One of the most interesting phases in the life of one of music’s most interesting talents was Bob Dylan’s conversion from a Jewish liberal to an Evangelical Christian. Although the phase seemingly lasted only a few years, it’s a spiritual move that’s still being dissected more than 30 years later.
The latest, and to date best, book to chronicle Dylan’s move to Christianity – a period roughly between 1979 and 1981 – comes not surprisingly from British writer Clinton Heylin, who has been writing about the singer for decades. Trouble In Mind, released around the same time that Legacy Records is putting out Trouble No More, a series of Dylan’s live sets from this period, digs exhaustively into the singer’s interviews and on-stage statements at that time, along with conversations from those close to him, including members of his Bible Study group; it also delves into the songs from Dylan’s three “Christian Records”: Slow Train Running, Saved and Shot of Love. That trio of albums are among the most polarizing in Dylan’s cannon and were largely panned by critics and fans at the time. Trouble In Mind does a brilliant job of examining the musician’s influences in the late ‘70s, as well as his thinking as he continued to roll out these songs to crowds that were largely unreceptive to this new direction.
Dylan has answered very few questions about his religious views since the early 1980s (most of those answers are collected in this book), but Trouble In Mind does a stellar job of trying to shed some light on the mystery. Regardless of your stance on Dylan’s music, Trouble In Mind is a fascinating dive into one of modern music’s biggest head scratchers. The book also pairs perfectly with the Trouble No More live sets.
Trouble In Mind: Bob Dylan’s Gospel Years by Clinton Heylin/Hardcover, 320 pages/Lesser Gods/2017 /