Saturday, December 26, 2009

Bob Dylan: Prophet, Mystic, Poet

Knockin’ on heaven’s door: Fifty years into Dylan’s career, Seth Rogovoy’s new book explores his Jewish influences.

There is a new book out about the former Robert Zimmerman regarding the Jewish influences on his music.  Seth Rogovoy's Bob Dylan:  Prophet, Mystic, Poet  was reviewed in this week's edition of the Jewish Week.  Dylan's influence over popular culture is immense.  Mosh-pitter, headbanger, and classical music fan alike can all hum a soulful "Blowin' in the Wind."  But there is no denying that Dylan is a part of the Whole Phamily and he has his Yiddishkeit to thank a bissel.  This book explores some previously unrevealed truths of the Jewish foundation of some of Dylan's songs.

Interestingly, Dylan put out an Xmas CD this holiday season.  Check out the Nation's blog for a discussion about it.  Or, more recently, Randy Lewis' coverage in the LA Times about Jews, including Neil Diamond, Barbara Streisand, Barry Manilow, producing Xmas albums.  The Whole Phamily think it's mighty fine that he's belting out these classics for the general American public to hear, especially since we now know that he remains a Yid through and through (no name change will will really change you).

What would Garrison Keillor have to say about all this?  There are elements of NPR that we enjoy (having been long-time fans of David Isay's various radio projects), but it's never been A Prairie Home Companion.  Despite that Dylan and Keillor share Minnesota as their home state, Keillor's angry, evil words in a recent issue of The Baltimore Sun sound downright antisemitic.

What's the deal with Dylan's name, anyway?  Zimmerman, his given name, translates as carpenter.  Somewhere back in the alter heim his family were wood-workers.  As we all know, Dylan took on the name of the poet Dylan Thomas.  Too bad his name wasn't Zingerman (which translates as a singer).  Then maybe he wouldn't have changed it, and surely he could've eventually had a nice deli sandwich (albeit treif) in Ann Arbor and reveled in shared family lineage.

Music has the power to move.  It touches one's inner depths.  It reminds us of happy times and sad.  It brings excitement to otherwise-mundane activities.  A good tune blaring out of the speakers of your best friends '63 Corvette brought you back to a time of freedom and youth.  We are glad to learn for certain that Bob Dylan, after 50 years, was indeed influenced by the biblical, Jewish prophet Isaiah in All Along the Watchtower .

And, we hope that his son-in-law, Peter Himmelman, talented musician in his own right, is kvelling.

1 comment:

Seth Rogovoy said...

Thanks for taking note of my book.

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