Monday, January 11, 2010

Pressing On

Many of you know I am a hardcore Dylan fan; most of you probably don't know why.

It's hard not know of Dylan growing up--his songs are covered, they are in commercials, they are in movies, they are the titles to books--he is everywhere, even if you don't know him you've heard him.

So that's how I was; I had heard of him, and I knew many of his songs, but I had never really listened to a full album.

I was in graduate school in the early 2000's reading about Scorsese planning to do a documentary on him; on my breaks, I started reading up on Dylan in the library. The thing that really stood out for me at first was that thing that happened in the 80's--the whole Christian thing. After hearing the nasally vocalist had some gospel records, I couldn't resist the temptation of listening to them.

I was expecting some cheap techno wannabe Christian gibberish rock ala Petra and Stryper; it was none of that. The first album I listened to was "Slow Train Coming" and it blew me away. The lyrics were deep and actually made me feel the presents of God, and the sound was its own genre in itself--it had the good old fashion church gospel sound in it, but it was more than that. No Dylan record fits into any one group or style--Bob Dylan is his own genre and that's one of the things that has made him the genius that he is.

After listening to Slow Train Coming, I started to slowly buy up his other records in a compulsive, completest fashion; and when I had all of them, I started combing Newsgroups and Torrent sites for the hard to come by bootleg stuff. Today my hard drive has over 11 gigs and 2500 songs of Dylan (yes, you read that right--11 gigs).

I've had the chance to see him live twice; both times felt more like an experience than a concert. I would pay good money just to see his backing band play.

Last year, he released a Christmas album, which made a lot of people wonder what gives? Is he still a Christian or what? (for the record, he never officially said he wasn’t a Christian—most people just put two and two together when he divorced and started showing up at Jewish functions)

I've read all the books and articles that try and guess what religion he is now. I've come out of it feeling bad for the guy. He probably would call himself Christian if people wouldn't abuse him for it--and by people I mean Christians. I don't think he left Christianity because he didn't believe in Christ, I think he left because he stopped believing in Christians--he didn't want and to be anyone’s savior...he just wanted to write and perform music.

Anyone who loves Dylan's music and knows about the conversion has their own theory about what he is (or isn't). My guess is he still believes, though he's more of what you might call a Jew for Jesus--practicing the traditions of Judaism while believing in the fundamentals of Christianity; I've never read an article where he denies a personal relationship with Jesus Christ (though I'm sure whatever relationship he hasn't isn't the evangelical kind he had in the 80s), but he is extremely guarded about what he says. If that's the case--that he still believes in Christ, but isn't vocal about it, then he's the perfect example of what a Christian should be: flawed, but trying. 

In the end, it doesn't really matter to me what he is--he gave me two albums that left me in spiritual awe, and even denial of faith can't take that away. God used him as a vessel while he had accepted his grace, and he shared his personal experience with the world--whether or not he still has what he had is a question he doesn't have to answer to any person on earth.

If you've never heard Dylan's gospel records, then treat yourself and watch the videos below. Be kind to them—they are live and from the 80s—a combination that really does not give the songs justice from the versions you’ll hear on the CDs; unfortunately, there’s no better footage because Dylan no longer performs any of the songs.


  1. Yeah, I think Dylan did some of the best Christian music ever recorded. Well, next to "Friends are Friends Forever," of course. Just kidding!

  2. it was funny, i've been playing the Dylan stuff on my hard drive at work all day now. i've got it on shuffle so i had to take the time and listen your vids too.