Bob Dylan, spiritual poet

October 29, 2009

In this clip, Fr. Robert Barron argues that Dylan is a “spiritual poet” whose work is saturated with the Bible and with the moral and spiritual traditions of Judaism and Christianity:

I’m not convinced by his interpretation of “Like a Rolling Stone”, but I do believe that his point is basically correct, even granting that Dylan is famously and exhaustingly mercurial.  The argument is developed in more detail in this essay by Francis Beckwith, which appeared in Bob Dylan and Philosophy.

Incidentally, I had never heard of Fr. Barron until I encountered him one morning at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.  That morning he was quietly celebrating the Mass for a handful of English-speaking pilgrims, and only later did I discover that he has quite an extensive ministry and is fairly well-known.  To be honest, I still don’t know much about him, but anybody who thinks Dylan is a great singer is in my good books.

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8 Responses to “Bob Dylan, spiritual poet”

  1. Nick Milne Says:

    Incidentally, I had never heard of Fr. Barron until I encountered him one morning at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

    It’s a rare man who could say that so casually :0

  2. cburrell Says:

    Rare or not, that’s the way it was: we went into the church, and there was Fr. Barron.

  3. Rufus McCain Says:

    I just gave a first listen to Bob’s new Xmas album — loved it!

  4. cburrell Says:

    That is heartening, Rufus. I haven’t heard it yet, and I’ve been hearing ominous reports. Some wag left a review at iTunes saying that the record made him want to “hang himself by the chimney with care”. I can deal with jokes like that, but then Andy Whitman, my favourite music reviewer, comes along and dumps all over Bob’s Christmas pudding. I was feeling sad.

    I guess now I’ll just have to listen to the record and judge for myself. I sure want to like it.


  5. Very interesting, though I think claiming a bit too much. I think Dylan is a great artist in the folk/pop realm, and I agree with the main point here (as stated in your first paragraph), but I also think intellectuals often claim too much for him and read him too closely. I think he’s a pretty instinctive writer whose words often have a great deal more resonance than coherence, especially in his mid-1960s work.

    I guess you didn’t get to hear those clips of the Dylan Christmas album that were available for a short time? On the basis of one not very attentive listen, the arrangements seemed to me much like an old ’50s-’60s crooner Christmas album, an Andy Williams or Perry Como sort of thing–but with the crooner replaced by Dylan. It’s disconcerting. For me I think it would be something I’d never listen to more than a few times, so I’m not planning to buy it.

    A really fine album in that general vein is Sinatra’s “Jolly Christmas”.

  6. cburrell Says:

    I’ve been circling around Dylan’s Christmas album, but I haven’t sprung for it yet. It’s still to early to listen to Christmas music.

    “…more resonance than coherence…”

    That’s a very good way of putting it. But such resonance!

  7. Rufus McCain Says:

    You can listen to the Xmas album for free via the “hear it now link” that accompanies the review at Rolling Stone: http://www.rollingstone.com/reviews/album/30361498/review/30455318/christmas_in_the_heart

    The first track won me over. Dylan’s voice is raw in places but overall the record just works, inexplicably but beautifully. I haven’t bought it yet, but I definitely will, and it will definitely be given out as presents to a select few. The proceeds go to feed the hungry, too

  8. cburrell Says:

    Ah, thank you kindly for the link. I am waiting for Advent before I start playing Christmas music, but I’ll remember where it is.


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