Jakob Dylan Has Been Born Again

Bob's Not The Only Dylan On Comeback Trail

Jakob Dylan and The Wallflowers
Getty Images
Jakob Dylan and The Wallflowers

By Seth Rogovoy

Published December 05, 2012, issue of December 14, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

But inquiring minds want to know — what does young Dylan, the one-time bar mitzvah boy whose mostly Jewish rock group (Jaffee, Richling and Irons are all members of the tribe) got its start as the unofficial house band at Canter’s deli in the heavily Jewish Fairfax district of Los Angeles, believe? Is he as Bible- and God-obsessed as his famously religious father? Are there any hints that Jakob, like Dad, has apostate tendencies? Like his role model Bruce Springsteen— who famously jammed with The Wallflowers at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards — Jakob mostly favors narratives about the open road, with lots of imagery of planes, trains and automobiles. He also, like the Boss, is fond of equating sex and religious ecstasy.

But like his dad, he’s deft with a biblical metaphor or image; there’s “a baby in a basket being left” on the new album, and on the song “It’s a Dream,” he sings, “We can’t stop fighting until we know God exists.”

But Jakob seems equally fixated on Lucifer. “Evil Is Alive and Well,” the opening track on his first solo album, “Seeing Things,” portrays a Dantesque world in which: “It doesn’t always have a shape / Almost never has a name / It maybe has a pitchfork / Maybe has a tail / But evil is alive and well / It might walk upright from out of the inferno.”

On the album, the devil makes several cameo appearances and takes one star turn. In “Love Is a Country,” he seemingly beds down with the narrator’s wife or girlfriend: “I remember the evening you last came home / It was warm as the devil sat back up with his boots put back on….” Dylan is similarly bothered by a yetzer hara — an “evil inclination” — on “The Devil’s Waltz”: “Your idle hands are what he wants / And your songs of pity are the devil’s waltz.” Perhaps the new album’s most suggestive lyric, from a theological perspective, is the opening track, “Hospital for Sinners,” on which Dylan sings: Some have crosses/ Bells that ring Most have angels painted with wings Old men and blind ones can find their way in Got statues, apostles and other godly things… It’s a hospital for sinners/ Ain’t no museum of saints

Fans of Bob Dylan will have a field day unpacking these lines. Is Jakob referring to the gaudy, diamond-encrusted cross his father wore during his so-called “born again” period? Are the “bells that ring” meant as a clue that he’s singing about Dad, one of whose best “gospel” songs is “Ring Them Bells”? Is “old men [with] statues [and] apostles” a dig at the 71-year-old Bob Dylan, who has always been surrounded by sycophants and acolytes and who, ever since winning an Academy Award for the song “Things Have Changed” in 2001, has performed his concerts in the company of his Oscar statuette placed on his guitar amplifier? Is “Hospital for Sinners” Jakob’s answer song to his father’s “Forever Young”?

Probably not, although he sure seems to be having fun toying with the notion when he sings, “You’ll sin till you drop then ask to be saved / If it’s a comeback you want then get your hands raised.” Over the course of a 50-year career, Bob Dylan has enjoyed numerous comebacks — not the least memorable being in 1974, when he returned to touring after an eight-year hiatus devoted in large part to raising his young family. The release of “Glad All Over” marks the equally welcome return of another Dylan, even if it remains devoid of the sort of “Second Coming” hyperbole that has often greeted the periodic re-emergences of his father.

Music critic Seth Rogovoy is the author of “Bob Dylan: Prophet Mystic Poet” (Scribner, 2009).


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.