singing of hope despite the circumstances. And even a line that might read as deeply fragmented in a self-talk framework, like “I’m going out of my mind . . . ever since we’ve been apart” becomes a powerful argument for internal integration. From Hynde, this positive self-talk is confessional and self-forgiving; for Swift, it’s light and airy, even sexually empowering, as more bright voices join her in the lines, “I know where I can find you, in somebody’s room.” Coming from Dylan, that moment is a bitter admission that his girl is stepping out on him. For Swift, it comes across as joyful, buoyed up by bouncy, 70s-inspired bass lines, reverberating drums, and a juicy guitar solo. Bob Dylan wrote a sardonic song of love and loss. Hynde and Swift have created an empowering celebration of womanhood.

An interpretation like the one I have offered brings up an important question: how do we read Dylan’s songs from a female perspective? Should we? In truth, my first instinct is to take the songs as they are and to view the singers as storytellers—as vehicles for the story, no more. But the singer-songwriter genre practically begs for the more “confessional” element. Perhaps “confessional” is a term used to write-off important female work like that of Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon, and others; a way to pin the work of female singer-songwriters in the corner of womens’ writing. Nevertheless, the entire singer-songwriter genre invites the listener to hear biography or at least emotional honesty in the songs. Critics can hardly help asking biographical questions of Dylan’s work. So, it is only fitting to discover new layers of meaning in Dylan’s songs when told through the female or queer voice. One of the most stunning examples of this phenomenon is Nina Simone’s 1971 version of “Just Like a Woman.” In it, she recasts Dylan’s sneering tirade against an immature lover as a deeply personal confession of inner turmoil. Barbara O’Dair explains the “Just Like a Woman” feminist controversy:

It’s hard to recall just what was offensive in “Just Like a Woman” . . . unless it was the combination of its potency and its ambiguity. Am I being insulted here, or what? It’s a catchy sentiment, or maybe just another put-down in the guise of wise. Women have objected to lines like “you fake just like a woman,” a charge that claims Dylan has swept all women into the category of devious manipulator. But then comes the line that reveals shame and vulnerability: “Please don’t let on that you knew me when / I was hungry and it was your world.” (85)

It is precisely that ambiguity, shame, and vulnerability that Simone explores, as she changes the lyrics of the last chorus from third to first-person to make this connection explicit. In this song about a woman, Simone speaks to herself; she is both the elegant woman and the traumatized girl.

Several of the songs on these two records follow in Simone’s footsteps. Chrissie Hynde’s version of “Don’t Fall Apart on Me Tonight” is a great example of a song that works just as well in the context of a hurting relationship as it does from the perspective of a woman singing to her own lost self. Of course, the song could be addressed to anyone, but Hynde’s vulnerable delivery, with its echoes of Nina Simone’s earlier self-addressed performance, supports the theory of a split self. After all, if Bob Dylan can split himself in two in “I and I,” why can’t Hynde? Swift, too, seems to split herself along blatantly gendered lines in her cover of “The Man in Me,” from New Morning. The aesthetic of New Morning comes closest to Swift’s general aesthetic, but this is no karaoke version of Dylan. Swift keeps Dylan’s gospel-inflected fervor, adding even more church organ, though her background vocals are layered and ethereal rather than choral and soulful. The obvious difference between the two arrangements is Swift’s gender. “The Man in Me” is a joyous declaration of love, which finds the narrator basking in the glow of being near the beloved. In her presence, he serves with gladness, is relieved of his personal storm clouds, and can be his true self, and it is all because of the feminine power of the woman who brings out the man in him. It doesn’t take a great imagination to hear queer and feminist implications when this song is recast in Swift’s voice. In addressing the song to “a woman like you,” Swift takes on a queer perspective as she speaks to a woman from a romantic point of view. With such lines as “it takes a woman like you to get through to the man in me,” and “the man in me will hide sometimes to keep from being seen,” she explores a broader spectrum of gender expression and identity. In this song, Swift unabashedly takes on the male role while singing to a woman and is therefore able to embody both simultaneously. But even without considering the possibilities for gender fluidity in Swift’s “The Man in Me,” the singer’s confident assumption of the male voice allows her to step boldly into traditionally “masculine” roles, taking on its associated power and authority in the process.

The empowerment available to women who try on a male perspective shines on Emma Swift’s rendering of “One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)” from Blonde on Blonde. Dylan’s version feels flippant; he comes across as a boy begging to get off the hook for his bad behavior when he sings, “I didn’t mean to treat you so bad / you shouldn’t take it so personal.” Emma Swift reclaims that playboy narrative for herself. Swift’s version of the song is slower and more deliberate than Dylan’s, with plenty of sustained guitar and a heartbeat kick drum. The first verse builds consistently into an almost exuberant chorus, as if Swift is systematically building a case for the end of the relationship to which the only possible response must be, “sooner or later, one of us must know.” Plenty of lines that seem bitter and accusatory from Dylan, like “I didn’t realize how young you were,” and “you just did what you were supposed to do,” sound earnest coming from Swift. And when she adds high piano and a trill of bells on the line, “When it started snowing,” the listener might almost think they have wandered into a Christmas song, albeit a rather violent one that includes angry eye-clawing. But even that line is empowering; a woman clawing out a man’s eyes is a crazy-lady trope; a man doing the same is either a sign of abuse or of an over-the-top emotional display. Either way, Swift’s clear, matter-of-fact delivery rings with equal parts self-confidence and compassion, bringing her out of the fray unscathed.

Because of its condescending elements, “One of Us Must Know” finds company in a long line of Dylan songs that Barbara O’Dair calls “put-down songs about women,” all of which contain material that have been interpreted as misogynistic, and many of which have been embraced by female Dylan fans. O’Dair says of this phenomenon that “Dylan uses macho stereotypes for a good story” (85). She asserts that women adopt these “macho” stories in order to tell their own, and she writes, “If machismo can have rebellious radiance . . . girls, too, can use this transgressive energy to assert themselves” (85). In this regard, Chrissie Hynde’s version of “Sweetheart like You” from Infidels is even more compelling than Swift’s “One of Us Must Know.” Jonathan Lethem says that “Sweetheart Like You” is “mainly remembered as an affront to feminists, for the title phrase, a seemingly obnoxious and banal seducer’s line . . . and for the verse couplet” about a woman’s place being in the home (164). Lethem goes on to brush this criticism under the rug, saying that “for most listeners the lines will be redeemed by both context and presentation” (164). If only those two lines were the least of the song’s offenses, Lethem might be right. After all, the controversial words, “a woman like you should be at home / That’s where you belong” can at least be read as the well-intentioned statement of a man of chivalry who wishes to take care of a woman. That notion may be dated or even sexist, but it is understandable. But even if we justify the good-natured sexism of those lines, many of the song’s lyrics move beyond corny to creepy. The title phrase isn’t the song’s only horrible pick-up line; he follows up with the gem, “I once knew a woman who looked like you / She wanted a whole man, not just half / She used to call me sweet daddy when I was only a child.” Then there are the interpretive complications brought by the song’s Biblical references. The narrator speaks of the woman’s father, who “has a house with many mansions, each one of them” with a “fireproof floor.” Here, Dylan puts his own spin on John 14:2, in which Jesus says, “My father’s house has many rooms” (New International Version). With this reference to Jesus and a heavenly home, the song’s sweetheart becomes a kind of Christ figure, or at least a martyr, subject to those who “hiss” and gossip behind her back. Perhaps these references are meant as compliments to the song’s sweetheart, but when the narrator tells her to “snap out of it, baby, people are jealous of you,” it is hard to tell whether such a comment is meant to be helpful or is yet another dubious pickup line. 

All of these lines hit differently when imagined as a woman speaking to another woman or a woman speaking to herself. They sound understanding, accepting, even helpful. As with other lines that sound condescending when coming from a man to a woman, “Snap out of it, baby,” takes on a different tone when self-directed, for who among us has not needed to give ourselves a wakeup call? What is this good girl doing in a place where she knows she should not be? It is a question many have asked themselves when their choices have led them to dark places. In this context, a potentially disturbing line like “Just how much abuse will you be able to take? / Well, there’s no way to tell by that first kiss,” takes on a wry, self-knowing tone. And when Hynde sings of “making the queen disappear with a flick of the wrist” we can almost imagine a woman playing that card trick on herself as she trades out her good girl image of a “queen” for a different, more scandalous one. At least, in this scenario, the choice is hers alone; no one is playing this sweetheart for a fool. With Hynde at the helm, “Sweetheart Like You” explores new territory. Although the song slides away from clear, unified interpretation no matter who sings it, having a female narrator sing the song to herself suddenly makes us suspect that a woman, too, may embody multitudes: Sweetheart, Scoundrel, Queen, Messiah? She contains them all.

Emma Swift’s cover of Dylan’s 2020 release, “I Contain Multitudes” explores the wide range of identities and attitudes available to women who are bold enough to claim them. In “I Contain Multitudes,” Dylan connects himself to a broad poetic and cultural tradition—mostly male and Western—as he claims kinship with Walt Whitman, William Blake, and Edgar Allen Poe, among others. In addition to proclaiming his belonging in this Hall of Fame, the song reasserts Dylan’s complexity and his ever-shifting status as an unpindownable artist. O’Dair writes that Dylan’s “shape-shifting offers him greater aesthetic freedom” (85). In her cover of “I Contain Multitudes,” Emma Swift steps boldly into that freedom, claiming inner multitudes for herself and for all women. For anyone but Dylan it might sound overly boastful to rank himself among the litany of literary greats that litter his lyrics. For Swift, it is downright disruptive.       When Dylan-as-narrator sings of flashing the “rings on [his] fingers,” driving “fast cars,” eating “fast foods,” and hanging out with rough young men, the listener may read it as a sign that the aging rock star hasn’t lost his edge, regardless of Dylan’s intentions in these lines. Swift’s declarations of the same connote the confidence of the cool girl who does what she wants. She keeps company with “Indiana Jones and those British Bad Boys, the Rolling Stones,” but she is no groupie. In taking on the songs of Bob Dylan, she has already established her rightful place on stage as a rock star herself. Indeed, she claims that place boldly with a fresh performance that almost rewrites the tune of “I Contain Multitudes,” unearthing melodic nuances from Dylan’s recording and adding her own ornamentation with grace notes and appoggiaturas that enliven the music and support the poetry.

 Swift’s “I Contain Multitudes” feels revolutionary in the female voice; this claim of multiplicity is not just big in the way that Whitney Houston’s “I’m Every Woman” is big, which, despite its empowering vocal gyrations, still boils down to the woman’s ability to please a lover through the many versions of herself. Instead, “I Contain Multitudes” makes a powerful statement about artistry and personality in a space previously only available to men. A line like “I’m a man of contradictions and a man of many moods,” is fine for a man to say, but for a woman to admit to such “hysterical female” tropes is practically subversive. It’s all right, though; like Dylan, Swift has “no apologies to make.” Chrissie Hynde and Emma Swift are big girls now, and their tough, tender takes on these Dylan classics leave the listener in no doubt of their maturity.


Works Cited

Chrissie Hynde. Standing in the Doorway: Chrissie Hynde Sings Bob Dylan. BMG Rights Management (UK), May 2021.

Emma Swift, 2021, https://www.emmaswift.com/.

Emma Swift. Blonde on the Tracks. Patrick Sansone, Tiny Ghost Records, August 2020.

Grow, Kory. “Chrissie Hynde Brings It All Back Home on Her Dylan Covers LP ‘Standing in the Doorway’.” Rolling Stone, Rolling Stone, 21 May 2021, https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-album-reviews/chrissie-hynde-standing-in-the-doorway-bob-dylan-review-1170654/.

New International Version. Bible Gateway. http://www.biblegateway.com Accessed 21 Dec. 2021.

