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A friend runs an interesting website called “Right Wing Bob”—a never-ending discussion of Bob Dylan’s work by a political and theological conservative. He’s posted today an interview with me about the influence of Dylan’s music , which may interest some of our readers. Kind of.

Mostly I sound like a blithering idiot. But I do try to make the linguistic and rhetorical case for God in Dylan—a thesis about the American language that someday I’d like to pursue:

I don’t know what Dylan’s religion is. But I know what the songs are about. And what Dylan reaches down into is the deep stuff of America. Down linguisically into that soil. And he pulls up these threads, these roots, and weaves them together into a song . . . .

I don’t believe we have ever had a singer in America, a composer, a songwriter in America, who’s reached more deeply into that soil. Whatever it is that Pa Carter did — he had a kind of talent for just mixing those roots together. “Gold Watch and Chain,” and so on. But Dylan’s there and deeper . . . .

Woody Guthrie followed another slightly different path down, and Dylan followed that path and went deeper. And Irving Berlin followed another path, and Dylan knows that one too, and African-American gospel follows another path, and Dylan knows that one too. In all of them, I think, Dylan has reached deeper into the soil, into the root stock of American rhetoric, these tropes and this language.

It’s for that reason that his gospel songs—I don’t even want to call them gospel songs—his songs about God are extraordinarily American. And he’s led there by the language itself. American language itself wants to talk about God. And if you are poet enough and songwriter enough to feel where the language wants to go, the language will take you there inevitably.



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