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Parsing Pop Lyrics
What do Bob Dylan's lyrics mean? No question irritates the musician more, notes Michael Gilmour, assistant professor of New Testament at Providence College. In this meaty volume he turns his scholarly talents to discovering how Scripture influenced Dylan's lyrics.
Dylan's motives for incorporating Scripture vary from song to song, from creating dramatic effects to invoking moral ideals, Gilmour says. As he mines the lyrics for scriptural similarities, he examines how
Dylan adopts Christological images ("Shelter from the Storm") and explores how they often echo biblical prophets.
While some of the comparisons are (by Gilmour's own admission) pretty subtle, others are readily apparent, such as the apocalyptic overtones of "Things Have Changed": If the Bible is right, the world will explode.
The book includes interpretations of Dylan's lyrics by other authors, along with critiques of them. An appendix catalogues the biblical references in his music. And the hardcore Dylan fan will enjoy the extensive chapter endnotes.
Gilmour concludes that the meaning we find in Dylan's music is "largely of our own making … the experiences we have in listening to the songs are as much the result of what we bring to them as what he puts into them."
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Tangled up in the Bible: Bob Dylan & Scripture is available from Amazon.com and other book retailers.
The first volume of Bob Dylan's autobiography, Chronicles, is also available from Amazon.com and other book retailers.
More on Bob Dylan from Christianity Today include: