Ron Rosenbaum

Calling All Dylan Fans

I know. there are Dylan fans and there are Dylan fanatics and there are “Dylanologists” and there are what I call “Bobolators”, like Shakespeare’s “Bardolators”, who believe he can do no wrong and that every song, every line, every moment in every movie is a gem.

Well I have a question for any or all of you. It grew out of a conversation I had with a genuinely knowledgeable and thoughtful Dylan enthusiast I met with last week. He was interviewing me about journalism in general not Dylan, but happened to mention that he had my Playboy interview with the Bobster on his iPod!

Whoa, how did that happen? I asked him. It’s true the March, 1978 interview has its following among Dylanists. Last year in The New Yorker in his essay/review of a collection of Dylan interviews, Louis Menand singled it out and quoted at length from what has become a famous-in-Dylan-circles exchange. The one in which Dylan describes the Sound he’d been searching for all his life up to then, one he finally found in doing Blonde on Blonde, one he described as “that thin, that wild mercury sound” and then went into a beautiful riff about how it’s the sound he hears on the New York streets, the rattle of silverware through open window at dawn, etc. etc. And I asked him;

“The jingle jangle morning?”

“Yes,” he said.

So the interview has become popular, but I didn’t realize the kind of second life it had until this guy told me that he was listening to me and Dylan “riffing” on his iPod. When I asked him how it happened he was a little vague. Apparently somewhere some time, someone had burned a CD of the original audiotapes and he had fed the CD into the iPod. So I’m on a bootleg with Dylan!

Anyway it brought back memories of that interview and–here’s the point of this post. The guy asked me what question I’d want to ask of Dylan now.

A good question. But what immediately leapt to mind was God.

No, not was Dylan God as some of the “Bobolators’ seem to believe. But what was Dylan’s current thinking about God. It’s always been a preoccupation in one way or another.

I remember a great exchange I had with him on the now-bootlegged interview when he was going on about the ills of society and out of the blue said. “I blame Time magazine.” (I’m quoting from memory now.

Time magazine?” I said.

Yeah he answered in what I think was an exquisitely maintained deadpan.

“Remember [again quoting from memory, not having the bootleg ready to hand] that Time cover that said ‘God Is Dead’,” he asked me.

I think he was referring to a Time cover that asked “Is God Dead”–a story about the “God is Dead” “existential theology” briefly fashionable in the 60s.

“What about it I asked?”

“Well,” Dylan said, again this is from memory, ” If you were God how would you feel when you saw that?”

The implication (which, still to this day I can’t tell how serious he was about): The ills society was suffering were God’s punishment for His premature obituary.” (it occurs tome only now to wonder if Dylan was speaking consciously or unconsciously of all the “Dylan is dead” gossip that followed his motorcycle accident.

But it raises questions that Dylan’s been asking about God since “Highway 61” which opens with “God said to Abraham, ‘Kill me a son’/Abe says, ‘Man you must be puttin’ me on.'”

So here’s the question–one question anyway–I’d like to ask Dylan and since he’s not likely to answer me, I’ll put it to fans, fanatics and Dylanologists out there (I put myself in the plain old “fan” category myself):

What do you think Dylan thinks about God, Jesus, religion, spirituality now? Or at least what do the songs suggest? Yes, there was the public conversion to Christianity, right after I interviewed him (I had nothing to do with it, I swear). There were two pure Jesus albums, Slow Train and Saved but after that there are Jesus songs but not the exclusive focus on Jesus or Christianity. (in the next album Shot of Love, there’s “Property of Jesus” but it’s followed by a tribute to a blasphemous Jew, “Lenny Bruce”. And it concludes with the exquisitely beautiful and spiritual–but not explicitly Christian–“Every Grain of Sand”.

So where is Bob with God now? Has the Christianity been dropped completely? Can anyone cite songs or quotations that give a sense of how his spirituality has evolved and to what?

I’m enabling Comments again, for Dylan-only purposes and I’d love to hear if anyone has any evidence.