Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan

Last week, Columbia Records and Legacy Recordings released “Trouble No More – The Bootleg Series Vol. 13 / 1979-1981.” This latest volume in the Bob Dylan “Bootleg Series” focuses on a three-year period known as “the gospel years,” when Dylan churned out three albums of Christian-themed songs.

This nine-disc box set showcases the legendary folk singer as a man of faith and deep spirituality. And although many people believe Dylan left Christianity behind when he started recording secular music again, one author who has thoroughly researched Dylan’s life and career begs to differ. In fact, he thinks the release of this new box set is evidence Dylan remains a Christian to this day.

“Obviously this is something that Dylan is aware of and approved, because it’s an official release,” Scott Marshall said during a recent interview on Frontpage Radio.

Indeed, Dylan’s official website has been heavily promoting the new release.

In his book “Bob Dylan: A Spiritual Life,” Marshall fully explores Dylan’s spiritual odyssey, from his Jewish roots through his embrace of Christianity through the present day. He argues Dylan never renounced his faith in Jesus, despite what some public sources have said.

In addition to the new box set, Marshall sees a few other examples from this century of Dylan’s continued spirituality. In 2003, Dylan’s record label released “Gotta Serve Somebody: The Gospel Songs of Bob Dylan,” an album of songs from Dylan’s spiritual period performed by contemporary gospel artists. Dylan himself recorded a duet with Mavis Staples for the album, rewriting one of his songs from his first gospel album, “Slow Train Coming.”

“That was two decades-plus on [from his gospel years], and if he had renounced his faith or if he had backslidden and didn’t want to have to deal with that period through those songs, then why in the world would he participate in that?” Marshall asked rhetorically.

The incredible spiritual journey of an American icon. You’ll never look at American pop culture – or Christianity – the same way again. Discover the unbelievable true story behind one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. “Bob Dylan: The Spiritual Life” is available now at the WND Superstore.

Then, in 2009, Dylan released a Christmas album called “Christmas in the Heart.” At the time, interviewer Bill Flanagan noted Dylan’s strong performance of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and remarked, “I don’t want to put you on the spot, but you sure deliver that song like a true believer.”

Dylan replied, “Well, I am a true believer.”

In an interview with Flanagan earlier this year, the rock critic asked Dylan which of his songs he thought did not get the attention it deserved. Dylan mentioned “Brownsville Girl,” but he also mentioned “In the Garden,” a song from his 1980 album “Saved.”

“For those who haven’t heard [‘In the Garden’], it’s just taken straight out of the New Testament – the account of Jesus’s death and resurrection,” Marshall explained.

Marshall said there was also evidence Dylan was on a spiritual journey well before he recorded his first gospel album. In 1974, Dylan was in the midst of a popular tour, but he found time between shows to attend a religious rally near Miami, Florida. Afterward, Dylan asked to speak to traveling Christian preacher Arthur Blessitt, one of the speakers at the rally. He spent about 10 minutes with the evangelist, questioning him about Jesus. Blessitt told Marshall years later that Dylan was eager to know how a real follower of Jesus would answer his questions.

A few days later, on that same 1974 tour, Dylan was in Atlanta when Jimmy Carter, who was then Georgia’s governor, invited him to the governor’s mansion. Knowing that Carter was a Christian, Dylan questioned the future president on his faith.

To Marshall, all this is evidence that spirituality was bubbling up inside Dylan, ready to burst forth with his 1979 album “Slow Train Coming.” In fact, Dylan went through a brief period during his gospel years when he only performed his newly written spiritual songs, refusing to perform any of his older, more secular material. Dylan later said he was worried at the time that his older songs might be anti-God.

“Some people, even Christians, I’ve heard, have given Dylan a hard time for that, thinking, ‘Wow, he must have been so insecure with himself,’ but to me, I thought it was incredibly vulnerable,” Marshall revealed.

Marshall said he wants readers of “Bob Dylan: A Spiritual Life” to appreciate Dylan’s immense contributions to music and songwriting, as well as his deep spirituality.

“This man is reflecting the spiritual beings that we are,” Marshall declared. “I know some people would not submit to that, but from the very beginning of Dylan’s career, arguably, he had a preoccupation with spiritual matters, as reflected in his lyrics, and this book is just the story of someone – Bob Dylan – searching and seeking spiritual things, and again, he found the answer through Jesus.”

The incredible spiritual journey of an American icon. You’ll never look at American pop culture – or Christianity – the same way again. Discover the unbelievable true story behind one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. “Bob Dylan: The Spiritual Life” is available now at the WND Superstore.

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