Lethem, Jonathan. “Infidels (1983).” The Cambridge Companion to Bob Dylan, edited by Kevin Dettmar, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2009, pp. 160–166.

O’ Dair, Barbara. “Bob Dylan and Gender Politics.” The Cambridge Companion to Bob Dylan, edited by Kevin Dettmar, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2009, pp. 80–86.



Christopher Rollason. Read Books, Repeat Quotations: The Literary Bob Dylan. Gateshead (UK): Two Riders, 2021. 221 pp.

REVIEW BY Dave Junker, University of Texas at Austin

Not every book title is worth explicating. But Read Books, Repeat Quotations: The Literary Bob Dylan, is more than “a lure, a come on, a puzzle,” to borrow Stephen Scobie’s phrasing in his preface to this valuable contribution to the study of Bob Dylan (4). As a recognizable quote from “Love Minus Zero/No Limit,” the title of this collection of essays serves as a wink and an invitation to those familiar with it—a not-that-exclusive club of rock fans, Dylan fans, and scholars. Thematically, it is also a useful quote for raising the curtain on Rollason’s main show: the “literary” aspects of Dylan. Yet after reading the book from cover to cover, one might also picture the phrase as the command of an imperious God, sung into the critic’s ear, translated something like this: “Go forth, Dr. Rollason, and find the sources of every literary allusion and intertextual crumb in these selected Dylan songs and bring them to me in an orderly fashion, with no mistakes, or else.” While this quest may not sound as entertaining as a picaresque Dylan narrative, the rewards of Rollason’s methodical quest are always bountiful, and should please not only his task-master muse, but also a wide audience of readers.

The intention behind the book title, of course, is to bring our attention to a specific understanding of “the literary,” one that privileges textual and formalistic elements, in particular the “complexity, ambiguity, figures of speech” and “multiple interpretability” of song texts. The literary tradition most relevant here is a decidedly canonical one: the King James Bible; Homer; Ovid; Shakespeare; Keats, Wordsworth and Shelley; Edgar Allan Poe; T.S. Eliot and the Beats. It is important to note that in identifying such a focus, Rollason situates this collection of essays within a field of Dylan studies that he himself has played a significant part in establishing. In fact, he is currently on the editorial board of this publication, the Dylan Review. Proving Dylan’s literary bona fides is another way of saying Dylan matters, and Rollason provides further proof that Dylan belongs in the company of our great writers and that a literary analytical framework can enrich his work and our experience of it. In his detailed and scrupulous way, Rollason outlines an impressive array of literary evidence that shows Dylan as a poet “in [whom] the dead poets, his ancestors, assert their immortality most vigorously,” a measure of greatness T.S. Eliot outlined in his famous essay, “Tradition and the Individual Talent.” 

Certainly, there are limitations to Rollason’s circumscribed field of the literary. But the rewards of this collection of essays, many published over the course of the past twenty-five years, far outweigh the limits of its clearly defined scope. Seeing where the treasures appear, and in what hidden forms, offers surprises, revelations, and reconsiderations that more than compensate for the book’s inattention to voice and sound, for example, which themselves have legitimate claims as literary elements. Further, as those who have read some of the book’s previously published chapters well know, Rollason is an engaging guide, graceful writer and generous fount of knowledge far beyond the Western literary tradition. Above all, Rollason’s scholarly pathways are always well-lit by his deep affection and profound respect for the art, the artist, and the critical endeavor itself.

One of the most noteworthy things about the book is its coherence, consistency and efficiency, despite the fact that so many of the essays (ten of thirteen) have been previously published. As Scobie writes in his preface, in the chapters that focus on songs, Rollason “always begins with establishing a ‘default’ text . . . which may then be subjected to the conventional procedures of literary criticism” (6). This is indeed the case in all nine of the chapters dedicated to detailed readings of individual songs. These include insightful readings of some widely known and canonical songs such as “Desolation Row” and “Shelter from the Storm.” Other chapters feature lesser-known compositions like “Bob Dylan’s Dream,” “Lay Down your Weary Tune,” “Senor (Tales of Yankee Power),” and the recent “Murder Most Foul.” Nuanced and engaging chapters on “Man in the Long Black Coat,” “Dignity,” “Ain’t Talkin’,” and “Red River Shore” provide deserved recognition for a small sample of Dylan’s many diamonds in the rough. Despite the fact that some of these essays have two decades of space between, they never feel that way, as Rollason employs the same structure and critical voice throughout—as if he had always planned to assemble them as a book.

While some might wish to skip over Rollason’s “painstaking, meticulous” (Scobie 6) efforts to establish a default text, and get straight to the main course of song analysis, his careful diligence is a thing to witness. Every song is not just a case to be solved, but a sacred mystery requiring ritualistic devotion. I say ritualistic because, in most cases, the process fails to alter the seemingly predestined course of action—to defer to the original studio recording as the default text. In his analysis of “Shelter from the Storm,” for example, Rollason concludes, after a lengthy parsing of minor variations among printed and recorded versions, that “the discarded variants” are in “virtually all cases inferior to what we find in the Blood on the Tracks version” (81). This tone of abrupt finality is a little jarring at first. Why go through all the trouble of eliminating the significance of other song variants, if this is where we almost invariably end up? For non-Dylan scholars, this question will echo like a refrain throughout the book. But patient readers will come to appreciate the practical value of this process. As he explains later in the same essay, acknowledging the litany of variants has merit as “part of the song’s intertext” even if the variants are “not absolutely essential to its understanding” (81). This wisdom is borne out in many of the close readings: Rollason frequently calls upon this knowledge of textual variants to enrich the intertextual literary dialogue, add nuance to his close readings, and to reinforce or problematize currents in the critical conversation.

Rollason is also meticulous about classifying and categorizing relevant critical views, outlining the elements of prosody in every line and stanza, and rehearsing the facts at hand regarding self-evident allusions. He traces barely visible intertextual clues with microscopic focus while attempting to identify sources and contexts for intertextual echoes and literary allusions. He is always generous and judicious in recognizing scholarly precedent. Dylan critics Aidan Day, Michael Gray, Greil Marcus, Andrew Muir, Christopher Ricks, Richard Thomas, and Scobie make frequent appearances.

In less capable hands, Rollason’s method might make for a tedious, repetitious read. But Rollason is attentive to the needs and interests of a range of readers, not just the true believers. Most chapters are readable in a short sitting, and the arrangement of essays creates both a theoretical framework and narrative arc that makes this an accessible and informative read rather than a dense and lifeless tome. As the book jacket notes, Rollason has published roughly seventy articles on Dylan, from conference papers to blog posts to album reviews. Writing for such forums has no doubt honed his knack for short-form essays that serve a potential range of readerly expertise. All efficiently organized, no chapter is longer than twenty pages and most are fewer than ten (when excluding endnotes and bibliographies). Ten of the thirteen chapters are expanded versions of previously published articles or conference papers, in sources ranging from the Bob Dylan Critical Website and Rollason’s own blog, to an Edgar Allan Poe conference in Spain and a critical volume on Indian Writing in English. Those already familiar with any of these, or with Rollason’s work more generally, will be pleased to know that the three previously unpublished chapters are among the most engaging and insightful of the collection: these include one comparing Dylan’s views of nature in “Lay Down Your Weary Tune” and “Every Grain of Sand”; to a fine-tooth explication of “Desolation Row”; and a deserving treatment of the under-appreciated “Red River Shore.” In keeping with his style and method, these chapters provide critical context, technical classification, and the sources of every conceivable literary echo from the King James Bible and Shakespeare, to Shelley, Wordsworth and Poe.

Another wise structural choice Rollason makes is to open the book with a 2016 essay defending Dylan’s selection for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Whether one cares about the controversy or not, Rollason’s agile defense of the award and shrewd interrogation of naysayers will still impress. By virtue of its position, the essay also becomes a justification for Rollason’s focus and methodology and a deeper view into his proclivities as a critic and scholar. His main line of argument is direct: For a prize “in the field of literature,” it would stand to reason that Dylan should be defended on strictly literary grounds, while other arguments can be dispatched by slotting them into “five types, namely:”

generic/categorical (“I have nothing against Dylan’s songwriting, but songwriting just isn’t literature”); generic/qualitative (“rock lyrics can’t be poetry and this award dumbs down the Nobel”); individual-centered (“Dylan doesn’t need the Nobel or the money”); politically correct/“lefter-than-thou” (“Dylan wrote against war, so he should refuse the prize”); and feminist/identitarian (“Dylan is just another white male”). (13)

To his credit, Rollason takes up each one with specific instances, though I did feel that he gave short shrift to the “feminist/identitarian” argument, ignoring the gravity of the cultural moment (the convergence of #MeToo, Black Lives Matter, and the election of Donald Trump). Despite this, I walked away from the essay with a sense that not only was the award justified, but it was a triumph for artistic freedom, as he argues, and a hopeful note for a renewed public engagement with Dylan. At the close of this first essay, unchanged from the article’s initial publication, Rollason provides a rationale for Dylan the Nobel winner that could not have been more appropriately phrased if it had been conceived as the rationale for this book, published five years later:

By looking in this article at the objections to his Nobel I hope to have helped better establish the case in favour. However, in the end that case can only rest on Bob Dylan’s song texts, and in the wake of the Nobel, I invite those who do not know his songs to discover them, and those who know them to return to them—to read the words first, and then listen to the texts as song (20).

One might argue that Rollason gets the order wrong—that listening to the recordings and performances should come first, as Dylan is first a songwriter and singer. But the rebuttal he has just made to such “generic/categorical” anti-Nobel claims is enough to incline any reader to accept Rollason’s invitation to join him on his guided tour of chosen “song texts.”

In his chapter on “Desolation Row,” and the chapter comparing “Lay Down Your Weary Tune” and “Every Grain of Sand,” Rollason highlights Dylan’s technical gifts as a poet, his engagement with the forms and ideas of Romanticism and Modernism, and his astonishing absorption of the core texts of Western high culture as well as “low” culture vernaculars. In dexterous prose, Rollason weaves partial quotes in with critical summary, along with identification of intertextual cues, full quotes of stanzas, and commentary on the implications of prosody and allusion. In his analysis of “Every Grain of Sand,” Rollason identifies subtle allusions to the diction and syntax from Genesis 4:1-15 and Mathew 10:30. Such references, when discussed in their Biblical context, help draw clearer distinctions between the “healing” depiction of nature in “Weary Tune” with the potentially “intimidating and oppressive” power of nature in “Every Grain of Sand” (53). His analysis in this chapter is also a good example of when Rollason’s disclosure of lyric variants ends up playing a meaningful role in his textual analysis. In the song’s closing couplet, “perfect finished plan” has a “comforting finality” that the variant “reality of man,” a phrase that “exclude[s] the natural world,” does not. Putting his conclusions in dialogue with Michael Gray’s, Rollason also considers the line “every sparrow falling” as an allusion to Mathew 10:29 and its echoes in Hamlet, “when the prince declares: ‘There’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow.’” As a result, Rollason questions, or at least adds complexity to, Gray’s conclusion that the song’s narrator experiences a “reconciliation with God.” What kind of reconciliation is it, Rollason asks, where such an “image of cruelty” prevails?

