Dylan, The Dead, and Me

23 Apr

I want to address a couple of items that people brought up about Don Lattin’s article about me and Jesus Rocks The World, on the Religion News Service website, Huffington Post and others. The first deals with calling the 1987 Dylan and the Dead concert his evangelical period. No it is not, because Shot of Love was Dylan’s last Christian album and it was half gospel and half secular with Every Grain of SandΒ  (the culmination of his religious philosophy based on Christian theology) and the antithesis Lenny Bruce. Then came Infidels, in 1983, which either declared himself as one or indicated that his audience would be such. His audience was now unbelievers, but he still carried the Christian message. At least that is what I told myself when I attended a Bob Dylan with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers alone and as his back up band, concert in 1986. I thought it was funny that he chose the name Empire Burlesque for his next album, because it was a return to his description of himself as just a song and dance man, back in the mid-sixties. Also, Burlesque theater preceded strip joints and included women disrobing between comedy and music acts in seedy theaters. This was his audience, not the church. He fulfilled the desire of the most sincere Jesus freak musician. He directed his message to the masses and said, let he who has ears, hear.

So when a.k.a. Mr. Zimmerman played with the Dead in 1987, I used the same logic in order to create a convoluted rationalization of theological thought in order to justify my attendance. I knew that he was playing his old material and even heard an interview with him on Rock-Line in 1985. I preceded Dylan into the Jesus movement, by seven years, but he became part of it to rescue me, or so it seemed. He showed me the way, but I timidly followed, because he was a genius and I was just a normal everyday human being. So going to the concert was, for me, a real eye opener.

You see, I was no virgin to rock transcendence, in a secular sense, since I was a hard core, LSD dropping freak from shortly after my army discharge in 1968 to 1971 when I flushed all my acid down the toilet and began to read the Bible and listen to Jesus Christ Superstar, while I smoked pot. I saw everyone from Hendrix to the Doors and attended 3-day rock festivals, like Woodstock, although I missed Woodstock, even though many of my friends went. That week I became infatuated with the love of my life and stood up to a wedding instead.Β  My girlfriend and I attended concerts together and she would drive when I was tripping on acid, but then that’s another story. I attended numerous concerts with my friends and girl friend at various levels of consciousness, using marijuana, LSD, and mescaline. Needless to say I was transported to other worlds through the music under the influence of the hallucinogenic intoxicants. In these other worlds I built the framework of the philosophy that was revealed to me. Then to flesh it out, I chose a religion to study, and that was Christianity. I was raised a Roman Catholic and went to Catholic school, until the 8th grade. Then at the age of 24, I became an Evangelical Pentecostal Protestant.

After 16 years of immersion in a theological system, that includes both academic and experiential training in my chosen faith, I attended a Dylan and the Dead concert, only to see a phenomenon that I thought was long gone. Hippies still existed and were part of a travelling road show that spread the gospel of ecstasy and people like Ken Kesey, Wavy Gravy and Ram Dass continued as leaders through the decades. Continued exposure to concerts accelerated as my children became teenagers and I began to bring them with me. So the Dylan thing was a convoluted rationalization that eventually sucked me back into the rock and roll environment, but this time as a journalist, rather than a participant. By the way, I took the photo included with this entry at the July 1987 concert with a 200 mm zoom. I didn’t have a photo pass and was still 7 years from getting one.Dylan and the Dead #1

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