“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)

Seth Rogovoy to Speak at Bob Dylan Symposium

February 16th, 2021

(EUGENE, Ore.) – Seth Rogovoy will deliver a multimedia program for BOB DYLAN: JEWISH PERSPECTIVES ON HIS REPERTOIRE: Themes of Prophecy and Redemption, a virtual symposium bringing together a wide spectrum of Dylan scholars, academics, students, musicians and fans to discuss Bob Dylan’s repertoire through a Jewish lens, on Sunday, March 14, 2021, noon-8pm (Eastern Time).

Rogovoy’s talk, “Bob Dylan: Prophet Mystic Poet,” is based on his book of the same name and will take place at 2:15pm (Eastern Time). Shortly following his presentation, Rogovoy will take part in a panel discussion, “Foot of Pride: Themes of (False) Prophecy and Redemption,” at 3:30-5pm (Eastern Time).

Conference participants include Dr. Elliot Wolfson, author of numerous books on Jewish mysticism, including Open Secret: Postmessianic Messianism and the Mystical Revision of Menahem Mendel Schneerson (Columbia University Press, 2009), which is dedicated to Bob Dylan. Dr. Wolfson will deliver the opening keynote, “Darkness at the Break of Noon: Dylan’s Apocalyptic Vision through a Kabbalistic Prism.”

The afternoon keynote, “The Psalms of King Dylan,” will be delivered by Rabbi David Zaslow.

Rabbi Aubrey Glazer, author of God Knows Everything is Broken: Bob Dylan’s Gnostic Mystical Songbook, will participate with Rogovoy, Wolfson, and others on the “Foot of Pride” panel.

Other conference participants include Dr. Frances Di Lauro, Dr. James Diamond, Dr. Jonathan Karp, Lorelai Kude, Dr. Daniel Mackay, Ahavah Oblak, Rabbi Joshua Rose, Dr. Jonathan Seidel, Dr. Rob Sean Wilson, and Dr. Samuel Zinner.

The Dylan symposium is the first of a projected annual event sponsored by the Oregon Jewish Culture Project.


Seth Rogovoy to Host Exclusive Screening of New Bob Dylan Film in Great Barrington

May 28th, 2019

(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass.) – Bob Dylan author Seth Rogovoy will host an exclusive screening of Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese at the Triplex Cinema on Tuesday, June 11, at 7pm. The Triplex screening will be one of only a few dozen in the world before the film moves to the small screen on Netflix. Rogovoy, the author of BOB DYLAN: Prophet Mystic Poet (Scribner, 2009), will provide brief introductory remarks to contextualize the creative documentary film and will moderate a post-screening Q&A.

The film chronicles the fall of 1975, when Bob Dylan went back to his roots in the Greenwich Village folk scene. He picked up a band of new musicians, recorded the album Desire, and hit the road on a tour across New England called the Rolling Thunder Revue. A kind of rock-and-roll guerrilla circus, the shows were four-hour extravaganzas that played in mostly small theaters and civic centers, featuring not only Dylan but Joan Baez, Roger McGuinn of the Byrds, Allen Ginsberg, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Ronee Blakley, Sam Shepard, and occasional guests including Joni Mitchell, Arlo Guthrie, and Rick Danko of The Band.

The concert featured all-new arrangements of Dylan songs, including plenty of sixties hits and favorites, plus a generous helping of songs from Desire and his landmark Blood on the Tracks album, which had only just been released the previous January. Oddly, Dylan wore a Richard Nixon mask or whiteface makeup for most of the concerts.

Fortunately for history, Dylan also brought along with him a camera crew, whose hundreds of hours of raw footage Dylan edited down to four hours and released as Renaldo & Clara in January 1978. The avant-garde film, which puzzled many critics and pleased many fans, included both concert footage and improvised scenes among the musicians, cast, and crew. In his new film about that tour, Martin Scorsese makes use of that footage in addition to newly recorded interviews with many of the tour participants, including Bob Dylan. The documentary apparently will echo Renaldo & Clara’s creative approach; the producers are touting the film  thusly: “Truth and myth are blurred in Martin Scorsese’s film experience about Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue tour in the fall of 1975.”