For those who know the oeuvre of Rollason’s writings on Dylan, it may not come as a surprise to find his essay on “Bob Dylan’s Dream” (first published in 2000) positioned as the second chapter of the book, for it demonstrates a notable synergy between scholarly sleuthing and critical speculation. The implications extend not only to the interpretation of the song, but also to the conventional understanding of Dylan’s move away from protest. Setting his analysis of this “very strange song” from The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan in dialogue with other commentary, sparse as it is, Rollason reveals a subtext that foreshadows Dylan’s later ambivalence about, if not outright renunciation of, protest. While this attitude came into clearer view on Another Side of Bob Dylan, Rollason shows us the seeds of disillusionment two records prior, a stunning suggestion given that it preceded one of the greatest protest albums of all time, led by the eponymous title track “The Times They Are a-Changin’” (1964). Nonetheless, after a lengthy discussion of “Lord Franklin,” the English folk ballad on which Dylan based his melody and some elements of the song’s narrative, Rollason makes a persuasive case that “’Bob Dylan’s Dream,’ . . . seems to be anticipating the death of the 1960s, expressing the fear that the decade’s hopes of liberation would disintegrate even as they were being spun” (36). Such a view might be glimpsed from an imaginative reading of the lyrics themselves. But backlit by “Lord Franklin,” Rollason shows how the song implicates “the problem of authority” with which the “radical youth movement” had to “come to terms.” Rollason elaborates:

Dylan’s group of friends, “quite satisfied” with their values and lifestyle, appears deceptively fixated on youth autonomy, with authority seemingly erased altogether. The new consciousness will not survive unless it manages to deal with authority, not as a purely external force (“the wicked world outside”), but as a presence within—the other voice in that inner dialogue between authoritarian and libertarian selves which Dylan, years later in the Infidels album in 1983, was to dramatize memorably as “I and I.”

Whether you reach the same conclusion as Rollason, it may not be possible to un-hear the intertextual echoes of this reading every time you re-listen to “Bob Dylan’s Dream.”

The chapter is one of many edifying moments in “the Literary Bob Dylan” that will influence my own experience of particular songs and of Dylan more generally. This is especially true of Rollason’s chapter on “Dylan and Edgar Allan Poe,” one of the few chapters that does not focus on particular songs (The others being his opening chapter on Dylan and the Nobel Prize, “Dylan and Salman Rushdie,” and his very brief concluding chapter, “Dylan Studies: The Future”). Here Rollason’s expert knowledge of Poe’s work and influences shows Dylan’s own deep knowledge of Poe’s work. Rollason goes far beyond instances of direct quotation, embedded quotation, and allusion to identify interesting parallels as cultural figures and between their shared aesthetics. Since Rough and Rowdy Ways, the presence of Poe in Dylan’s work would be hard for most people to miss. But Rollason shows how Poe’s gothic sensibility and imagistic landscape have been there all along.

Despite its contributions to Dylan scholarship, however, this chapter underscores what is a fair criticism of the book’s version of the literary. The endeavor of cataloging and classifying in  minute detail, as worthwhile as this review has shown such an endeavor to be, can sometimes have the effect of watching a spelling bee. The discussion on the page can start to feel more like a contest, where the naming of references and echoes, like the spelling of long or obscure words —removed from the dynamic world of language—becomes an end in itself. I sometimes found myself asking, what is the point of this detective work? What are we learning? For Dylan scholars, the answers may be obvious, but even to learned and culturally literate fans, the answers may be less clear.

Another point of criticism is what feels like an unstated edict in this collection to banish all talk of music, sound, texture, and performance. Limiting the field of analysis is necessary, but in many chapters I found myself questioning the ability to reach general conclusions about the meaning of a song text without serious attention to music, sound, texture, and vocal performance. In analyses of the dead poets, after all, we are encouraged to imagine the sound of things, and how poets cultivate personas that call on our experience of the spoken word in all its dynamic wonder. Why then can’t the sound of Dylan singing, within the context of music and song, be at least a reference point when it is right there in front of us? Such consideration would sometimes complicate text-only interpretations and at other times simplify them. But doing so seems important and justified, given the larger objectives of better understanding and appreciating Dylan’s songs and art. Ignoring sonic and performative dimensions makes textual analysis more controllable but can render the work of art inert and lifeless. As I reflect on this problem, the persistent echo of “Ballad of a Thin Man” echoes in my head:

Ah, you’ve been with the professors and they’ve all liked your looks

With great lawyers you have discussed lepers and crooks

You’ve been through all of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books

You’re very well-read, it’s well-known

But something is happening here and you don’t know what it is

Do you, Mr. Jones?

No one could accuse Rollason of not being “very well-read.” But Dylan’s sneering criticism of erudition for its own sake, or for its use as a tool to legitimate status and power, offers a relevant counterpoint to Rollason’s strict adherence to the textual field and to traditional modes of literary analysis. On the page, this song’s disapproval of conventional respectability is impossible to miss. Despite all your learning, he is saying, you can’t see the deeper reality, whatever it is. This skepticism of the established order could be dismissed as one of the trite pronouncements of the 60s counterculture Dylan helped articulate. But it reaches another level of intensity entirely, like getting stabbed with a knife, when you can hear Dylan singing it. And isn’t this sound of Dylan’s voice, reverberating in the smoke-rings of our minds, an element of intertextuality as well?

Despite some misgivings about Rollason’s narrow definition of the literary, this book, for what it aspires to be, is a remarkable collection of criticism. It will appeal to a wide range of readers and help lay the foundation for a legacy of Dylan scholarship that will inspire new readings and new directions for years to come.


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Bob Dylan in concert, Indiana University, November 7, 2021.

REVIEW AND ILLUSTRATION BY Evan Sennett, Indiana University

Bob Dylan Concerts Resume: The New Rough and Rowdy Ways World Wide Tour

As the silhouettes line the stage, Bob Dylan, now in his 80s, finds his seat in the center. He is mostly concealed by his upright piano, but he sits tall with a fiendish, lopsided grin. Happy to finally return to the stage? The maestro chuckles as he breathes his first lyric of the night: “What’s the matter with me? I don’t have much to say.” He laughs at his own irony. Not one minute into his show and he’s apparently run out of ideas.

The opening tune is relatively obscure, like many of the songs chosen for the new Rough and Rowdy Ways World Wide Tour. Originally released on his 1971 album Greatest Hits Vol. II, “Watching the River Flow” tells the story of a frustrated insomniac stuck in an “all-night café,” tasked with observing controversies. The insomniac—possibly one of Dylan’s alter-egos—finds himself both troubled and fascinated by the discrepancies of the world: “people disagreeing everywhere you look / Makes you wanna stop and read a book.” Chaos breeds curiosity. The opening song is as much about writing as it is about watching. And Dylan can’t look away.

The first time I saw Dylan live, I couldn’t look away either. Excited as I was, I entered the music hall with caution. Everyone seemed to have a different opinion about the live Dylan experience. My high school English teacher warned me she had seen him years ago, and “he stunk.” So I expected something controversial. Songs I knew (and loved) would surely be present, but distorted. The question seemed to be, how will Dylan disappoint me tonight?

The show I saw in high school was part of the decades-long Never Ending Tour, a near constant run of concerts around the world, which finally did end in late 2019, as the COVID-19 crisis began. Playing many of his more recognizable hits from the 60s and 70s, along with a few songs from his then-new album Tempest (2012), Dylan treated his audience to a balanced mix of old and new. But there was little I could do to capture the experience. Unlike many rock concerts, Dylan’s shows strictly forbid photography. Perhaps as a way to enforce this policy, a dozen or so mirrors were scattered across the stage, directly facing the audience. If anyone attempted to take a flash-photo, the image would come back as a blur. In this chapter of the “Never Ending Tour,” Dylan hid behind the reflected image of his listeners. Aside from some grainy bootlegs on YouTube, Dylan, the uncapturable performer, is only visible in the present moment—he becomes his audience.

Now with Dylan in a new chapter of his career, the “Rough and Rowdy Ways” tour comes with no mirrors. The six-piece band stands in an arch around Dylan’s piano, all of them dressed head to toe in black. Charley Drayton on drums, Bob Britt and Doug Lancio play guitar, and Tony Garnier, a Dylan regular since the early days of the Never Ending Tour, returns to play electric and double bass. All the way stage left, Donnie Herron wears many hats, complementing Dylan’s piano with violin, accordion, steel guitar, and more. Each member of the band soaks in more stage lighting than Dylan himself. The front man of the shadows remains less visible than the rest.

Illustration of Bob Dylan singing into a microphone

Bob Dylan, the “philosopher pirate,” docks in Bloomington

Before long, Dylan presents his newest songs. Bloomington, Indiana, was only the fifth stop on the new tour, which means it was also only the fifth time most of the setlist has ever been performed live. With “I Contain Multitudes,” the opening track from Rough and Rowdy Ways, Dylan abandons his equipment stand. The mic cable becomes his prop, following him across the stage. Dylan looks like an old gospel singer (or stand-up comedian). He really does contain multitudes.

The Whitman-inspired song is a slow-moving confessional, and it invites reaction. Dylan points to the audience, and in turn, we applaud, shout, and whistle to the strange collage of names in the lyrics:

I’m just like Anne Frank . . . like Indiana Jones

And them British bad boys the Rolling Stones

I go right to the edge—I go right to the end

I go where all things lost—are made good again

The crowd punctuates each refrain of “I contain multitudes,” cheering him along as if the Nobel laureate were at a slam poetry reading. Dylan is all smiles, delighted, perhaps, at the active call and response. I’ve never seen him so interactive—so happy to perform. But how could a name like Anne Frank provoke such celebration at a rock concert?

In last year’s interview with the New York Times, Dylan notes that “the names themselves are not solitary. It’s the combination of them that adds up to something more than their singular parts.” The “trilogy” of names in this verse creates something, as a collective. The entire setlist works in this way. No random mashup of greatest hits, the new tour presents us with a thematic narrative, each song complicating the previous one. Separate from any individual song or album, the “Rough and Rowdy Ways” tour is a story of its own.

And the story Dylan weaves together, in this particular setlist, is a map of identities. The fictional Indiana Jones, himself a collage of inspirations from James Bond to Errol Flynn, is given unusual space to mingle with the famous diarist and holocaust victim. The Rolling Stones, pioneers in their own right, complete the trifecta. All three figures help make sense of Dylan’s own presentation as part rock star, part confessional author, and part archeologist of long forgotten treasures—a witness of the unimaginable and yet to be imagined.

If the names in “I Contain Multitudes” show us how Dylan sees himself, “My Own Version of You,” performed later in the concert, reveals how he combines these seemingly unrelated influences:

All through the summers and into January

I’ve been visiting morgues and monasteries

Looking for the necessary body parts

Limbs and livers and brains and hearts

The macabre description makes him chuckle. He can’t help but narrate this sinister theme with half a smile. The song details the Frankenstein-like process of taking bits and pieces from songs across recording history, finally coalescing into the performance we see tonight. The resulting monster is difficult to identify: a kind of waltz, kind of spoken word poem, topped off with an extended slide guitar solo by Herron. The enigmatic piece eventually fades out with Dylan slamming disparate piano keys, searching for some coherent meaning with his fingers, but mostly landing on stale notes that go nowhere at all.

Such is the creative process—the procedure is simultaneously a tribute to older songs, and an assault on its many influences. After all, to grave-rob something it has to be dead first. Carving out a liver here, a heart there, Dylan transmits some motifs from the past and abandons others. Creating is, for Dylan, both a celebration and a violation. And the live performance might just be that final “strike of lighting” which brings everything to (new) life.

This kind of thematic grit works well with Dylan’s famous vocal timbre—scraggly, nasally, and mumbling. But tonight his vocal mix is crystal clear, like a whisper. In “I’ve Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You,” Dylan draws out every word with an emotional vibrato. Suddenly, the “you” in each song belongs, not to some distant lover, but to us:

I’m giving myself to you, I am

From Salt Lake City to Birmingham

From East L.A. to San Antone

I don’t think I could bear to live my life alone

The musician’s tour schedule becomes a love ballad, and we are on the receiving end of that romance. It’s a kind of vulnerability you would never expect from the man who at one time shielded his face behind a thick layer of white makeup. And here we sit, witnessing a performance with our own masks. Except we cover our faces to prevent the spread of disease, while Dylan devotes himself to us.

