Bob Dylan's Jesus Years ~ Praxis Habitus - On Race Religion & Culture

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bob Dylan's Jesus Years

Cover of Cover of Slow Train Coming
"You gotta serve somebody," sang Bob Dylan in the 1979 album Slow Train Coming that publicly announced his conversion to Christianity. Love it or hate it, the evangelicals I knew in Southern California were ecstatic to claim Dylan as their "brother in Christ."

I heard Bob Dylan live in concert when he came to the Davidson College campus -- a great show with only one disappointment. All of us had been imitating Dylan's distinctive way of talking, joking and playing around, in anticipation of hearing the legend himself speak. Two hours later, the concert ended -- and he didn't say even one word the whole time!

Anyways, here's a chance to give yourself a well-after-Christmas treat. Two documentaries on Bob Dylan's Jesus Years are out, the first documentary,

Inside Bob Dylan's Jesus Years: Busy Being Born... Again!

is a film that documents the years Jesus was most prominent in the artists songs. It's a biography with lots of commentary, one that plays on the shock felt through the music world by Dylan's Christian music. His conversion was unexpected, the reactions mixed, and the continuing relevance uncertain.

From the description:

In late 1978, Bob Dylan fell into the Arms of the Lord through the Vineyard Christian Fellowship Church. In his first-ever interview, Dylan's Bible class teacher, Pastor Bill Dwyer, details Bob Dylan's embrace of Jesus Christ and Christianity. Dylan then made three Gospel albums, winning a Grammy for Gotta Serve Somebody. However, Dylan's radical new direction alienated fans and enraged critics as he preached apocalyptic messages from the Book of Revelation.

The film offers "an insider's view of Bob Dylan's "Born Again" transformation, and its effect on his life and music."

There's a trailer and full website. Also, here's a quick review of the film.

I also found another documentary,

Bob Dylan: 1978-1989 - Both Ends of the Rainbow

From the description:

Reviews the years from late-1978 to the release of 1989's Oh Mercy - an album that was seen by many as a huge return to form.

Both DVD's cover Dylan's overtly Christian years. Many question whether Dylan abandoned the faith, or if it's just a more subtle aspect of his life today.

What do you think?

1 comment:

dylandevotional said...

Gold Medal for Excellence
Audience Choice for Best Music Documentary 2006 PARK CITY FILM MUSIC FESTIVAL


The best African-American covers of Dylan songs since Jimi Hendrix. --International Herald Tribune

"This DVD overflows with interest, and, more importantly, with music." -Michael Gray, author of The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia and Song & Dance Man III: The Art of Bob Dylan.

An interesting rewind to the powerful gospel music Bob Dylan wrote in the late 70's and early 80's.

Interviews with Dylan musicians: Jim Keltner, Spooner Oldham, Regina McCrary, Fred Tackett, Terry Young, Mona Lisa Young, and producer Jerry Wexler

Participating artists: Bob Dylan, Shirley Caesar, Chicago Mass Choir, Dottie Peoples, Aaron Neville, Sounds of Blackness, Helen Baylor, The Fairfield Four, Great Day Chorale, Arlethia Lindsey, Mighty Clouds of Joy, and Rance Allen.

Commentary by: Paul Williams and Alan Light

This musical documentary premieres 1980 footage of Bob Dylan performing "When He Returns," the first archival performance released from this important era. Editorial Review
Gotta Serve Somebody - The Gospel Songs of Bob Dylan is all about redemption. That's apparent enough in the music, where the struggle between sin and salvation is inherent in the tunes that are interpreted here by a host of superb gospel artists. But in a larger sense, the very existence of this DVD (and the Grammy-nominated CD that preceded it in 2003) can be viewed as redemption for Dylan himself, who weathered another controversy and emerged, if not triumphant, then certainly vindicated. When he plugged in an electric guitar in 1965, he was labeled "Judas" by the folkie faithful; ironically, when he turned to Jesus some 15 years later, proclaiming himself born again and releasing Slow Train Coming and Saved, the outcry was even louder. But once again Dylan has the last laugh, as now, a quarter of a century after the fact, it's clear that the material on those recordings was his strongest not only since 1975's Blood on the Tracks but perhaps since his '60s heyday. The quality of the songs lies in what Jerry Wexler, co-producer of the two Dylan albums, describes as the "immaculate funk" of the music, and especially in the heartfelt simplicity (especially by Dylan standards) and emotional directness of the lyrics; clearly, that's what attracted great gospel singers like Shirley Caesar (singing "Gotta Serve Somebody," the most recognized song on the two Dylan albums), Dottie Peoples (a powerful version of the beautiful "I Believe in You"), the Mighty Clouds of Joy (a rockin', sanctified "Saved"), the Fairfield Four (the stirring, a cappella "Are You Ready"), and the angel-voiced Aaron Neville ("Saving Grace") to this project. We also get Dylan himself, performing "When He Returns" at a 1980 concert, along with an animated rendering of his original "Gotta Serve Somebody." Hallelujah, y'all. --Sam Graham

Bob Dylan's Gospel songs, widely reviled when new, have steadily grown in stature and acceptance over the years. Here in the hands of Gospel greats, likely the folks best suited to do them, they come up stronger than ever. Strong recommendation. Much better and more gripping than I expected. -Sing Out!

Directed by Michael B Borofsky
Edited by Christine Mitsogiorgakis
Jeffrey Gaskill Executive Producer

Featured Performances:
Every Grain of Sand (Arlethia Lindsey)
When He Returns (Bob Dylan)
Solid Rock (Sounds of Blackness)
Gotta Serve Somebody (Shirley Caesar)
I Believe In You (Dottie Peoples)
Saving Grace (Aaron Neville)
What Can I Do For You? (Helen Baylor)
Are You Ready (The Fairfield Four)
In the Garden (Great Day Chorale)
Saved (Mighty Clouds of Joy)
Pressing On (Chicago Mass Choir)
When He Returns (Rance Allen)

Bonus Features include: Animated video to -Bob Dylan's original GRAMMY® -winning, "Gotta Serve Somebody."