Home Book “The Philosophy of Trendy Music”: Bob Dylan’s Tribute to Christian Tradition

“The Philosophy of Trendy Music”: Bob Dylan’s Tribute to Christian Tradition

“The Philosophy of Trendy Music”: Bob Dylan’s Tribute to Christian Tradition

Over sixty years into his profession, Bob Dylan stays a prolific artist, resuming his By no means Ending Tour after a quick pause as a consequence of Covid and constructing upon his already large physique of labor with new, provocative materials. The most recent installment is his e-book The Philosophy of Trendy Music, launched in November. The e-book just isn’t a scientific treatise, as its title would possibly counsel, however relatively a sequence of vignettes of about sixty-six songs chosen from nearly each decade of the final century. Nearly all of the songs lined within the e-book had been recorded within the Fifties and early Nineteen Sixties as Dylan grew up and got here of age. The textual content exudes basic Dylan: dense imagery, symbolic, summary, laborious to observe, charming, vexing, and stuffed with wealthy perception. There seems to be no central theme to this e-book; it reads extra like a journal that Dylan fills with ideas and responses in actual time as he listens to every track. It exemplifies what the Anglo-Catholic T.S. Eliot describes in his essay on artists known as “Custom and the Particular person Expertise”: “The poet’s thoughts is the truth is a receptacle for seizing and storing up numberless emotions, phrases, pictures, which stay there till all of the particles which may unite to kind a brand new compound are current collectively.”

The Philosophy of Modern Song by Bob Dylan

There have been some intriguing albeit unsubstantiated claims that Dylan lately transformed to Catholicism. {That a} Christian sensibility has been occupying his thoughts, nevertheless, may be very potential: throughout a run of dates final spring, Dylan concluded each set with “Each Grain of Sand,” one among his largest hits throughout his interval of writing Christian music. The Philosophy of Trendy Music additional suggests that he’s indulging that sensibility as a result of it’s deeply rooted in Christian tradition.

It’s at the least noteworthy, even when it is just pure coincidence, that there are sixty-six chapters, the identical because the variety of books in a Protestant Bible, and the e-book is replete with references to Catholicism and Scripture, some extra severe and a few extra flippant. Within the chapter on “Mack the Knife” by Bobby Darin, Dylan writes, “Whereas Sinatra nearly invented the Roman Catholic Church, Darin was merely an altar boy.” Regarding “Ruby, Are You Mad?” by the Osborne Brothers, he calls the track “Church Latin.” He references the archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael whereas exploring “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” by Nina Simone. In his piece on “El Paso” by Marty Robbins, Dylan searches for metaphors in cassocks, bishops’ rings, early Christian martyrs, the Vatican, and the Eucharist:

Rosa’s Cantina is similar cantina time and again. The symbolic Rosa, the black robe and the bishop’s ring, the bread and the wine, and the blood. The blood of Christian martyrs, blood that dies the white rose crimson, racked and scourged. A Catholic track, common, the place no insult will go unchallenged. The place each path goes chilly, the place Rome has spoken.

It has lengthy been argued that Dylan’s music can’t be understood with out a deep information of the Bible, and the identical is true for the music that Dylan reveres. He compares the principal character in “Lengthy Tall Sally” by Little Richard to the Nephilim folks within the Pentateuch, and he ponders the pagan god Moloch that seems all through the Previous Testomony within the chapter on “El Paso.” The protagonist in “Blue Bayou” by Roy Orbison encounters “the Tower of Babel . . . skyscrapers of gibberish and double discuss.”

One of many causes folks flip away from God is as a result of faith is not within the cloth of their lives.

Some of the surprising passages in the entire e-book seems within the chapter on “If You Don’t Know Me by Now” by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, when Dylan ends the chapter with a mirrored image on the e-book of Job, which reveals not solely his grasp of Scripture but in addition some familiarity with biblical scholarship:

Supposedly, early readers of the Bible had been disturbed by the harshness of God’s conduct in opposition to Job, however the prologue with God’s wager with Devil about Job’s piety within the face of continued testing, added later, makes it one of the thrilling and inspirational books of the Previous or New Testomony.

Many songs Dylan explores clearly signify parts of Christianity, and for good motive: most of those songs had been created in a world that was Christian socially, morally, and cultically. Up by the revolutions of the Nineteen Sixties, parts of Christendom permeated the broader Western tradition and held robust affect within the arts. This holds true in most music genres of the time, the identical genres that maintain Dylan’s consideration on this e-book: blues, nation, people, bluegrass, jazz, and early rock and roll. Dylan places it this fashion in the identical chapter on “If You Don’t Know Me by Now”:

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One of many causes folks flip away from God is as a result of faith is not within the cloth of their lives. It’s introduced as a factor that have to be journeyed to as a chore—it’s Sunday, we’ve to go to church. Or, it’s used as a weapon of menace by political nutjobs on both facet of each argument. However faith was once within the water we drank, the air we breathed. Songs of reward had been as spine-tingling as, and in fact the idea of, songs of carnality. Miracles illuminated conduct and weren’t simply spectacle.

A part of Dylan’s philosophy, it appears, is greater than mere nostalgia. We have now forgotten the musical traditions that kind the bedrock of our music, and we have to return to them. If we heed his phrases, we’ll discover that these traditions matured in a Christian tradition. The very roots of the music we discover throughout us deliver us nose to nose with an ethos of worship, reward, and petition woven in “the material of their lives.” The Philosophy of Trendy Music, then, has a really well timed look. Within the prime of the streaming period, Bob Dylan chooses to have interaction in ressourcement, inviting us present-day readers to find what our musical precursors can train, and their pedagogy is rife with seeds of the Phrase.


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