Never before has a book like this one delved into the spiritual odyssey of cultural icon Bob Dylan. Tracking an American original—from his Jewish roots to his controversial embrace of Jesus to his enduring legacy as the composer of the Tempest album—Bob Dylan: A Spiritual Life delivers the story of a man in dogged pursuit of redemption.
Based on years of research and original interviews, this book sorts through the myths and misunderstandings and reveals Dylan to be both traditional and radical in the way he expresses his spiritual quest for purpose and meaning. “Call Dylan whatever you want, but the name won’t stick,” said foreword writer and film director Scott Derrickson. “What does stick is his music, in part because his songs contain a deep, abiding spirituality that moves listeners like me more than the songs of any other artist.”
Bob Dylan: A Spiritual Life bridges the gap between purpose and meaning in grand fashion. It offers readers an informative, entertaining, and nuanced look into Bob Dylan’s spiritual odyssey. Today, there is not a Dylan book in existence that exclusively focuses on his spiritual odyssey through years of research and original interviews.
“Scott Marshall, in his book Bob Dylan: A Spiritual Life, reflects on the spiritual expressions of one of our country’s greatest artists, and there is no shortage of material from which to learn.”
–President Jimmy Carter
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Bob has always been rock and roll’s poet laureate. A lyricist confesses a lot—we’re sort of our own psychotherapists—and “Gotta Serve Somebody” is as close to a modern-day hymn as anything I can think of. Bob’s spirit is captured effectively in Bob Dylan: A Spiritual Life. If you can’t trust Bob Dylan, who can you trust?
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Bob Dylan will not be labeled. For five decades now, he has avoided the trappings of every group that has wanted to claim him as their own. Call Dylan whatever you want, but the name won’t stick. What does stick is his music, in part because his songs contain a deep, abiding spirituality that moves listeners like me more than the songs of any other artist.
—Scott Derrickson, Hollywood director
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I always have a hard time writing anything down about Bob Dylan. Feels like he might want it that way. I saw Bob Dyln on my thirteenth birthday. Flew home for it. Felt like he ushered me into adulthood properly. I grew up with his songs—and somehow his songs have grown up with me as well. His words come in and out of my life like apparitions, appearing in mercurial forms ranging from the hipster iconoclast to the suburban prophet. Dylan’s songs have guided me from young aimless angst to a hope that is busy being born. Whatever he was singing about, I always felt like Dylan made me a believer.
—Jon Foreman, Switchfoot
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The concept of examining Bob Dylan and spirituality is an intriguing one. As a devoted student of Dylan, I can’t wait ot see where this story leads. All things considered, it seems central to a real understanding of the maestro.
—Michael Levine, Hollywood publicist and author of Guerilla PR
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“Bob Dylan has been an inspiration to me throughout my career and I’ve been deeply affected by his spiritual journey. Rock and roll is at its best when it asks the important questions, as Bob has always done in his work, and there is no more important question than the question of God. Bob Dylan: A Spiritual Life provides the final answer to those who doubt or minimize Bob’s spiritual commitment. His faith remains solid. He is the prophet of our generation and we ignore his warnings about a slow train coming at our own peril.”
—Gary Cherone, lead singer, Extreme, Van Halen
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“With Bob Dylan: A Spiritual Life, Scott Marshall takes Dylan’s idiosyncratic faith walk seriously enough to bear with the obfuscation, jokes, and sleight-of-hand that have always been a non-negotiable part of the journey. By doing so, Marshall patiently (and respectfully) connects the dots left behind by the artist himself over a half-century recording career. The result is the richest, most complete understanding of Dylan the Radical Monotheist to date.”
—Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
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“Well researched and energetically argued, a challenging new view of a complicated man.”
—Eric Alterman, award-winning author and columnist at The Nation
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“A pointillist rendering of a man’s spiritual evolution…cross-referencing over five decades of interviews and friendships, distilled from hundreds of artistic, religious and personal sources, Scott Marshall’s book succeeds mightily in documenting Bobby Dylan Zimmerman’s continuing (and often misunderstood) personal reconciliation of two faiths.”
—Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary
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“Bob Dylan is a Jew and a Christian and a steadfast contrarian. Scott Marshall provides a balanced, comprehensive account of the Nobel Prize winner’s spiritual life—a mysterious journey of Biblical proportions.”
—Don Lattin, longtime religion writer at the San Francisco Chronicle and the author of Changing Our Minds
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“Scott Marshall has performed the important task of bringing light to the mystery of how the man who warned us not to follow leaders lectured us fifteen years later that we had to serve somebody, since he talked to just about everybody who had insight into Dylan’s thinking at the time of his famous Slow Train Coming run at San Francisco’s Warfield Theatre. Painstaking footnotes manifest the level of dedication to research.”
—Jack McDonough, former Billboard correspondent and author of San Francisco Rock: The Illustrated History, 1965–1985
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“Mr. Marshall skillfully weaves his tale with relevant quotes as Dylan travels from seeing the Bible as ‘just literature’ to believing ‘in the Bible, literally.’”
—Andrew Muir, author of One More Night: Bob Dylan’s Never Ending Tour and Shakespeare in Cambridge: A Celebration of the Shakespeare Festival
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Wow, Oh my, and Thank You are the words that kept coming to mind as I read Scott Marshall’s masterly Bob Dylan: A Spiritual Life. Wow for the extent of research, which is top-notch; Oh my for the scores of facts and anecdotes I’d never run across before (and I’ve been reading Dylan bios for decades!); and Thank You for what is probably the best-argued book on the enduring biblical pulse at the heart of Dylan’s music. As the author himself says, “Why bet against Dylan having a place at that heavenly welcome table?” Wow, Oh my, and Thank You, Scott Marshall!
—Robert Hudson, editor, Zondervan; author, The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style and Kiss the Earth When You Pray
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“Scott Marshall comes as close as anyone ever will to documenting the complete and complex record of Bob Dylan’s continuing spiritual journey.”
—Jeffrey Gaskill, producer, Gotta Serve Somebody: The Gospel Songs of Bob Dylan
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“With lucid prose and a compelling narrative, Scott Marshall demonstrates that Bob Dylan’s religious sensibilities have been constant throughout his remarkable career, not episodic. This book contributes significantly to our understanding of the enigmatic Nobel laureate.”
—Randall Balmer, Emmy Award nominee; Dartmouth College
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“A number of Bob Dylan’s songs — Blowin’ In the Wind, I Shall Be Released,Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, among others — have always struck me as modern hymns. Discerning a consistent theme of monotheism in Dylan’s vast and divergent canon of works reflects the extraordinary passion that his spiritual biographer, Scott Marshall, brings to his subject. For nearly two decades, Marshall has been studying and writing about Dylan’s religious views and spiritual odyssey; the result is this book, the Bible on Dylan’s religiosity and a seminal contribution to the literature on this towering cultural — and yes, spiritual — figure of our time.”
—James Rosen, Fox News chief Washington correspondent and editor of A Torch Kept Lit by William F. Buckley, Jr.