Even the older songs, scattered through the setlist, grapple with the complex dialogue of creating music, and the responsibilities at both ends of that conversation. We might continue to read the “you” in older classics like “Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine)” and “To Be Alone with You” as quasi-romantic confessions, an open-ended bond between Dylan and his listeners. Playing these songs from his own past, the eighty-year-old singer momentarily forgets a phrase. He quickly glances at a lyric sheet on top of his piano, and without skipping a single measure, recovers. “I almost forgot all the words to that,” he admits after the song ends. “I almost did!” But he didn’t. The audience laughs, comforted by his humility.

Not one to get caught up in nostalgia, Dylan instead keeps only one eye on the past, with the other on the future. “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” remains a mainstay of Dylan’s setlist in recent years. A relic from his back catalogue, the song also forecasts a distant day when “everything is gonna be diff’rent.” As a fan, it is good to know that Dylan has yet to compose his greatest work. But the song is also a reminder that Dylan himself bears a heavy burden: he must always find new ways to top himself. It’s an impossible goal. He has a method, however. As he reflects on his older material, he also searches for points of identification in the very songs which inspired him in the first place.

If we’re not careful, we might consider this never-ending task of scavenging meaning from old songs, and lifting them into new ones, a kind of plagiarism. But Dylan is no plagiarist—he’s a philosopher pirate. At least, that’s what he calls himself in “Key West,” one of his newer tracks. A shift from warm, red lighting to tropical blue and pink, the live performance of “Key West” is more than a confessional. It’s a downright ode to piracy.

“I’m searching for love,” he claims, “for inspiration / On that pirate radio station.” His voice meanders with a slow, melody-less accordion. For the next ten minutes, Dylan is in control of a trance. The spell harnesses visions of even more influences, all of them, in some way, related to the author. Dylan spins a song in which poets of the past were created in his image: “I was born on the wrong side of the railroad track / Like Ginsberg, Corso and Kerouac / Like Louie and Jimmy and Buddy and all of the rest.” The six influences in question cast a pall over the song. Is this a celebration, or a dirge?

And where does Dylan fit in this canon? Perhaps he meets this question of legacy with ambivalence, surrendering himself to his listeners, his partners-in-crime, for an answer. We have determined his status before, and consider him a living legend. Not that Dylan seeks out any particular label, but he does accept what he is given:

Twelve years old and they put me in a suit

Forced me to marry a prostitute

There were gold fringes on her wedding dress

That’s my story but not where it ends

She’s still cute and we’re still friends

Down in the bottom—way down in Key West

By this point in the song, we are well into the trance. He may not be able to control his legacy, but he can control these hypnotic episodes on stage.

The dream slowly ending, it came time to introduce the band. Dylan usually doesn’t offer a lot of banter on stage. But on his way out he did have this to say: “Alright now, on behalf of my band we want to thank you for coming out tonight—we really do. It’s really good to be in a place—a university—especially where people think for themselves.” Dylan never patronizes an audience, but he does trust us. He seems to believe that we will interpret the performance correctly, even if he offers no clear thesis. I might take a liver, and you might take a heart, but we aren’t required to take anything at all. No specific message can be found. If Dylan endorses anything, it’s discrepancy, not resolution. At the very least, controversy is stimulating—enjoy it!

Sometimes the conflict of ideas—the ways in which they clash together, polyphonically—is exactly what Dylan is after. And the Rough and Rowdy Ways World Wide Tour does not shy away from polyphony. Dylan can’t tell us how to resolve conflicts, only how to embrace them as creative opportunities. Borrowing ideas from the American music canon, Dylan faces the challenge of placing himself among that list. As he mentions in one of his new songs, he is “no false prophet.” Thanks to us, he’s the real thing.



The Hal Lindsey Effect: Bob Dylan’s Christian Eschatology 

ARTICLE BY Jeffrey Lamp, Oral Roberts University

Abstract: In the thought of popular Christian personality Hal Lindsey, Bob Dylan found a theological construct that would inform his own Christian experience in three significant ways. First, Lindsey’s popular eschatological teaching informed Dylan’s own understanding of the end times, which is evident in his lyrics and in his more prosaic pronouncements. Second, Lindsey provided Dylan with a heuristic for bringing together the Jewish and Christian strands of his religious pilgrimage. Third, Lindsey’s views on Israel’s place in God’s end-times plan and his stance that human political influences played no significant role in establishing the kingdom of God informed Dylan’s political philosophy of “Christian anarchism.”

Keywords: Bob Dylan, Hal Lindsey, eschatology, Christianity



Bob Dylan’s so-called “Christian/gospel period” has received renewed, and in many cases appreciative, attention in recent years. In 2017 a pair of key works documented Dylan’s output during the period 1979–1981, the years in which Dylan’s albums Slow Train Coming, Saved, and Shot of Love appeared. The thirteenth entry in the Bootleg Series, titled Trouble No More, a nine-disc set that included studio and live recordings from this period along with Jennifer Lebeau’s documentary film of the same title, was released, along with Clinton Heylin’s book, Trouble in Mind, which provided a narrative of the period. With reports of Dylan’s conversion to Christianity in 1978, the release of the gospel-themed Slow Train Coming in 1979, and a gospel-only tour launched later that year, Dylan’s fan base reeled in shock and, not infrequently, anger. The passage of nearly four decades has allowed for a more reasoned appraisal of the material from this period, with scores of studies emerging in academic circles analyzing both the music and its creator.[1]     

My initial interest was to determine theological influences on Bob Dylan’s eschatology, as seen in such songs as “When He Returns” and “Are You Ready?” As it turned out, a strong candidate quickly emerged: Hal Lindsey, a well-known minister whose famous book The Late Great Planet Earth had captured the imaginations of millions of readers in the 1970s with its sensationalistic interpretation of biblical teachings on the end times. This finding was not only obvious; it was highly disappointing. As I continued my research, I began to see that the influence of Lindsey’s book on Bob Dylan was more intricate. Anticipating the results of this study, Hal Lindsey’s eschatology functions in a multi-faceted way in Dylan’s thought. At a basic level, Lindsey provides the newly converted Dylan with a specifically Christian source of imagery to direct Dylan’s long-established appropriation of prophetic biblical language in his new gospel way. At another level, Lindsey’s emphasis on the role of Jews and the current state of Israel in God’s end time program provided Dylan with a heuristic that allowed him to integrate the Judaism of his background with his new Christian faith. At yet another level, Lindsey’s thought provided Dylan a way to express what has been called his political “anarchism” in a way consistent with his new Christian faith.[2] First, though, we need to look at what Hal Lindsey brings to the table and how he and Bob Dylan found themselves there together.

The Dylan-Lindsey Connection

Hal Lindsey, born November 23, 1929, is a well-known twentieth- (and twenty-first-) century figure on the American religious landscape, having first and most prominently made his mark with the publication of his best-selling book The Late Great Planet Earth in 1970.[3] Lindsey was educated at Dallas Theological Seminary, the educational bastion of a theological position known as dispensationalism. In its basic form, dispensationalism holds that God’s dealings with human beings follow in a series of historical epochs, or dispensations, each administered by a certain kind of covenantal relationship. The foundations of dispensationalism involve creative exegesis of such biblical texts as Revelation, Daniel, and Ezekiel, along with apocalyptic passages from the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 24:1–44; Mark 13:1–26; Luke 21:5–28) and passages from certain of Paul’s letters (e.g., Romans 9–11, 1 Thessalonians 4:13–5:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:1–12). Lindsey made his own distinctive contribution to dispensationalism by providing a further degree of exegesis that included reading certain twentieth-century events into the dispensational framework. The resulting presentation was The Late Great Planet Earth, a highly sensational prophetic oracle that portrayed recent history as the harbinger of the impending end of the age.

For Lindsey, the establishment of the nation of Israel in 1948 marked a key event in God’s prophetic program. It marked the point at which God would begin to fulfill ancient promises made to the Jewish people but that had been put on hold with the coming of Jesus as the Messiah and the inauguration of the “church age” in which Gentiles would be granted access to God’s kingdom. It also marked the beginning of the last days. It would only be a short time before the church would be “raptured” from earth to heaven by Jesus, the world would enter into a seven-year period of tribulation, and Jesus would return and establish his 1,000-year-long, or millennial, reign on earth with his redeemed people. Precursors to this event were certain portents, such as famines, earthquakes, and wars. But most fantastically, recent historical events were sure signs that these things were about to come to pass. Lindsey read certain political movements and crises as fulfillments of biblical prophecies. The emergence of Arab nations surrounding the state of Israel and their growing economic and military power were a constant threat to God’s chosen people. Moreover, Cold War tensions were a sign that the Soviet Union would become the great Gog and Magog that would attack Israel from the North (cf. Ezekiel 38–39) in the last days. China would be the great force from the East that would join the battle (cf. Revelation 9:16), and the European Economic Community, which would be a revived Roman Empire headed by the Anti-Christ (cf. Daniel 2:42), would attack from the west. The climactic battle would occur in the battle of Armageddon (cf. Revelation 16:13–16), where the Messiah would decisively crush these forces. Significantly, Lindsey did not see the United States prefigured in biblical prophecy, which may indicate, in his thinking, that the United States had ceased to be a major world player by the time of these events. Nevertheless Lindsey does speak to the degrading moral condition of the United States throughout the book, seeing this as portending the coming of the last days.

The point of intersection between Lindsey and Bob Dylan takes place within the context of the emerging Vineyard Fellowship, a loosely connected group of worshiping communities in Southern California founded by Kenn Gulliksen. Gulliksen was on the staff of Calvary Chapel under the pastoral leadership of Chuck Smith when he established a church in Los Angeles in 1974. Dubbed the “pastor of love” by Smith,[4] Gulliksen found a following among the so-called Jesus People Movement of the 1960s and attracted several actors and musicians with Vineyard’s laid back atmosphere and contemporary worship style.[5] The Vineyard at this point did not have a formal theological statement. Hal Lindsey identified with the Vineyard early on and had become close friends with Gulliksen,[6] and so Lindsey’s eschatological teaching unofficially became the position of the Vineyard.

Bob Dylan’s conversion to Christianity took place within the context of the Vineyard Fellowship. In early 1979, his girlfriend at the time, Mary Alice Artes, had been attending a Vineyard church and facilitated a meeting between Dylan and some pastors on staff, Larry Myers and Paul Emond.[7] After his conversion, Dylan surprisingly attended the Vineyard’s School of Discipleship,[8] where some of the themes of Lindsey’s eschatological vision were taught.[9] Dylan also read The Late Great Planet Earth, and was quite taken with it.[10]

Dylan’s familiarity with this book is confirmed in an account by music writer James Riordan on the occasion of Dylan’s 70th birthday.[11] Riordan had just relocated to the Los Angeles area in 1978 and somewhat out of the blue decided to visit a Vineyard Fellowship church service. Sitting near the back, he heard someone singing along to “Amazing Grace” in a rather distinctive voice. He turned and saw it was Dylan. Deciding not to encroach on Dylan’s space in church, Riordan after the service went to the bookstore onsite and perused the latest edition of Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth. From behind him, Dylan made the comment, “Hey, that’s a pretty good book, ain’t it?” Part of Riordan’s motivation for moving to Los Angeles was to make the book into a film (though this was already underway). Deciding not to share this with Dylan, he simply agreed with Dylan’s assessment of the book and the two parted ways. As Riordan made his way to his car in the parking lot, Dylan pulled up to him, rolled down his window, and said, “Hey, see you next week, huh?” This sparked a brief conversation where Riordan shared with Dylan his intention to make Lindsey’s book into a film. According to Riordan, Dylan gave him his phone number and asked Riordan to call him should he be able to schedule a meeting with Lindsey’s people. Riordan was never able to connect with Dylan after that, and the plan for the movie never came to fruition. Yet the anecdote, if true, illustrates Dylan’s connection with Lindsey’s book.

