“Seth Rogovoy offers a unique perspective that examines Bob Dylan within the spectrum of Jewish religious history . . . an entertaining read; a book to add to the shelf of your Bob Dylan library.”
—Suzanne Vega
“Helps fill in one more piece of an endless and endlessly fascinating puzzle.”
— Alan Light, frequent contributor to The New York Times and former senior writer at Rolling Stone
“Required reading for those who seek to understand not only Dylan but the meaning of their own life.”
—Rabbi Alan Berg, Portland, Oregon
“A bold attempt to explain why Dylan so often sounds like my zeyde.”
—Michael Wex, author of Born to Kvetch and How To Be A Mentsh (And Not A Shmuck)

Bob Dylan’s 10 Most Jewish Songs

October 2nd, 2012

by Seth Rogovoy

While Bob Dylan has, throughout his life and career, engaged in all sorts of mythologizing and playful biographical falsification, it has never been in the service of denying his heritage. While Dylan didn’t exactly grow up to be Shlomo Carlebach, the happy, guitar-strumming Hasid, he never strayed too far from his roots, nor did he deny them. One of his earliest original numbers, in fact, was a parody of “Hava Nagilah,” then and now (thank you, Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman) probably the best-known Jewish song in the world. Throughout his career, his songs have been peppered with biblical allusions and paraphrases and informed by Jewish themes and concepts. How much of this is the result of a conscious effort on Dylan’s part to address these issues, and how much is simply the result of magpie tendencies that see him draw variously from Shakespeare, French symbolism, movie dialogue, blues clichés and even obscure Japanese yakuza novels? Well, only Dylan can answer that — and even then, probably not.

Still, based on the evidence of the songs themselves, Dylan was actually paying attention in the Hebrew classes leading up to his bar mitzvah, and also in his adult life, which has at times reportedly included private studies with various rabbis, often from the Chabad movement. A cursory review of songs from the past 50 years turns up many tunes that are inflected with varying degrees of Yiddishkeit.

Herein is an annotated list of the Bob Dylan’s 10 Most Jewish Songs:

 

 

Bob Dylan: ‘Prophet’ and Medal of Freedom recipient

May 21st, 2012

On the occasion of Bob Dylan’s receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom and on the eve of his 71st birthday, Robert Gluck wrote this terrific article for the JointMedia News Service on the ways in which Bob Dylan’s Jewish background has colored his work.

Among those Gluck interviewed for the essay are historian Sean Wilentz, biographer Howard Sounes, and, extensively, yours truly.

You can read the article here at the website of the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles.

‘Desire’ Producer Don DeVito Has Died

November 27th, 2011

The Bob Dylan Examiner reports that Columbia Records A&R executive and record producer Don DeVito has died.

“DeVito is most known to Bob Dylan fans for his production of the 1976 album, Desire. He co-produced the live albums Hard Rain and At Budokan, was “Captain In Charge” (and behind the remix of the 1999 reissue) on the 1978 album Street Legal, and produced the “concert audio” for The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration. He also worked on various compilations and archival projects, and was thanked on the album, Dylan & The Dead. DeVito has even been described as Dylan’s publicist.”

READ MORE….

Columbia Records A&R executive and record producer Don DeVito has died.
“DeVito is most known to Bob Dylan fans for his production of the 1976 album, Desire. He co-produced the live albums Hard Rain and At Budokan, was “Captain In Charge” (and behind the remix of the 1999 reissue) on the 1978 album Street Legal, and produced the “concert audio” for The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration. He also worked on various compilations and archival projects, and was thanked on the album, Dylan & The Dead. DeVito has even been described as Dylan’s publicist.”
READ MORE….

Bob Dylan Celebration with Author-Singer Seth Rogovoy and Photographer Ken Regan

September 6th, 2011

(NEW MARLBOROUGH, Mass.) – Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday will be celebrated in words, music, and pictures with a talk and performance by Dylan author Seth Rogovoy and an exhibition of rarely seen photographs by Ken Regan, one of very few photographers given behind-the-scenes access to Dylan since 1966, as part of the Music & More Series at the Meeting House in New Marlborough on Saturday, September 24, at 4:30 p.m.

Rogovoy, an award-winning music critic, will present a multimedia program based on his book, Bob Dylan: Prophet Mystic Poet, followed by a Dylan tribute concert with his band, the Rolling Rogovoy Revue.

Immediately following the concert is a reception in the Meeting House Art Gallery with photographer Ken Regan, who has photographed Dylan over the course of three decades – including the fateful day in 1975 that Dylan and company spent at the Dream Away Lodge in Becket, Mass., with Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie, and others. That year, Regan also toured with the Rolling Stones, and the next year he was on hand to shoot The Band’s farewell concert, The Last Waltz. Regan also shot George Harrison’s landmark charity benefit, Concert for Bangladesh, for which Bob Dylan came out of seclusion to perform. He worked closely with renowned concert promoter Bill Graham, and he was the main photographer for such historic rock events as Amnesty International, Live Aid, and others.

