Bob Dylan (born May 24,1941) is an American musician of Jewish descent who announced that he had converted to Christianity in the 1970's. He is one of the towering figures of 20th century popular music.

Early life

Born Robert Zimmerman in Duluth, Minnesota, he grew up in Hibbing and left to attend the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. It was there that he developed a deep interest in folk music, listening to the recordings of artists such as Odetta and Woody Guthrie. In 1961, he dropped out of college and headed to New York City, where he became part of the burgeoning folk music scene in Greenwich Village and eventually landed a contract with Columbia Records, for whom he still records today.

His first four studio albums[1] established Dylan as a major voice within the developing protest counterculture of the early Sixties. It was Bringing It All Back Home (1965), however, that propelled him to international fame and stardom. To howls of protest from his devoted "folkie" fans, Dylan "plugged in" for the first time and the album's glorious fusion of electric guitars, driving rock rhythms and his unique lyrical style[2] set a benchmark to which all other artists aspired. He arguably never scaled these heights again, especially in terms of producing an album of such consistent quality and musical completeness. His next three albums[3] are rightly highly regarded, but after these his output became of increasingly variable quality and Blood On The Tracks (1975) is his last album from his classic period to be highly regarded by rock critics.

Christian faith

In 1979, Bob Dylan surprised many by announcing he had accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savior. Biblical references had never been missing from Dylan's lyrics. His third album featured such lyrics as and the first one now will later be last as well as and like Pharaoh's tribe they'll be drownded in the tide, and like Goliath they'll be conquered. The album John Wesley Harding is suffused with Christian imagery, and a religious conversion is implied in several songs from Street Legal, the album released in 1978. It was not until 1979, however, that Dylan made his conversion official by releasing an album of Gospel music, Slow Train Coming. "Gotta Serve Somebody" became a hit single, and Dylan embarked on a tour in which many of his older, secular fans booed him while he attracted a new generation of Christian fans. His next two albums, Saved (1980) and Shot of Love (1981) were also Gospel albums. There followed a two year period of no new releases while rumors floated that Dylan had returned to the Jewish faith of his upbringing. He resurfaced with a new album in 1984, Infidels. The secular/liberal music press accused the lyrics on Infidels of being "cranky" and right-wing: "Neighborhood Bully" defended Israel's foreign policy vis-a-vis its Arab neighbors, "Man of Peace" had the refrain "Sometimes Satan comes as a man of peace", "Union Sundown" supported buying American and decried imports from the third world, and the hit single "Sweetheart Like You" included the line "a woman like you should be at home, that's where you belong". The opening track of Infidels, Jokerman is constructed almost entirely of Biblical allusions. These four albums stand as an interesting period in Bob Dylan's career of Christian lyrics. He has continued to release new material since, of varying quality and commercial success.

In 2004, he published the first volume of Chronicles, his planned autobiography. Since 2005, he has had a weekly radio show on XM Radio and he chose "The Bible" as the theme of a recent show, playing songs by the Reverend J.M. Gates, Kitty Wells, and the Reverend Gary Davis. His most recent album, Modern Times (2006), reached #1 on the pop music charts; at age 65, he is the oldest artist to have attained that mark.

Notes and references

  1. Bob Dylan (1962); The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (1963); The Times They Are a-Changin' (1964); and Another Side of Bob Dylan (1964)
  2. By turns surreal, poetic, visionary and political.
  3. Highway 61 Revisited (1965); Blonde on Blonde (1966); and John Wesley Harding (1967)

External links

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