In 2017, Seth Rogovoy wrote a piece in the Jewish online magazine, Forward, in which he shared his change of opinion on the quality of Dylan’s work during his gospel period. Asking the question, was Bob Dylan at his best when he was a Christian?, Rogovoy noted the importance of Hal Lindsey’s book in Dylan’s new Christian walk, saying, “Dylan was very much parroting Lindsey’s line” in his songs and stage raps.[12] Someone brought this piece to Lindsey’s attention, so on his website, Lindsey rejoiced that after four decades, someone still “blames” Lindsey for his role in Dylan’s Christian conversion.[13] Just how much Lindsey is to “blame” for Dylan’s conversion is debatable, but there is no question that, at least in matters of helping Dylan express his newfound Christianity and his own eschatological views, Lindsey’s influence is significant.   


Lindsey and Dylan: The Verbal Connection

To be sure, Bob Dylan did not need Hal Lindsey to introduce him to the prophetic biblical texts that informed some of Dylan’s gospel-era songs. Dylan’s indebtedness to the Bible for his imagery has been well-established.[14] As he has stated in an interview with John Pareles of The New York Times in 1997,[15] Dylan’s lexicon and prayer book for his beliefs are the songs of his early musical nurture, extending as far back as the 1930s. Though Jewish, Dylan found inspiration in the gospel songs of such acts as the Carter Family. Many of these songs, interestingly, emerged from a strand of twentieth-century fundamentalist Christianity that was quite at home within classical dispensationalism. Moreover, his early upbringing as a bar mitzvahed Jewish boy certainly exposed him to some of the biblical sources of this faith, including prophetic texts, and Dylan’s visits to Israel in the earlier part of the 1970s seem to indicate an interest in his Jewish background. Moreover, Dylan did not need Lindsey to introduce him to apocalyptic imagery, as songs such as “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” clearly indicate. Finally, he did not need Lindsey to provide him with the worldview of biblical prophetic justice. Theologian Francis J. Beckwith has argued, “[I]f one carefully inspects Dylan’s Christian albums, one will find an individual who found in the Christian faith an account of the deep moral and social principles that had been lurking behind his pre-Christian work for quite some time.”[16] So if Dylan was conversant with biblical imagery that is related to the kinds of pronouncements Lindsey made, what does Lindsey’s particular expression have to do with Dylan?

If the songs in some way function as Dylan’s lexicon, then it may be fair to say that Lindsey provided the new Christian Bob Dylan with a syntax for expressing this vocabulary. This may be seen in his lyrics, his on-stage raps during his gospel tour of 1979, and in interviews. To each of these we now turn.

The Lyrics

Songs from the albums Slow Train Coming and Saved show clear influence of the brand of eschatology touted by Lindsey. In the song “Gonna Change My Way of Thinking,” Dylan draws from New Testament references to the return of Jesus in the following verse:

Jesus said, “Be ready

For you know not the hour in which I come”

Jesus said, “Be ready

For you know not the hour in which I come”

He said, “He who is not for Me is against Me”

Just so you know where He’s coming from [17]

The suddenness and inability to know of the time of Jesus’ return is standard biblical teaching. Dylan’s emphasis in the final line, laying out the battle lines of allegiance, though biblical, is put here in the context of Jesus’ return. Such an emphasis is at home in Lindsey’s dispensational framework, where eternal destiny is determined based on one’s fealty to Jesus in the final hour.

In many segments of Christianity, the return of Jesus is not viewed in such dread terms. Rather, it is an event that constitutes the very hope of Christians wherein God in Jesus Christ “sets the world to rights,” bringing an end to every evil and establishing a kingdom of joy and righteousness.[18] Yet Dylan, like Lindsey, seems preoccupied with the wrathful side of this event. This is seen clearly in “Are You Ready?”

Are you ready for the judgment?

Are you ready for that terrible swift sword?

Are you ready for Armageddon?

Are you ready for the day of the Lord?[19]

In an alternative couplet from the song “When You Gonna Wake Up” Dylan warns of the sword of judgment that waits to be wielded against those who work unrighteousness in the world when Jesus comes back for his people:

there’s a sword being flashed for all those in sorrow & despair

you won’t find it so hard to imagine when you meet it in the middle of the air [20]

This delight in the judgment and wrath of God at Jesus’ return finds further expression in “When He Returns.”[21]

The iron hand it ain’t no match for the iron rod

The strongest wall will crumble and fall to a mighty God

. . .

Don’t you cry and don’t you die and don’t you burn

For like a thief in the night, He’ll replace wrong with right

When He returns (verse 1)

. . .

He unleashed His power at an unknown hour that no one knew (verse 2)

. . .

Surrender your crown on this blood-stained ground, take off your mask

. . .

Of every earthly plan that be known to man, He is unconcerned

He’s got plans of His own to set up His throne

When He returns (verse 3)

In some discarded lyrics to this song, Dylan connects the biblical teaching to specific historical circumstances of the time. Verse 1 finds the following alternative lyrics:

The communists might be frightenin’ you cause they only believe in man

& the capitalists might be exploitin’ you cause that’s part of their plan [22]

Verse 3 has alternative lines toward the end of the verse:

He’s got His own blueprint for a new government

It’s been prophesized from the beginning of time that He’ll return.[23]

Communists and capitalists alike, with the specific evils of each, will meet a woeful end when Jesus returns to establish his kingdom. The return of Jesus brings with it a cataclysmic end to the current order of things.

In “Trouble in Mind,” an outtake from the Slow Train Coming sessions, Dylan provides alternative lyrics that indicate he sees even the neutron bomb as prophesied from the beginning:

Neutron bombs—

It’s all been predicted

It’s all been foretold [24]

A key element of Lindsey’s interpretation of end time events is that the final conflagration leading to the world’s destruction is nuclear weapons. Dylan seems to agree.

This focus on contemporary events as evidence of an eschatological timetable is further attested in “Slow Train.” Here, in the following lyrics, the rise to economic and political power of Arab nations controlling America’s destiny is evidence that the “slow train comin’ up around the bend” draws ever closer:

All that foreign oil controlling American soil

Look around you, it’s just bound to make you embarrassed

Sheiks walkin’ around like kings

Wearing fancy jewels and nose rings

Deciding America’s future from Amsterdam and to Paris

And there’s a slow, slow train comin’ up around the bend [25]

Such a situation certainly has “Jefferson turnin’ over in his grave” in the home of the brave. In Lindsey’s calculus, the precise role that America plays in the final stages of the eschatological drama is unclear, yet America’s worsening predicament in the world is a harbinger that the time of final reckoning draws nigh.

Even an ostensible love song, “Precious Angel,” contains allusions to Lindsey’s particular eschatology. Dylan laments his friends’ deception as the end time approaches and the dreadful consequences of their delusion:

My so-called friends have fallen under a spell

They look me squarely in the eye and they say, “All is well”

Can they imagine the darkness that will fall from on high

When men will beg God to kill them and they won’t be able to die?[26]

In an alternative verse, Dylan provides more Lindsey-esque detail of the final battle between good and evil, again, in what is framed as more of a love song.







It is interesting that Dylan, even in the time when his faith convictions would come under scrutiny, continued to draw on this type of imagery in his lyrics. On the album Infidels (1983), “Neighborhood Bully” is a song that expresses Lindsey’s assessment of the current state of Israel in God’s eschatological program. The final descriptors of this “bully,” which clearly represents modern-day Israel, show him “standing on the hill / Running out the clock, time standing still,”[28] perhaps alluding to the role of this bully as the time of the end approaches. Indeed, in verse 8, where the established lyrics say, “Every empire that’s enslaved him is gone / Egypt and Rome, even the great Babylon,” an alternate lyric replaces the list of empires with the line, “& by one miracle or another he keeps going on,” accompanied by a marginal note that seems to connect this line to the date 1948, the year in which the modern state of Israel was established.[29] The year 1948, as we noted earlier, is a crucial sign post in Lindsey’s eschatological framework.     

In the years to follow, there would be occasional instances where Dylan’s lyrics reflect the imagery of Lindsey’s dispensational eschatology. On 1990’s Under the Red Sky, the song “God Knows” seems to reflect the imagery of the judgment of the earth in terms drawn from 2 Peter 3:6–7, an important passage in Lindsey’s scheme: “God knows there’s gonna be no more water / But fire next time.”[30] In a similar vein, “Things Have Changed,” from the soundtrack of the movie Wonder Boys, contains the line, “If the Bible is right, the world will explode.”[31] Again, this line is not at all a clear reading of the Bible; it is a clear reading of Lindsey’s eschatology.

In this brief survey of lyrics, there is at least circumstantial evidence that Dylan’s thought is influenced by Lindsey’s eschatology. One might argue that what we see here is nothing more than Dylan’s penchant for drawing imagery from the Bible. What we need to realize is that for centuries, Christians interpreted these biblical images in ways quite different from how Lindsey would come to understand them, and indeed, most Christians on earth today would take issue with Lindsey’s interpretations. What we see here is a particular slant on these passages that coheres closely with Lindsey’s. In other words, the biblical data themselves do not necessitate this interpretation. They only take on this interpretation when seen through a particular filter. Given Dylan’s early Christian context, it is reasonable to assume Lindsey provides this filter.

The Stage Raps

Of course, the lyrics provide the most substantial source for comparison with Hal Lindsey’s teaching. Another source, however, is the words Dylan frequently spoke during his concerts, especially during the gospel-only shows in November and December 1979. From November 1–16, Dylan performed fourteen shows in the Fox Warfield Theatre in San Francisco, California. The reaction to these shows, to be charitable, was mixed. On the one hand, the sheer energy of the music captivated many in attendance; on the other, many bristled at the gospel-only setlist, with some calling for Dylan to play his old material and others leaving the theater.

Regardless of its reception, the 1979 tour is useful for how Dylan addressed eschatological matters from the stage. As Dylan began his tour in San Francisco, his pronouncements amounted to little more than an introduction to his song, “Solid Rock.” Typical is the rap from November 6, when he offered about a sentence of eschatological warning: “You know we’re living in the last days of the end of times. In the last days of the end of times, you’re going to need something strong to hang on to, so this song is called ‘Hanging On To A Solid Rock Made Before The Foundation Of The World.’ You’re gonna need something that strong.”[32] Throughout the Warfield Theatre shows, this song’s introduction would stay mostly consistent in wording and duration. 

As the venue shifted to the Civic Auditorium in Santa Monica, California, for four shows November 18–21, the raps became more frequent and more developed. On the opening night of this leg of the tour, Dylan introduced the song “Slow Train” in the following way: 

I suppose you’ve been reading the newspapers and watching the TV? And you see how much trouble this world is in. Madmen running loose everywhere. Anyway we, we’re not worried about that though — it doesn’t bother us — because we know this world is going to be destroyed. Christ will set up his kingdom for a thousand years in Jerusalem where the lion will lie down with the lamb — we know this is true. No doubt about it. So, it’s a slow train coming. It’s been coming for a long time, but it’s picking up speed.[33]

Here Dylan draws attention to the destruction of the present world and the millennial kingdom of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem, both key themes in Lindsey’s framework. Here we also see appeal to current events as portents of the approaching end of times.