Regan has over 200 magazine covers to his credit; has worked in film and TV; has been a photojournalist specializing in politics (with a longstanding relationship with the Kennedy family) and war (including Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Bosnia and Iraq), and has documented famine in Africa, poverty in Harlem, and gold mining in Brazil. He also specialized early on in sports photography, particularly boxing.

Rogovoy’s multimedia program will include a combination of spoken word, digital imagery, recorded and live music, and rare video footage, all based around Rogovoy’s critically acclaimed biography, which examines Dylan’s life and work from a unique perspective. Of the numerous books written about the rock poet, Bob Dylan: Prophet, Mystic, Poet is the only full-length treatment that explores the deep and profound Jewish context and roots of Dylan’s life and songs.

Following the exploration of Dylan’s life, Rogovoy — switching roles to that of singer, guitarist and mouth harpist – will be joined onstage by his Rolling Rogovoy Revue bandmates Alicia Jo Rabins (fiddler and vocals), Rob Sanzone (guitar and vocals) and Miles Lally (bass). Their performance will feature a mix of Dylan’s greatest hits and some lesser-known songs, including ones from his 1976 album Desire, which is sometimes called his “Hebraic” album, and others that fit with the theme of the program, such as “I Shall Be Released.”

Rabins is internationally known as the leader of her indie-rock band, Girls in Trouble, and as a member of the Yiddish/klezmer ensemble, Golem, and a founding member of the trad-rad folk group, The Mammals.

Bob Dylan has enjoyed a five-decade-long career that’s produced more than 500 songs, 50-plus albums, and over 50 million albums sold. Dylan, who this year turned 70, has won many awards, including Grammy, Golden Globe and Academy Awards, and in 2008, the Pulitzer Price jury awarded him a special citation for “his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power.”

“I’ve been listening to Bob Dylan religiously (pun intended) since I was 14 years old,” Rogovoy said. “I was struck by the raw honesty of his singing, the directness of his lyrics, and the beauty of the music.

“At some point I began noticing that there were a lot of Jewish references in his songs – concepts, images, actual phrases quoted or paraphrased from Jewish liturgy, from the Bible and the Talmud. I began keeping track, taking notes, and eventually I realized I had enough material in terms of the content of his songs and his biography to tell a story about Bob Dylan that no one else had ever captured — that his life and work fits into the Prophetic tradition.”

To complete the celebration, the Meeting House Art Gallery will simultaneously exhibit a series of photographs by Ken Regan, one of the few people to ever hold the title of “official Bob Dylan photographer.” Regan, a well-known photojournalist who captured everyone from Muhammad Ali to the Kennedys, took some of the most iconic photographs of Dylan’s live performances in history. Moreover, Regan had unrivaled behind-the-scenes access, which allows rare glimpses into the personal life of the fascinating and notoriously-private musician. The exhibit runs from September 24 through October 2 (weekends only).

Tickets to the Bob Dylan Celebration cost $25/$20. Students with ID and children with parents are admitted for free.

Visit Music & More or call 413.229.2785 for tickets, discounts and information.

Enjoy a 10% discount for a post-concert dinner at the historic Old Inn on the Green (rated “Best in the Berkshires” by Zagat) just next door. Call 413.229.7924 for reservations, which are required.

About Music & More

Directed by Harold Lewin and in its 20th year, Music and More was founded with the goal of bringing a diverse and distinguished group of authors, musicians and films to the Berkshires. This year, Music and More is comprised of eight events at the historic Meeting House in New Marlborough, Mass. Visit Music & More or call 413.229.2785 for further information. Music & More is sponsored by the New Marlborough Village Association.

Dylan Pausing Summer Tour for Jewish Day of Mourning

June 17th, 2011

Bob Dylan is packing in the dates tightly on this summer’s segment of his Never Ending Tour, hardly pausing a single night to travel or take a day off.

From July 24 to August 20, 2011, Dylan is scheduled to perform nearly every night.

One of the very few nights that Dylan is not scheduled to perform sticks out in particular, and that is the evening of August 8, upon which this year falls the Jewish fast day of Tisha B’Av, a holy day of mourning that is akin to the better-known holy day of Yom Kippur.  Music of course is forbidden on Tisha B’Av, as is eating, and observant Jews will generally spend the night and day in reflective contemplation, studying the Book of Lamentations and the Book of Job, and refraining from washing and marital relations.

The fast of Tisha B’Av commemorates the destruction of both the First Temple and Second Temple in Jerusalem, which occurred about 656 years apart, but on the same Hebrew calendar date (the ninth of Av, which is the literal translation of “Tisha B’Av).  Many other significant calamities have befallen the Jewish people on this date throughout history, giving it the moniker “the saddest day in Jewish history.”