While the closest concert on that tour was in Springfield, Mass., there is a Berkshire connection to the Rolling Thunder Revue. After the Springfield concert, the tour buses drove the performers and crew to the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge. At the suggestion of Arlo Guthrie, who performed at the Springfield concert, the next day everyone went to the Dream Away Lodge in Becket, where much filming took place.

Renaldo & Clara included many scenes filmed at the Dream Away, including a memorable meeting between Joan Baez and Dream Away’s then-owner Mama Frasca. Other scenes from Dream Away include Joan Baez asking Bob Dylan point-blank, “What do you think would have happened if we had gotten married?,” and former Dylan paramour Baez and Sara Dylan (Bob Dylan’s then-wife) each vying for the attention of Renaldo, played by Bob Dylan. (Rocker Ronnie Hawkins played Bob Dylan in the film.) Apparently some of the Dream Away footage will be included in the Scorsese film.

Seth Rogovoy is a longtime Berkshire music critic and the author of BOB DYLAN: Prophet Mystic Poet (Scribner, 2009). The Religion News Service called Rogovoy “American Jewry’s greatest Dylan scholar.” The editor-in-chief of the late, lamented Berkshire Living magazine and publisher of The Rogovoy Report, Seth also has performed at many Bob Dylan tribute concerts.

This special Triplex Cinema screening is the first of several ongoing events planned in collaboration with the Berkshire International Film Festival (which is honoring Martin Scorsese on June 1) to bring alternative programming to the community.


Tickets to the Dylan screening are on sale now at The Triplex.




Seth Rogovoy to Discuss Bob Dylan’s Jewish Influences in Pittsfield, Mass.

May 11th, 2017

(PITTSFIELD, Mass.) – Seth Rogovoy, termed “American Jewry’s greatest Dylan scholar” by Religious News Service, will present a multimedia program exploring the Jewish influences in the life and work of the recent Nobel Prize-winner entitled “The Kabbalah of Bob Dylan,” at Congregation Knesset Israel (16 Colt Rd.) on Monday, May 22, at 7pm.

With the aid of audio clips, video, still images, and textual comparisons, Seth Rogovoy, author of “Bob Dylan: Prophet Mystic Poet” (Scribner 2009), will illustrate how Bob Dylan’s songwriting has always been profoundly rooted in Jewish writings, including the Torah, the Prophets, the Talmud, and mysticism, fusing these inspirations into a genre of “rock ’n’ roll midrash.”

Along the way, the program will examine the Minnesota-born folksinger’s deeply religious and cultural upbringing, his commitment to Jewish practice and causes, and his decades-long connection to the Jewish outreach organization Chabad.

Attendees will learn how Dylan grew up in a Yiddish-speaking home in a family that was at the very nexus of his hometown’s Jewish community; how classic Dylan songs including “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “All Along the Watchtower,” and “Forever Young” have their lyrical roots in the words of prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah and in Jewish liturgy; and view rare video footage of Dylan performing Jewish music and quoting from the Book of Psalms.

The event is co-sponsored by Congregation Knesset Israel and Temple Anshe Amunim.


Seth Rogovoy is a familiar name to Berkshire readers and public radio listeners. For 16 years, he was a music critic and arts writer at the Berkshire Eagle; he was the founding editor of Berkshire Living magazine; and his weekly cultural commentary has been heard on WAMC Northeast Public Radio Network for over two decades.

A graduate of Williams College, Rogovoy was formerly a board member of the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires and a member of congregations Ahavat Sholom in Great Barrington, Mass., and Beth-El in Bennington, Vt. A founder of the South Berkshire Minyan, Rogovoy now lives in Hudson, N.Y.

Rogovoy is also an expert on klezmer, having penned “The Essential Klezmer: A Music Lover’s Guide to Jewish Roots and Soul Music” (Algonquin, 2000), the all-time, best-selling guide to the music.

Rogovoy was awarded the 2016 Simon Rockower Award from the American Jewish Press Association for excellence in arts and criticism for his portrait of musician Leonard Cohen (z’l) published in the April/May 2015 issue of Hadassah Magazine.

