The Gospel Project
Bob Dylan Live 1979-80
An effort to comprehensively catalog the circulating recordings of Bob Dylanís gospel-based live performances from November 1979 through May 1980.
† To preserve the remaining recordings from an oft-neglected -- if not maligned Ė period of Dylanís work.
† To improve the circulation of these recordings among Dylan fans.
† To encourage fans to reconsider this extraordinary period in Dylanís performing and recording career.
As a† long-time fan of Bob Dylanís work, I have always found it odd that this period received such hostile or, at best, dismissive treatment from so many fans and critics.† The simple fact is that Bob Dylan found personal salvation in Christianity sometime in the late 1970ís.† He dedicated two studio albums, Slow Train Coming and Saved, and nearly 80 concerts to articulating and reaffirming his faith to his listeners.† In the process, he permanently diminished his status as a popular icon and alienated a number of fans, some forever.†
Was this period an aberration in his lifeís work -- a strange lapse in an otherwise breathtaking body of poetry and musicianship?† Or was this rather an instance of an artist and individual imprisoned by the expectations of his audience?† I think anyone willing to lend an open ear to the live performances from this period will conclude it was likely the latter.
I donít think you need to be Christian Ė or even religious Ė to find tremendous power in Dylanís performances from this period.† Indeed, as the live recordings clearly show, these concerts were a great success with the audience in attendance from the very first night in San Francisco.† They succeeded despite overwhelmingly negative press reviews and a setlist dominated by as-yet unreleased songs.† The performances testify to a great artist, with a fine backing band, laying open the depth of his own feelings about himself and his god.† As Paul Williams states in his wonderful article, Dylan Ė What Happened?,
These . . .† are songs of intimacy, like his greatest love songs of the past.† They are songs that touch on the universal and ultimately personal experience of the individual alone with God.† It is not necessary to perceive God as a being or to agree on His name to know the intensity of this experience.
Like many other Dylan fans, my appreciation of his work has been deepened through access to unreleased live and studio recordings.† Unlike most other segments of Dylanís performing career, I initially found it difficult to acquire seminal recordings from this period.† Very few performances circulate widely among traders.† Of these, many are commercial bootlegs which hardly represent the richness of these performances.† Collecting and cataloguing recordings for this Project, I have been surprised to find a number of remarkable and largely uncelebrated performances.† As I continue to pursue this Project, I hope to highlight some of these performances and encourage readers such as yourself to have a listen.
Please follow the links below to explore this tour further.