Editor’s note: Here are the answers to a quiz, reprinted with permission of David Buckna on the occasion of the release of “Bob Dylan: A Spiritual Journey” by Scott M. Marshall. The quiz itself is linked here.
1. “Long Ago, Far Away.” Like many good stories, the song ends with an unexpected twist: “Things like that don’t happen / No more, nowadays, do they?” The song was finally released in 2010, on Dylan’s Bootleg Series Volume 9: The Witmark Demos.
2. “Even Jesus would never forgive what you do.” Keohane comments: “Dylan knows it is not biblically correct, because all sins that a man can commit are possible for God to forgive.” This is from “Restless Pilgrim: The Spiritual Journey of Bob Dylan” by Scott M. Marshall with Marcia Ford (2002). Restless Pilgrim examines Dylan’s career and public pronouncements, and concludes that if Dylan’s thoughts and beliefs are “all right there in the music,” as he says, then he is “without a doubt a man who continues to express faith in Jesus while holding on to his Jewish heritage.”
3. “All Along the Watchtower.” Some have hypothesized that Dylan’s couplet: “Outside in the distance, a wild cat did growl / Two riders were approaching, the wind began to howl” may have come from Isaiah’s similarly apocalyptic: “And the lookout shouted, ‘Day after day, my lord, I stand on the watchtower; every night I stay at my post. Look, here comes a man in a chariot with a team of horses. And he gives back the answer: ‘Babylon has fallen, has fallen! All the images of its gods lie shattered on the ground!'” (Isaiah 21:8-9)
4. “Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid,” for the Sam Peckinpah film. Consisting of primarily instrumental music, the soundtrack included Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, which became a Top 20 hit. Dylan himself appeared in the film as the character Alias.
5. “Slow Train Coming” (1979), “Saved” (1980) and “Shot Of Love” (1981). In 1980, Dylan won the Best Male Rock Vocal Performance Grammy for “Gotta Serve Somebody,” which includes the lines: “Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord / But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” Catherine Kanner, the cover art designer for “Slow Train Coming,” was given special instructions about what Dylan wanted. In “The Rock & Roll Rebellion” by Mark Joseph (1999), Kanner recalls: “He described the image he wanted: He wanted a train and a pick axe with a symbol of the cross. I was Jewish and he was, so it was a little weird; but how often do you get an opportunity like that?” “Slow Train Coming” came in second in CCM Magazine’s list of the Best Contemporary Christian Albums Of All Time.
6. “Pledge My Head to Heaven,” from the album “So You Wanna Go Back To Egypt.” Dylan is also heard on U2’s “Rattle And Hum” (1988) – playing Hammond organ on “Hawkmoon 269,” and doing backup vocals on “Love Rescue Me.”
7. “Standing on the waters, casting your bread,” a reference to Ecclesiastes 11:1 (KJV): “Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.”
From Rolling Stone magazine: “Dylan recruited Dire Straits guitarist Mark Knopfler to produce his 1983 LP Infidels, a supposedly secular album – though this song includes references to Sodom and Gomorrah, Leviticus, Deuteronomy and the ‘rich man without any name’ in the ‘fiery furnace.’ It’s one trippy song, and it rocks harder than most anything else Dylan did in the 1980s. The definitive version was performed on “Late Night With David Letterman” with L.A. punk band the Plugz.”
8. I And I, a reference to “Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me and live.” (Exodus 33:30, KJV)
9. “Time Out Of Mind.” Dylan told New York Times reporter Jon Pareles: “A lot of the songs were written after the sun went down. And I like storms, I like to stay up during a storm. I get very meditative sometimes, and this one phrase was going through my head: ‘Work while the day lasts, because the night of death cometh when no man can work.’ I don’t recall where I heard it. I like preaching; I hear a lot of preaching and I probably just heard it somewhere.” Jesus said in John 9:4, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day; the night cometh when no man can work.” (KJV)
10. “Time Out Of Mind,” (1997) which begins: “You broke a heart that loved you / Now you can seal up the book and not write anymore / I’ve been walking that lonesome valley / Trying to get to Heaven before they close the door.”
11. “Rock Of Ages” (Toplady/Hastings) which begins: “Rock of Ages, cleft for me / Let me hide myself in Thee / Let the water and the blood / From Thy wounded side which flowed/ Be of sin the double cure / Save from wrath and make me pure.”
12. Michael the Archangel, slaying a dragon. Sculptor Kristofer Leirdal, 85, commented: “I saw that singer as a representative of American opposition to the Vietnam war. I thought it appropriate to have a great poet on top of the tower.”
13. “With, you know, with the chief, the Chief Commander … in this earth, and in the world we can’t see.” The “60 Minutes” interview, broadcast Dec. 5, 2004, was Dylan’s first television interview in nearly 20 years.
14. “God Knows,” which includes: “God knows it’s a struggle/ God knows it’s a crime / God knows there’s gonna be no more water / But fire next time.” In scripture, 2 Peter 3: 5-7 says: “But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and with water. By water also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.”
15. “Spirit on the water / Darkness on the face of the deep,” a reference to Genesis 1:22, which says: “And the earth was without form, and void and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” (KJV)
16. Willie Johnson.
Read the Hollywood Reporter’s report on “Bob Dylan: A Spiritual Life” author Scott Marshall’s conclusion that to appreciate Dylan’s influence on pop culture, one first must understand his thoughts on Judaism, Christianity, and all things spiritual.
The same episode also included Dylan reading from Ecclesiastes, chapter 3.
17. Dylan replied: “Well, I am a true believer.”
18. Barack Obama, before awarding Dylan the Presidential Medal of Freedom – America’s highest civilian honor – during a White House ceremony.
19. “Tempest,” the title track, which relates the history of the RMS Titanic. According to Los Angeles Times music critic Randy Lewis: “Every one of the song’s 45 verses still packs a punch.” He provides one example: “Mothers and their daughters / Descending down the stairs / Jumped into the icy waters / Love and pity sent their prayers.”
20. “Pay in Blood.” Stockman: “‘Pay in Blood’ is dripping with the images of the Jewish Passover or the Christian idea of atonement when Christ shed his own blood and shouted from the cross an Aramaic word that could be translated ‘Paid in full’. But [the singer] also seems to be haunted by America at war in recent years: ‘I play in blood but not my own.'”