Rogovoy is a contributing editor to the English edition of the Forward, for which he has written for more than 25 years. His work has been published in Haaretz (Israel), Jewish Press (U.K.), Jewish Quarterly (U.K.), Tablet, Pakn Treger, Berkshire Jewish Voice, Newsday, Boston Phoenix, Chronogram, Woodstock (N.Y.) Times, and others.

Rogovoy is the programming consultant for the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, where he curates the annual Yidstock: Festival of New Yiddish Music. Rogovoy’s Friday weekly cultural commentary can be heard on WAMC Northeast Public Radio Network on Midday Magazine.  He also publishes daily and weekly newsletters in his online magazine of cultural and critical news and observations, the Rogovoy Report.

Guitar players can bring their instruments to “jam” with Rogovoy on Bob Dylan songs after his presentation. Light refreshments and beverages will be served. Rogovoy’s books will be available for purchase and signing after the program.

Tickets are $18 and can be purchased online at Congregation Knesset Israel; reserved at Knesset Israel’s main office during business hours; by phone at (413) 445-4872 x. 10, with over-the-phone charge taken; or payable by check sent and made out to Knesset Israel, 16 Colt Road, Pittsfield, MA 01201 (please note the word “concert” on the envelope).



Random Notes and Favorite Quotes from Bob Dylan’s New Q&A

March 24th, 2017

by Seth Rogovoy

Among Bob Dylan’s many talents besides his widely-acclaimed, Nobel Prize-winning songwriting is doing interviews and, back in the 1960s when artists did them as a matter of course, holding press conferences. Dylan has always used the interview format as a means of personal expression in no less a creative and formalistic way than he does in his songwriting, poetry, books, painting, sculpture, acting, and filmmaking.

Bob Dylan

And in his newest Q&A, featured on the official Bob Dylan website, Dylan shows no signs of letting up. It’s a masterpiece of style, brilliance, humor, and phrasemaking. Slightly less arch than previous interviews – you really get the feeling Dylan is a lot less evasive than usual, a lot less tactical in his artful use of the dodge or the tall tale – Dylan comes across as remarkably present, thoughtful, and aware, and also as mischievous as ever.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the interview with his interlocutor, Bill Flanagan (BF), some just left to resonate on their own, others with my brief rejoinders. Much of the interview focuses on Dylan’s new triple-album of pre-rock pop standards, and more generally, his attachment to those songs and that era of popular music. All of Dylan’s quotes are in italics, and the full interview and context is available in the original interview at BobDylan.com:

On the pre-rock pop standards he records and performs:

There’s enough of my personality written into the lyrics so that I could just focus on the melodies within the arrangements.

I had some idea of where they stood, but I hadn’t realized how much of the essence of life is in them – the human condition, how perfectly the lyrics and melodies are intertwined, how relevant to everyday life they are, how non-materialistic.

I can’t help but note here that the opposite of materialistic is spiritual. When Dylan says “non-materialistic,” I think that’s what he means. — SR

These songs are some of the most heartbreaking stuff ever put on record and I wanted to do them justice. Now that I have lived them and lived through them I understand them better.

Modern music and songs are so institutionalized that you don’t realize it.

These songs are cold and clear-sighted, there is a direct realism in them, faith in ordinary life just like in early rock and roll.


About postwar life growing up in Duluth:

My mom says there were food shortages…

I find it sweet that he still talks about his mother, Beatrice “Beatty” Stone Zimmerman, who died in 2000, in the present tense. — SR


On seeing old footage of himself performing in the Sixties:

I see … a very strange enchanted boy, a terribly sophisticated performer, got a cross section of music in him, already postmodern. That’s a different person than who I am now.


On his singing:

My voice cracking here and there wouldn’t bother me, bum notes or wrong chords would bother me more.

This is so true and people have never understood this about his singing. Bob Dylan NEVER hits a wrong note. It’s his tone and phrasing that are so unique, that make him sound like Bob Dylan and no one else, and perhaps the vocal quality that some find to be – to their great loss – off-putting.  – SR


Dylan recalls a private exchange with Frank Sinatra:

“You and me, pal, we got blue eyes, we’re from up there,” and he [Sinatra] pointed to the stars. “These other bums are from down here.” I remember thinking that he might be right.


