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Dylan and the Jews


Israel's Wars and Dylan's Muse

The media column of the May 5, 1995 issue of The Forward, a Jewish newspaper in New York, mentioned Bob Dylan in the context of a Might magazine article on Jews in rock music. Unfortunately, that article's correlation between Dylan going electric and the Six Day War comes up against the fact that Dylan plugged in in 1965.

But that got me thinking. The period following the June, 1967 Six Day War, was indeed an artistic milestone for the former Robert Zimmerman: It was the year he recorded the Basement Tapes as well as John Wesley Harding, with its strong Biblical influence.

Continuing this analysis, reveals another unexpected side of Bob Dylan: The ups and downs of Dylan's creativity and Jewish connection coincide uncannily with Israel's diplomatic position.

1973, 1983, and 1989 -- the years of the Yom Kippur War, the Lebanon War, and the height of the Intifada -- were years of well-hailed Dylan "comebacks" and pronounced Jewish imagery in his songs or his liner notes.

By contrast, in 1978 -- the year of the Camp David Accords -- Dylan embraced Christianity. And since 1991, the year of the Madrid Conference and a period of increasing progress in the peace process, Dylan has released several albums -- but has written no new songs.

In other words, Satan may come as a man of peace -- but not Dylan's muse.


Israel's wars & Dylan's muse, at a glance

1967: Six Day War
Dylan finds Biblical images, breaks the silence that began with the motorcycle crash

1973: Yom Kippur War
Dylan recovers from artistic slump with Planet Waves; names new publishing company Ram's Horn Music.

1974-76: Anti-Israel sentiment heats up in U.N. and world arena.
Blood on the Tracks, Desire, Rolling Thunder tour: Dylan's comeback.

1978: Camp David Accords, Israel trades Sinai for peace with Egypt.
Dylan embraces Christianity

1983: Lebanon War
Dylan returns to Jewish fold; Infidels seen as yet another creative comeback; "Neighborhood Bully" defends Begin's policies

1989: Intifada at peak
Jewish-tinged "Oh Mercy" proves yet another comeback

1991-present: Madrid conference, Oslo accords advance peace process
Dylan falls silent, releasing several albums but no new songs.

Note: This may or may not be a correct reading of Dylan's muse, or his politics. I derive no political pleasure from these findings.

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Created and copyright by Larry Yudelson, publisher of YudelLine: One Jew's News and Views and RadioHazak: Israeli Music on the Internet. Send suggestions and comments to larry at yudel.com. © 1991-2008.