When the tour stopped in Tempe, Arizona, for two shows at the Gammage Center November 25–26, Dylan began with a rap that added such typical Lindsey features as the battle of Armageddon, the involvement of Russia in the Middle East, and even the very near imminence of the end:

All right. Now don’t be dismayed by what you read in the newspapers about what’s happening to the world. Because, now, the world as we know it now is being destroyed. I’m sorry to say it, but it’s . . . it’s the truth. In the matter of a short time—I don’t know, maybe in three years, maybe five years, could be ten years, I don’t know—there’s gonna be a war. It’s gonna be called the war of Armageddon. It’s gonna happen in the Middle East. Russia’s gonna come down and attack first and you watch for that sign. Anyway, we’re not worried about that. We know there’s gonna be a new kingdom set up in Jerusalem for a thousand years. And that’s where Jesus will set up his kingdom, as sure as you’re standing there, it’s gonna happen. So this is called, “Hanging On To A Solid Rock Made Before The Foundation Of The World.”[34]

The importance of this evidence is that it is prosaic in presentation. Lyrical presentation, especially Dylan’s, is always open to various interpretations due to its poetic nature. But these raps are more homiletical in nature and give insight into the sources of his pronouncements. The themes here strongly “parrot” Lindsey. We see Dylan getting bolder and more comfortable as he proclaims his message of the end of days, and his words could not be more clear for those with ears to hear.

The Interviews

It is with a bit of trepidation that one looks to interviews to discover what Dylan thinks on any topic. Rightly or wrongly, he has a reputation for being, at the very least, elusive with interviewers. However, on the topic of eschatology, he does give indications that he is being straightforward with his responses. Of particular interest here will be an interview conducted by Kurt Loder in Rolling Stone magazine in the June 21, 1984, issue. This interview is important for two reasons. First, it very clearly shows affinity with the views of Hal Lindsey on eschatological matters, and second, it was conducted at a time when Dylan was publicly less expressive of his Christian beliefs. His commitment to Christianity had come under severe scrutiny. The interview shows that, whatever his spiritual state, he remained steadfast in his understanding of how the world will come to its end.

When asked about his spiritual stance, Dylan replied first by affirming belief in a life beyond this one, then added, “I believe in the Book of Revelation. The leaders of this world are eventually going to play God, if they’re not already playing God, and eventually a man will come that everybody will think is God. He’ll do things, and they’ll say, ‘Well, only God can do those things. It must be him.’”[35] Dylan’s attribution rings more true of 2 Thessalonians 2:1–4 than it does the Book of Revelation, but he captures the spirit of this antichrist figure so prominent in Lindsey’s thought. Following a line of questioning by Loder on the song “Neighborhood Bully,” where Loder presses Dylan on whether the song is an expression of Zionism or support for American military intervention on Israel’s behalf in the Middle East, Dylan denies such intentions for the song and diverts attention to the battle of Armageddon: “The battle of Armageddon is specifically spelled out: where it will be fought, and if you want to get technical, when it will be fought. And the battle of Armageddon definitely will be fought in the Middle East.”[36] Again, vintage Lindsey.

Dylan also reflects Lindsey’s sense of uncertainty regarding the place of the United States in God’s eschatological timetable. Commenting on how the world had become more global, with the United States losing its sense of identity, Dylan attributes this evolution to the spread of instantaneous global communication in fulfillment of the book of Revelation.[37] One frequent plank of Lindsey’s end time scheme is the idea that in the last days, knowledge and travel will increase exponentially, evidence of humanity’s arrogant overreach (cf. Daniel 12:4). The smaller, global world already present in the 1980s figures into America’s decline and acquiescence to the one-world government and economy under the leadership of the Antichrist, another key element of Lindsey’s scheme. Dylan seems to decry this move toward globalism and America’s place in the last days when he says,

Somebody’s gonna have to come along and figure out what’s happening with the United States. Is this just an island that’s going to be blown out of the ocean, or does it really figure into things? I really don’t know. . . . Right now, it seems like in the States, and most other countries, too, there’s a big push on to make a big global country—one big country—where you can get all the materials from one place and assemble them someplace else and sell ‘em in another place, and the whole world is just all one, controlled by the same people, you know? And if it’s not already there, that’s the point it’s tryin’ to get to.[38]

Again, Dylan, in 1984, still “parrots” elements of Lindsey’s eschatological scheme, at a time when his own spiritual status seems unclear to the public. Whether through his lyrics, stage raps, or interviews, Dylan’s words frequently and over time betray an indebtedness to modes of expression at home with Lindsey’s eschatological worldview.     

Lindsey and Dylan: A Spiritual Heuristic?

Is he or isn’t he still a Christian? This question has fascinated observers of Dylan and popular Christian culture for decades now. With the release of the album Infidels in 1983, many questions emerged as to whether Dylan had forsaken his commitment to Jesus Christ and returned to Judaism. In 1985, Vineyard Fellowship pastor and Fuller Theological Seminary professor Don Williams wrote a monograph to argue that Dylan had not discarded his Christian faith,[39] and as late as 2017, Dylan’s spiritual journey was the subject of an investigation by Scott M. Marshall in his book Bob Dylan: A Spiritual Life. In a provocative essay, Kathryn Lofton raises the prospect that in the study of history, it is very difficult, if at all possible, to know precisely what a person believes on any point because our subjects tend to be wilier and more equivocal in cataloguing their beliefs than our attempts to catalog their beliefs would suggest. Bob Dylan is the case study for her thesis.[40]

I will not here seek to address the question directly. Rather, I will work from the premise that Marshall’s recent study provides the best overall take on what we may surmise about Dylan’s spiritual life.     

Marshall’s study is a broad survey of Dylan’s whole life, seeking to frame the religious question in terms of a spiritual odyssey rather than a static taxonomic determination. Rather than seeing Dylan starting out as a Jew, discarding this in favor of evangelical Christianity, only to reject that in favor of a more informed Judaism following studies with members of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect known as the Lubavitch, Marshall argues that Dylan’s life and art reflect a spiritual quest that has evolved and developed without rejecting any of these elements. Rather, Dylan’s odyssey is a robust integration of all of these inputs. Marshall’s conclusion is that from his childhood, Dylan’s life and art have been the product of a synthetic engagement with both the Jewish and Christian strands of the biblical tradition. In his review of Marshall’s book, Francis Beckwith puts it this way: “Part of Marshall’s thesis is that the Dylan who emerges from his 1983 Lubavitch studies, and subsequently releases Infidels, is not a restored Jew who has rejected Christ, but rather, a Hebrew Christian who has a better and deeper sense of his Judaism and the way it shapes his understanding of the biblical narrative and his relationship with God.”[41] Beckwith, we should note, deems Marshall’s conclusions as speculative, though “based on very good grounds.”

So if this assessment, speculative though it is, has any merit, how might Hal Lindsey’s thought have contributed to this odyssey? It is interesting to note that Lindsey is not mentioned by name, nor included in the index, in Marshall’s study. Yet I suggest that if indeed Lindsey has so influenced Dylan’s lyrics and prosaic pronouncements as we have argued earlier, it would stand to reason that perhaps Lindsey has contributed to Dylan’s ability to integrate both the Jewish and Christian strands of his spiritual journey.

Whatever the theological and exegetical merits of Lindsey’s program, one fact is undeniably clear: Lindsey’s program has a place of inclusion for the Jewish people in God’s end-time program that appreciates them as Jewish without the overtones of anti-Semitism that has often colored Jewish-Christian relationships over the centuries. The current nation-state of Israel, even though constituted largely as a secular state, plays a crucial part in the unfolding of the last days leading to God’s ultimate triumph over the powers of evil. The unfulfilled promises of God toward the houses of Judah and Israel are not spiritualized as referring to the Christian church, as in some Christian theologies.[42] Rather, they are understood as yet-to-be-realized prophecies for the actual, historical Jewish people. Such an understanding would likely appeal to Dylan, who had become a Christian after visiting Israel in the 1970s and coming to a deeper appreciation of his own Jewish heritage. This interpretation could help him better understand a God revealed in Jesus the Messiah, a thoroughly Jewish Messiah, one who has not cast off the historical chosen people. So perhaps Hal Lindsey’s brand of dispensationalism provided a heuristic for Dylan to navigate his way through a conversion to Christianity in such a way as to not only accommodate his Jewish heritage, but also to be enriched by a deeper understanding of this heritage.

Lindsey and Dylan: A Political Framework?

From his earliest days as a public figure, Bob Dylan has been appropriated by various political movements despite his frequent protestations that he is not a voice for any generation or political position. His early embrace of folk music and so-called “protest songs,” his appearance at Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, March on Washington in 1963, and performances at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton in 1993 notwithstanding, Dylan has mostly avoided endorsing specific political platforms. This is not to say that Dylan does not have political leanings; it is to say that Dylan does not put much stock in the ability of politics to solve humanity’s problems. As he told Kurt Loder in a Rolling Stone interview in 1984, “I think politics is an instrument of the Devil. Just that clear. I think politics is what kills; it doesn’t bring anything alive. Politics is corrupt; I mean, anybody knows that.”[43]

In a recent monograph titled The Political World of Bob Dylan, Jeff Taylor and Chad Israelson present the case that Bob Dylan’s political stance is best characterized by the term “Christian anarchism.”[44] Their case rests upon an analysis of Dylan’s political statements in songs, stage raps, and interviews, brought into conversation with H. Richard Niebuhr’s influential book, Christ and Culture.[45] Taylor and Israelson argue that Dylan’s politics were always more expansive than those of the New Left during the 1960s. Over the decades, Dylan advanced socio-political ideas that resonated with both the political left and right, encompassing both traditional and populist views. Taylor and Israelson argue that within this mix the term “anarchism,” understood broadly as a distrust of and lack of confidence in political authorities to address the human condition, always fit Dylan. With Dylan’s conversion in 1978, his anarchism melded with a stream of Christian political thought that fit one of Niebuhr’s categories of the relationship between church and state, Christ versus culture. This was the position of the Jesus People of the 1960s out of which emerged the Vineyard Fellowship of Dylan’s early Christian nurture. The kingdom of God had its own agenda in the unfolding of human history and it did not depend on alliances with earthly political authorities for its realization.

Of course, history is replete with failed alliances between church and state. Within the United States today, the close identification of a brand of evangelical Christianity with the so-called “Christian Right,” and with Zionistic groups politically tied to the state of Israel, shows that the Christ-versus-culture paradigm is not the only possible approach to church/state relations. At the time of Dylan’s conversion, American politics was beginning to involve Christians in politics to effect religious goals on a social level. President Jimmy Carter, whom Dylan admired and for whom Dylan once performed, identified as a “born-again” Christian, and at this time, Christian conservatives were marshaling their forces to attack the newly legalized practice of abortion. It is possible that Dylan connected with some aspect of the Christian Right upon conversion. However, Dylan was deeply influenced by Hal Lindsey’s version of premillennial dispensational eschatology. As Taylor and Israelson put it, “Dylan’s newfound Christianity was in many ways less culture-bound than the average evangelical at the time — partly because it was new and he approached the Bible with the fresh eyes of a convert. Also, he had a more-spiritual, less-politicized understanding of Bible eschatology.”[46] Lindsey’s eschatology had two things working in its favor. First, it was largely passive. It did not require much from Christians for the realization of the kingdom other than to engage in evangelism so as to hasten Christ’s return. As noted earlier, Dylan’s stage raps during the gospel tour of 1979 spoke of Christ’s return and typically included an exhortation for the audience to turn to Jesus in response. No amount of political effort would hasten the coming of the kingdom. Second, Lindsey’s eschatology was inclusive of the Jewish people. Given Dylan’s Jewishness both pre- and post-conversion, this eschatology, with its spiritualized focus on the last days, accorded well with Dylan’s predilection to distrust human political efforts as well as his focus on integrating the Jewish and Christian elements of his faith. The final reckoning that would usher in God’s age of righteousness and justice was wholly independent of political involvement. Lindsey’s eschatology enabled Dylan to integrate his newfound Christian faith with his established “anarchist” tendencies.[47]


I confess a certain disappointment at the degree to which Hal Lindsey influenced Bob Dylan’s thinking. As a New Testament scholar and an ecotheologian, I find Hal Lindsey’s exegesis and hermeneutic of reading current events through the lens of prophetic biblical passages specious, and the implications of his eschatology frankly dangerous. Yet it is evident that Hal Lindsey exerted considerable influence on Bob Dylan’s art and patterns of thinking during this period. Dylan would be but one of millions of people who found, and still find, in Lindsey’s teaching a key to navigating perilous times within a Christian framework. In the case of Bob Dylan, Lindsey’s influence has clearly endured.



