Sixteen years ago nineteen-year-old Robert Zimmerman moved from Minnesota to New York City. He left behind his past, his family, and his name. Ahead was his new life as Bob Dylan, influential singer-songwriter. Over the years countless artists have recorded Dylan’s songs, and he has toured the world. Dylan is one of the three major trendsetters in popular music, the other two being Elvis Presley and the Beatles. The press has hailed him as a prophet, a leader, a teacher, a messiah, a poet, the voice of young America, and the conscience of his generation. Dylan says he’s just a songwriter.
Throughout his career Dylan has reflected his religious upbringing. Raised in a strict Jewish home, he fills his songs with religious language, biblical references and characters, and theological questions. He views man in the light of the cosmic struggle between good and evil. Man must choose to follow God and truth or fall into death, decay, and ultimate judgment.
“Gates of Eden” (1965) says the world is evil but “there are no sins inside the Gates of Eden.” Dylan sees the world as “sick … hungry … tired … torn/It looks like it’s a-dyin’ an’ it’s hardly been born” (“Song to Woody,” 1962); as a “concrete world full of souls” (“The Man in Me,” 1970); and as a “world of steel-eyed death and men who are fighting to be free” (“Shelter From the Storm,” 1974). Technologically advanced America threatens human freedom, feels Dylan, who confesses that “the man in me will hide sometimes to keep from being seen/But that’s just because he doesn’t want to turn into some machine.” In “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” (1965), his sermon in song line by line decries the phoniness of society’s games. “Human gods” make “everything from toy guns that ...1
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