Bob Dylan: Prophet, Mys­tic, Poet

  • Review
By – September 9, 2011

Even with all the books that have been writ­ten about Bob Dylan, it’s great to have one that takes this approach. Seth Rogovoy’s gush­ing bio­graph­i­cal work looks at the extra­or­di­nary singer-song­writer through a dis­tinct­ly Jew­ish lens, plac­ing him square­ly in the prophet­ic tra­di­tion as he mines Dylan’s songs for ref­er­ences to Jew­ish texts. While acknowl­edg­ing that Dylan’s songs also draw from con­cerns about pol­i­tics, social issues, and iden­ti­ty, as well as his some­times tor­tured love life, Rogov­oy finds like­ly Jew­ish sources for lyrics in many of his songs, even locat­ing a pos­si­ble source for the song title Idiot Wind” in the Tal­mud. This is no easy task, par­tic­u­lar­ly giv­en that Dylan has, for decades, proved to be a most unre­li­able source of infor­ma­tion about him­self and his work. 

Rogov­oy can’t help but deal with Dylan’s Chris­t­ian peri­od of the late 1970’s – ear­ly 1980’s, but even here he man­ages to point out that Dylan always main­tained a con­nec­tion to the tra­di­tions of his birth. One can fault the author for some heavy-hand­ed obser­va­tions on pol­i­tics, oth­er musi­cians, and even on the def­i­n­i­tion of tikkun olam, but the depth of his research is mar­velous and his exper­tise on Dylan’s music (both his land­mark songs and many of his obscure ones) is superb. This is a worth­while addi­tion to the grow­ing library on one of America’s most impor­tant cul­tur­al fig­ures. Bibliography.

Read Seth Rogovy’s Posts for the Vis­it­ing Scribe

Bob Dylan’s Christ­mas Album (Part 1)

Bob Dylan’s Christ­mas Album: The Jew­ish Con­tri­bu­tion to the Hol­i­day’ Genre (Part 2)

The Mean­ing of Bob Dylan’s Christ­mas Album: The Music (Part 3)

Bob Dylan’s Christ­mas Album: What Good Is It? (Part 4)

David Cohen is a senior edi­tor at Politi­co. He has been in the jour­nal­ism busi­ness since 1985 and wrote the book Rugged and Endur­ing: The Eagles, The Browns and 5 Years of Foot­ball. He resides in Rockville, MD.; his wife, Deb­o­rah Bod­in Cohen, writes Jew­ish children’s books.

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