Beckwith, Francis J. “Busy Being Born Again: Bob Dylan’s Christian Philosophy.” Bob Dylan and Philosophy: It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Thinking). Eds. Peter Vernezze and Carl J. Porter. Pp. 145–55. Chicago/La Salle, IL: Open Court, 2006.

—. “Why Are We Worried about Bob Dylan’s Religion?” Crux, 31 July 2017. https://cruxnow.com/commentary/2017/07/31/worried-bob-dylans-religion/.

Björner, Olof. Still on the Road: 1979 First Gospel Tour. http://www.bjorner.com/DSN05060%201979%20First%20Gospel%20Tour.htm#DSN05080.

Bustraan, Richard A. The Jesus People Movement: A Story of Spiritual Revolution among the Hippies. Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2014.

Cott, Jonathan Cott, ed. Bob Dylan: The Essential Interviews. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017.

Gilmour, Michael J. Tangled up in the Bible: Bob Dylan and Scripture. New York: Continuum, 2004.

Heylin, Clinton. Trouble in Mind: Bob Dylan’s Gospel Years—What Really Happened. New York: Lesser Gods, 2017.

Higgins, Thomas W. “Kenn Gulliksen, John Wimber, and the Founding of the Vineyard Movement.” Pneuma, vol. 34, 2012, pp. 208–28.

Lindsey, Hal. “Was Bob Dylan at His Best When He Was a Christian?” The Hal Lindsey Report, 2 November 2017. https://www.hallindsey.com/ww-11-2-2017/.

Lindsey, Hal, with C. C. Carlson. The Late Great Planet Earth. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970.

Lofton, Kathryn. “I Don’t Want to Fake You out: Bob Dylan and the Search for Belief in History.” Cultural Icons and Cultural Leadership. Eds. Peter Iver Kaufman and Kristin M. S. Bezio. Pp. 152–166. Cheltenham, UK/Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2017.

Marshall, Scott M. Bob Dylan: A Spiritual Life. Washington, DC: WND Books, 2017.

Maxa, Rudy. “Bob Dylan Knocks on Heaven’s Door, Accepts Christ, Says a West Coast Pastor As the Music Biz and the Star’s Fans Await an Album To Explain It All.” Washington Post, 27 May 1979. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/magazine/1979/05/27/bob-dylan-knocks-on-heavens-door-accepts-christ-says-a-west-coast-pastor-as-the-music-biz-and-the-stars-fans-await-an-album-to-explain-it-all/78a25f0a-c879-4539-81db-d4866c3f0508/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.fff58eddb05a.

Niebuhr, H. Richard. Christ and Culture. New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1951, 1975.

Riordan, James. “It Ain’t Easy Being Bob: A Retrospective on Dylan on His 70th Birthday.” Maddancer, 8 July 2011. https://maddancer.wordpress.com/2011/07/.

Rogovoy, Seth. “Was Bob Dylan at His Best When He Was a Christian?” Forward, 30 October 2017. https://forward.com/culture/qa/386298/was-bob-dylan-at-his-best-when-he-was-christian/.

Soulen, R. Kendall Soulen. The God of Israel and Christian Theology. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2009.

Taylor, Jeff. “Bob Dylan and Christian Zionism.” Counterpunch, 25 November 2015. https://www.counterpunch.org/2015/11/25/bob-dylan-and-christian-zionism/.

Taylor, Jeff, and Chad Israelson. The Political World of Bob Dylan: Freedom and Justice, Power and Sin. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

Williams, Don. Bob Dylan: The Man, the Music, the Message. Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revel, 1985.

Wright, N. T. Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. New York: HarperOne, 2008.



Bob Dylan. “Are You Ready?” Special Rider Music. 1980. http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/are-you-ready/.

—. “God Knows.” Special Rider Music. 1990. http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/god-knows/.

—. “Gonna Change My Way of Thinking.” Special Rider Music. 1979. http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/gonna-change-my-way-thinking/.

—. “The Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar.” Special Rider Music. 1981. http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/grooms-still-waiting-altar/.

—. “Neighborhood Bully.” Special Rider Music. 1983. http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/neighborhood-bully/.

—. “Precious Angel.” Special Rider Music. 1979. http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/precious-angel/.

—. “Slow Train.” Special Rider Music. 1979. http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/slow-train/.

—. “Things Have Changed.” Special Rider Music. 1999. http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/things-have-changed/.

—. “When He Returns.” Special Rider Music. 1979. http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/when-he-returns/.


[1] E.g., Rogovoy, “Was Bob Dylan at His Best When He Was a Christian?”

[2] Taylor and Isrealson, The Political World of Bob Dylan.

[3] The book was also published in 1973 by Bantam Books and again in 1977 by Zondervan. The book was also made into a motion picture narrated by Orson Welles and released in 1979.

[4] Bustraan, The Jesus People Movement, 63.

[5] Higgins, “Kenn Gulliksen, John Wimber, and the Founding of the Vineyard Movement,” 210–14.

[6] Maxa, “Bob Dylan Knocks on Heaven’s Door.”

[7] Heylin, Trouble in Mind, 23–25; Marshall, Bob Dylan: A Spiritual Life, 34–35.

[8] Dylan recalls his compulsion to attend the School of Discipleship in Reseda, California, in an interview with Robert Hilburn in the Los Angeles Times, 23 November 1980, in Cott, Bob Dylan: The Essential Interviews, 298.

[9] Kathryn Lofton asserts that Lindsey actually taught eschatology in the Vineyard School of Discipleship, though other sources surveying this period of Dylan’s life do not mention this. See her essay, “I Don’t Want to Fake You out: Bob Dylan and the Search for Belief in History,” 156. Heylin quotes Larry Myers as saying that Dylan studied under Kenn Gulliksen and “at least four other competent pastor-teachers, including myself,” so it is possible that Lindsey was among that number (Trouble in Mind, 28).

[10] Heylin, Trouble in Mind, 30–38.

[11] Riordan, “It Ain’t Easy Being Bob.”

[12] Rogovoy, “Was Bob Dylan at His Best When He Was a Christian?”

[13] Lindsey, “Was Bob Dylan at His Best When He Was a Christian?”

[14] E.g., Gilmour, Tangled up in the Bible.

[15] Bob Dylan, interview with John Pareles, The New York Times, 28 September 1997, in Cott, Bob Dylan: The Essential Interviews, 419.

[16] Beckwith, “Busy Being Born Again,” 146. Beckwith identifies four areas in which Dylan’s early philosophy is developed in his Christian work: Dylan’s assimilation of the Christian narrative; human beings live in a moral universe; the moral law is objectively true; and it is important that human beings practice virtue.

[17] Dylan, “Gonna Change My Way of Thinking.”

[18] Wright, Surprised by Hope, 109–13.

[19] Dylan, “Are You Ready?”

[20] “When You Gonna Wake Up,” typescript lyrics from Slow Train Coming, circa 1979, The Bob Dylan Archive, box 80, folder 02. Courtesy of THE BOB DYLAN ARCHIVE® Collections, Tulsa, OK. Spelling and punctuation retained from the original in all references to archival materials.

[21] Dylan, “When He Returns.”

[22] In some alternate lyrics from “The Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar,” Dylan expresses a similar sentiment regarding the place of communists and capitalists in the end time drama: “the communists were falling—the capitalists were crawling/the hand of God is moving—Jesus is calling” (“The Groom’s Still Waiting at the Alter,” typescript lyrics from Shot of Love, circa 1981, The Bob Dylan Archive, box 81, folder 01. Courtesy of THE BOB DYLAN ARCHIVE® Collections, Tulsa, OK).

[23] “When He Returns,” typescript and manuscript lyrics from Slow Train Coming, circa 1979, box 80, folder 01. Courtesy of THE BOB DYLAN ARCHIVE® Collections, Tulsa, OK.

[24] “Trouble in Mind,” typescript and manuscript lyrics from Slow Train Coming, circa 1979, box 79, folder 06. Courtesy of THE BOB DYLAN ARCHIVE® Collections, Tulsa, OK. 

[25] Dylan, “Slow Train.”

[26] Dylan, “Precious Angel.”

[27] “Precious Angel,” typescript and manuscript lyrics from Slow Train Coming, circa 1979, box 79, folder 08. Courtesy of THE BOB DYLAN ARCHIVE® Collections, Tulsa, OK.

[28] Dylan, “Neighborhood Bully.”

[29] “Neighborhood Bully,” manuscript and typescript lyrics from Infidels, circa 1983, box 35, folder 06. Courtesy of THE BOB DYLAN ARCHIVE® Collections, Tulsa, OK.

[30] Dylan, “God Knows.”

[31] Dylan, “Things Have Changed.”

[32] Björner, Still on the Road. Olaf Björner’s website contains the texts of Dylan’s stage rants during the 1979 Gospel Tour. Clinton Heylin also provides several sample rants in Trouble in Mind, Appendix II.

[33] Björner, Still on the Road.

[34] Björner, Still on the Road.

[35] Bob Dylan, interview with Kurt Loder, Rolling Stone, 21 June 1984, in Cott, Bob Dylan: The Essential Interviews, 306. Italics original.

[36] Dylan, interview with Kurt Loder, 308–9. Italics original.

[37] Dylan, interview with Kurt Loder, 310.

[38] Dylan, interview with Kurt Loder, 311. Italics original.

[39] Williams, Bob Dylan: The Man, the Music, the Message.

[40] Lofton, “I Don’t Want to Fake You out,” 152–66.

[41] Beckwith, “Why Are We Worried about Bob Dylan’s Religion?”

[42] For a survey of positions on the relationship between Israel and the Christian church, see Soulen, The God of Israel and Christian Theology.

[43] Dylan, interview with Kurt Loder, 309.

[44] Taylor and Israelson, The Political World of Bob Dylan, 151–72, 194–99. The following summarizes these discussions. See also Taylor, “Bob Dylan and Christian Zionism.”

[45] Niebuhr, Christ and Culture.

[46] Taylor and Israelson, The Political World of Bob Dylan, 222.

[47] Taylor and Israelson, The Political World of Bob Dylan, 158–59.



Are You Ready?. Copyright © 1980 by Special Rider Music. All rights reserved.

Ballad in Plain D. Copyright © 1964 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1992 by Special
Rider Music. All rights reserved.

Beyond the Horizon. Copyright © 2006 by Special Rider Music. All rights reserved.

Black Diamond Bay. Copyright © 1975 by Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2003 by Ram’s
Horn Music. All rights reserved.

​Blind Willie McTell. Copyright © 1983 by Special Rider Music. All rights reserved.

Blowin in the Wind. Copyright © 1962 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1990 by Special
Rider Music. All rights reserved.

Caribbean Wind. Copyright © 1985 by Special Rider Music. All rights reserved.

Changing of the Guards. Copyright © 1978 by Special Rider Music. All rights reserved.

Chronicles, Volume One. Copyright © 2004 by Bob Dylan. All rights reserved.

I Contain Multitudes. Copyright © 2020 by Special Rider Music. All rights reserved.

Crossing the Rubicon. Copyright © 2020 by Special Rider Music. All rights reserved.

Dignity. Copyright © 1991 by Special Rider Music. All rights reserved.

Early Roman Kings. Copyright © 2012 by Special Rider Music. All rights reserved.

Every Grain Of Sand. Copyright © 1981 by Special Rider Music. All rights reserved.

Gates of Eden. Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider
Music. All rights reserved.

