A New Glimpse Into Dylan’s Bizarre “Born-Again” Phase

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There is a new Bob Dylan documentary coming which features rare concert footage from his “born again” tour of 1979-80. This ought to kindle the interest of any Dylan fan, since his three-album Christian phase was surely one of the most mysterious detours in a career full of wild left turns.

Born-Again Christianity is a wonderful thing for millions of people, but everybody wondered how this man – Rock’s original iconoclast, the one who taught a generation that its spiritual quest was unfettered and free and infinite – how could this man live within the strictures of church dogma? How on earth could he have gotten to that point?

Observers suggest that Bob Dylan was physically and emotionally vulnerable in the late Seventies, which supposedly eased the way towards his conversion. It was post-divorce, and he was touring hard for over two years just to pay his bills. He probably drank more and did more drugs during this time than at any other point in his life, and he was hanging out with musicians like T-Bone Burnett and Roger McGuinn who themselves had converted. The whole thing kind of seemed like an accident.

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Personally I’ve always loved the irony of Dylan converting to Christianity at the same time that Punk was coming onto the music scene. The guy is such a contrarian that it wouldn’t surprise me if did the whole thing just to make a statement about art.

In any case the documentary is called Trouble No More, and it will make its debut at the New York Film Festival on October 2. The concert footage was once thought to be lost but has now been restored, and it is supposedly “electrifying”. He was playing with one of his best backing bands ever, which included Muscle Shoals’ legendary keyboardist Spooner Oldham and drummer to the stars Jim Keltner. The three Christian albums may have been a little stilted lyrically, but they were times of some really fine musical exploration for Dylan and his band. I’ll bet this documentary will be a lot of fun to watch.

By Jean-Luc Ourlin (originally posted to Flickr as Bob Dylan) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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2 comments on “A New Glimpse Into Dylan’s Bizarre “Born-Again” Phase
  1. There is more freedom in Christ than the writer knows. That was a cool period in Dylan’s music. Much of thevlyric was either straight out of, or his paraphrase of God’s Word. I saw him on the ‘Saved’ album tour… quite a minister between songs. Probably seen him 7 times in all over the last 40 years.
    Still a great artist/player.

  2. Christianity, like any system of belief, is a perspective from which to view life and the world. What makes it unique is the person of Jesus Christ. To be a Christian is like watching a football game from the stadium owner’s private box.

    I remember watching Bob on Saturday Night Live doing “Got To Serve Somebody” and thinking, this is the most powerful stuff he’d done in years. This was before I converted.

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