Songwriters have to have a reason to write songs, there has to be some purpose to performing it too. And sometimes it doesn’t connect. There is no magic formula to make that happen.


Rock and roll was high energy, explosive and cut down. It was skeleton music, came out of the darkness and rode in on the atom bomb and the artists were star headed like mystical Gods.

Such a perfectly beautiful and magical description of rock and roll. Dylan goes on at length about this, returning twice more to the connection between the atomic bomb and rock and roll. A concept worth some extra thought. — SR


You start out wondering why you bought those blue pajamas and later you’re wondering why you were born.

A classic Dylan Zen koan. — SR


…. the melody in this song is kind of like the background in the Mona Lisa painting, a mystical, phantasmagorical fantasy land.

Add art critic to Dylan’s c.v. — SR


On the passage of time:

Entire industries go, lifestyles change, corporations kill towns, new laws replace old ones, group interests triumph over individual ones, poor people themselves have become a commodity.

Dylan as prophet. — SR


BF: “Is there a real woman you picture when you sing some of these? More than one?”

Dylan: Real? Of course they’re real. I hope so.


On the creative process:

Once you get the idea, everything you see, read, taste or smell becomes an allusion to it. It’s the art of transforming things. You don’t really serve art, art serves you and it’s only an expression of life anyway; it’s not real life. It’s tricky, you have to have the right touch and integrity or you could end up with something stupid.

Did you say Taylor Swift?


On hunting as a boy:

I went into the woods with my uncle, my mother’s brother – he was an expert hunter and tried to teach me. But it wasn’t for me, I hated it.


Is he, as is often suggested, the “jester” in Don McLean’s song “American Pie”?

Don McLean, “American Pie,” what a song that is. A jester? Sure, the jester writes songs like “Masters of War,” “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall,” “It’s Alright, Ma” – some jester. I have to think he’s talking about somebody else. Ask him.


On his discussion of Tom Wilson, the official record company executive credited as producer of his album “Bringing It All Back Home” and the track “Like a Rolling Stone” on the follow-up album, “Highway 61 Revisited”: Dylan’s comments about Wilson are quite revealing, in that while he’s somewhat complimentary, he’s also very diplomatic and not especially effusive in praise. I think you can hear loud and clear on “The Cutting Edge” sessions that the two of them merely tolerated each other (although they do occasionally enjoy a hearty laugh together). I think Dylan much more enjoyed working with his next producer, Bob Johnston, and you can also hear that on “The Cutting Edge.” – SR


On Amy Winehouse:

I liked Amy Winehouse’s last record…. She was the last real individualist around.


Heard any good records lately?

Iggy Pop’s Après, that’s a good record. Imelda May, I like her. Valerie June….

See what he does there? Always the joker. — SR


BF: “When you’re on your bus, what shows do you watch on TV?”

BD: I Love Lucy, all the time, non-stop.


BF: Why do fences come up between different styles of American music?

BD: Because of the pressure to conform.

Bob Dylan to Inaugurate New Kingston, N.Y., Venue in June

March 20th, 2017

Bob Dylan

(KINGSTON, N.Y.) – Bob Dylan, rock poet and Nobel Laureate, will perform with his band at the Hutton Brickyards, a new 3,500-seat riverfront concert venue, on Saturday, June 24, at 8pm (doors 6pm). The concert – a co-presentation of the Bardavon and the Brickyards – will inaugurate the venue at 200 North St., in Kingston.

Tickets to the performance go on sale to Bardavon members on March 23-24 (11am – 5pm). Sales to the general public begin on March 25 at 11am.

Winner of multiple Grammy Awards (including Lifetime Achievement), an Oscar, Golden Globe, Pulitzer Prize, and last year’s Nobel Prize for Literature, Bob Dylan is a Kennedy Center Honoree and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Tickets: $125 and $75 (seated General Admission), $55 (standing).

Tickets can be purchased in person at the Bardavon Box Office, 35 Market Street, Poughkeepsie, 845.473.2072; or in person at the UPAC Box Office, 601 Broadway Kingston, 845.339.6088.

Online at Ticketmaster : 800.745.3000. Please note that Bardavon Member benefits and special discounts are not available through Ticketmaster. Ticketmaster fees will apply.