God Knows. Copyright © 1990 by Special Rider Music. All rights reserved.

Gonna Change My Way of Thinking. Copyright © 1979 by Special Rider Music. All
rights reserved.

Got My Mind Made Up. Copyright ©1986 Special Rider Music. All rights reserved.

The Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar. Copyright © 1981 by Special Rider Music. All
rights reserved.

A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall. Copyright © 1963 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991 by
Special Rider Music. All rights reserved.

Huck’s Tune. Copyright © 2007 by Special Rider Music. All rights reserved.

Hurricane. Copyright © 1975 by Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2003 by Ram’s Horn
Music. All rights reserved.

Idiot Wind. Copyright © 1974 by Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2002 by Ram’s Horn
Music. All rights reserved.

If Not for You. Copyright © 1970 by Big Sky Music; renewed 1998 by Big Sky Music. All
rights reserved.

It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding). Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed
1993 by Special Rider Music. All rights reserved.

I’ve Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You. Copyright © 2020 by Special Rider Music.
All rights reserved.

Key West (Philosopher Pirate). Copyright © 2020 by Special Rider Music. All rights

Like a Rolling Stone. Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special
Rider Music. All rights reserved.

Meet Me in the Morning. Copyright © 1974 by Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2002 by
Ram’s Horn Music. All rights reserved.

Mr. Tambourine Man. Copyright © 1964, 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1992, 1993 by Special Rider Music. All rights reserved.

Moonlight. Copyright © 2001 by Special Rider Music. All rights reserved.

Mother of Muses. Copyright © 2020 by Special Rider Music. All rights reserved.

Murder Most Foul. Copyright © 2020 by Special Rider Music. All rights reserved.

My Back Pages. Copyright © 1964 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1992 by Special
Rider Music. All rights reserved.

Neighborhood Bully. Copyright © 1983 by Special Rider Music. All rights reserved.

Nobel Lecture, The. Copyright © 2017 by Bob Dylan. All rights reserved.

Not Dark Yet. Copyright © 1997 by Special Rider Music. All rights reserved.

Po’ Boy. Copyright © 2001 by Special Rider Music. All rights reserved.

Precious Angel. Copyright © 1979 by Special Rider Music. All rights reserved.

Sign on the Cross. Copyright © 1971 by Dwarf Music; renewed 1999 by Dwarf Music.
All rights reserved.

Slow Train. Copyright © 1979 by Special Rider Music. All rights reserved.

Spirit on the Water. Copyright © 2006 by Special Rider Music. All rights reserved.

Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again. Copyright © 1966 by Dwarf Music; renewed 1994 by Dwarf Music. All rights reserved.

Tangled Up In Blue. Copyright © 1974 by Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2002 by Ram’s
Horn Music. All rights reserved.

Things Have Changed. Copyright © 1999 by Special Rider Music. All rights reserved.

Til I Fell In Love With You. Copyright © 1997 by Special Rider Music. All rights

Trouble in Mind. Copyright © 1979 by Special Rider Music. All rights reserved.

Under the Red Sky. Copyright © 1990 by Special Rider Music. All rights reserved.

Under Your Spell. Copyright © 1986 by Special Rider Music and Carol Bayer Sager Music. All rights reserved.

Visions of Johanna. Copyright © 1966 by Dwarf Music; renewed 1994 by Dwarf Music. All rights reserved.

Wanted Man. Copyright © 1979 by Special Rider Music. All rights reserved.

Watching The River Flow. Copyright © 1971 by Big Sky Music; renewed 1999 by Big
Sky Music. All rights reserved.

When He Returns. Copyright © 1979 by Special Rider Music. All rights reserved.

When I Paint My Masterpiece. Copyright © 1971 by Big Sky Music; renewed 1999 by
Big Sky Music. All rights reserved.

When You Gonna Wake Up?. Copyright © 1979 by Special Rider Music. All rights

Workingman’s Blues #2. Copyright © 2006 Special Rider Music. All rights reserved.

You’re A Big Girl Now. Copyright © 1974 by Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2002 by Ram’s Horn Music. All rights reserved.


Dylan Review Vol. 3.1, Summer 2021- BOOKS RECEIVED

John Bauldie, The Chameleon Poet. Route Publishing, 2021.

Michael Gray, Outtakes on Bob Dylan. Route Publishing, 2021.

Graley Herren, Dreams and Dialogues in Dylan’s “Time Out of Mind.” Anthem Press, 2021.

Clinton Heylin, The Double Life of Bob Dylan: A Restless, Hungry Feeling, vol. 1 1941-1966. Little, Brown and Company, 2021.

Bob Dylan and the Arts: Songs, Film, Painting, and Sculpture in Dylan’s Universe, ed. Maria Steffnelli, Alessandro Carrera, Fabio Fantuzzi. Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 2020.

Christopher Rollason, ‘Read Books, Repeat Quotations’: The Literary Bob Dylan. Gateshead (UK): Two Riders, 2021


Dylan Review Vol. 3.1, Summer 2021- CONTRIBUTORS

Alessandro Carrera is Moores Professor of Italian Studies and World Cultures and Literatures at the University of Houston, Texas. He has published extensively in the fields of Continental Philosophy, Italian and Comparative Literature, Art, Cinema, and Music (classical and popular). He is the author of La voce di Bob Dylan (Milan: Feltrinelli, 2001, 2011, 2021) and three other short books on Dylan. He has translated the songs and prose of Bob Dylan into Italian, all published by Feltrinelli: Chronicles Vol. 1 (2005), Tarantula (2007), Lyrics in various annotated editions, the most recent in three volumes: Lyrics 1961-1968, Lyrics 1969-1982, Lyrics 1983-2020 (published in 2021). 

Sarah Gates is the Craig Professor of English at St. Lawrence University, where she teaches British literature of all periods, poetry, and songwriting.  She has published on Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Tennyson, Joni Mitchell, and most recently, Louise Erdrich.  She is also a musician with the local indie-rock band Bee Children.

Michael Gray is an independent scholar who pioneered the serious study of Dylan’s work with Song & Dance Man: The Art of Bob Dylan, 1972. His books include the massively updated Song & Dance Man III(1999), The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia(2006), Hand Me My Travelin’ Shoes: In Search Of Blind Willie McTell (2007), and Outtakes On Bob Dylan: Selected Writings 1967-2021. He has delivered guest lectures in Europe and North America, including at Stanford, California and Bath Literature Festival. His website is www.michaelgray.net

Timothy Hampton is professor of Comparative Literature and French at the University of California, Berkeley, where he also directs the Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities. He has written widely on literature and culture, across several languages and centuries.  He is the author of Bob Dylan: How the Songs Work (Zone Books, 2019). A recent article is “Bob Dylan in the Country: Rock Domesticity and Pastoral Song” (Representations, 152, fall 2020). A new study, Cheerfulness: A Literary and Cultural History will be published in 2022 by Zone Books.  He writes about literature, music, and education at www.timothyhampton.org.

John Hughes‘s writings on Dylan include Invisible Now: Bob Dylan in the 1960s (Taylor & Francis, 2013). He is Professor of Nineteenth-Century Literature at the University of Gloucestershire and has published widely on nineteenth and twentieth-century literature and philosophy, particularly Thomas Hardy and William Wordsworth. 

Jeffrey S. Lamp is Professor of New Testament and Instructor of Environmental Science at Oral Roberts University, Tulsa, Oklahoma. His primary research and publishing interests are in the field of ecotheology. He has authored five books and co-edited one. He was a translator and editor for the Modern English Version of the Bible (Passio/Charisma House). He is a frequent presenter at academic conferences, has published articles in several journals, dictionaries, and volumes of collected essays, and is the editor of Spiritus: ORU Journal of Theology.

Michele Ulisse Lipparini, born in Milano where he’s based, is an independent scholar who started listening to Bob Dylan in 1988 at age 16. Digging into Dylan’s songs pushed him into learning English, which led him to work as a translator and eventually to collaborate for a few years with Delfina Vezzoli, Italian translator of Don DeLillo’s masterpiece Underworld. In addition to completing Vezzoli’s translation of John Edgar Wideman’s Brothers and Keepers, Lipparini has translated graphic novels and published articles about Bob Dylan in magazines such as Isis, Buscadero and on various websites, and contributed consistently to Olof Bjorner’s website, www.bjorner.com. He also held a conference about the Nobel Laureate as part of the Sant’Arcangelo di Romagna Poetry Festival in 2015. He has attended 170 Bob Dylan concerts all over the world.

Anne Marie Mai is professor of literature and a chair of DIAS at The University of Southern Denmark. She has published more than 200 articles, book chapters and monographs. She nominated Bob Dylan for the Nobel Prize, which he won in 2016. She has published Bob Dylan. The Poet (University Press of Southern Denmark, 2018, German translation will be published 2021), she edited the anthology New Approaches to Bob Dylan (University Press of Southern Denmark, 2019) and contributed to The World of Bob Dylan (ed. Sean Latham, Cambridge University Press, 2021).

Andrew Muir current commitments include teaching language and literature at The Leys School, Cambridge, UK and delivering Shakespeare and Dylan talks at a variety of conferences. Dylan publications: Razor’s Edge (2001), One More Night (21013), Troubadour (2003). An examination of historical and contemporary outdoor Shakespeare performances: Shakespeare in Cambridge followed, in 2015. This led to a comparative study, Bob Dylan and William Shakespeare: The True Performing of It, (2nd edition 2021).

Jacqueline Osherow is the author of eight collections of poetry, most recently My Lookalike at the Krishna Temple (LSU Press, 2019). She’s received grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the NEA, the Ingram Merrill Foundation and the Witter Bynner Prize. Her poems have appeared in many magazines, journals and anthologies, including The New Yorker, The Paris Review, American Poetry Review, the Wadsworth Anthology of Poetry, Best American Poetry, The Norton Anthology of Jewish American Literature, The Penguin Book of the Sonnet, Twentieth Century American Poetry, and The Making of a Poem. She’s Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Utah. 

Allesandro Portelli has taught American Literature in the universities of Rome “La Sapienza” and Siena. He has served as advisor on democratic historical memory to the Mayor of Rome and founded the Circolo Gianni Bosio for the critical study and historical presence of people’s culture, folk music, and oral history. He is the author of many books on literature, popular culture, working-class history, including The Order Has Been Carried OutThey Say in Harlan Dean County; The Death of Luigi Trastulli. Form and Meaning in Oral History.

Christopher Rollason, M.A. in English, Trinity College, Cambridge. Doctorate in English, University of York. Author of numerous published articles, lectures and conference papers on Bob Dylan. Attended international Dylan conferences held in Caen (France), 2005 and Tulsa (Oklahoma), 2019.

Jim Salvucci, since receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto, has served as an English professor, dean, and vice president at several institutions of higher education. For many years he taught an advanced course in Bob Dylan studies, and he continues to blog, present, and publish on Bob Dylan. Currently he lives in Newburgh, NY, and serves as a management consultant to nonprofits and other mission-driven organizations. He can be found online at jimsalvucci.com.

John H. Serembus, PhD., is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Widener University. In his forty-plus years in the classroom, he has taught a wide variety of courses, but mainly those in Logic (both formal and informal), Critical Thinking, Ethics, and Values.

David Thurmaier is Associate Professor of Music Theory and Chair of the Music Studies Division at the University of Missouri – Kansas City Conservatory. His research focuses on the music of Charles Ives, as well as the Beatles. He has published book chapters on George Harrison’s connections to popular music, John Lennon’s political music, and has a forthcoming chapter on Paul McCartney’s use of pastiche. In 2019, he presented a paper examining the musical relationship between Harrison and Bob Dylan at the “World of Bob Dylan” conference in Tulsa. He also co-hosts two podcasts: “I’ve Got a Beatles Podcast,” and “Hearing the Pulitzers.”