Here is an interesting review of a book on Bob Dylan that tries to make his Jewishness the center of his art.
I’m not exaggerating the cult-like devotion of those whom I’ve come to call “the Bobolators” (after Shakespeare’s “Bardolators”). Although there are many brilliant commentators who are able to separate the wheat from the chaff, there are others for whom there is no chaff, those for whom his every word and line in every lyric, no matter how casual or trivial, seems to be a burning bush of signification that speaks with numinous authority in a blaze of encrypted poetry.
Perhaps the biggest stretch of the book is Rogovoy’s rationalization of Dylan’s Jesus period. Talk about taking the Christ out of Christmas. Consider when he comes to what he calls “Dylan’s most direct statement of Christian belief,” on the album Slow Train Coming. “The official published lyric of ‘When You Gonna Wake Up’ has him singing, ‘There’s a Man upon a cross and He’s been crucified / Do You have any idea why or for who He died?’”
“But,” Rogovoy tells us, as if he has discovered a loophole, “on the recording Dylan actually sings, ‘There’s a man on the cross and he’s been crucified for you / Believe in his power that’s all you gotta do.” Either way it’s a pretty straightforward declaration that the crucifixion is the path to salvation. But wait! Rogovoy seeks to obfuscate Dylan’s rare if unappealing didacticism: “The line seems tacked on to the end of the song; nothing that comes before prepares a listener for this statement of faith; there is no case being made that leads up to this as the logical (or illogical) conclusion; it’s practically a non sequitur as it appears in the song.”
You can almost see him sweat. But it’s simply not true that nothing prepares the listener or that it’s a non sequitur. It’s more like a culmination that Rogovoy can’t abide. He denies Dylan the right, misguided or not, to be the person he was then, because it challenges the ironclad rigidity of Rogovoy’s thesis. This transparent sophistry (“tacked on” could be another person’s “triumphant conclusion”) allows Rogovoy to avoid confonting Dylan’s soul-searching.