Monday, January 3, 2011

Bob Dylan and the Midrash

Some time back, I happened upon a blog site, Bright Terrible Spirit, that shed some light on how Jewish wisdom was a source for a line in the Bob Dylan song from which this blog takes its name. Here is how the blog entry begins:

Not Dark Yet: Midrash on Midrash
by Chris Floyd

In an interview with the Jewish Ledger, Seth Rogovoy, author of a new book on Jewish themes in the work of Bob Dylan, makes this interesting connection:

More recently, in his song “Not Dark Yet,” Dylan sings, “I was born here and I’ll die here/Against my will.” That’s a direct lift from the Pirkei Avot 4:29: “Against your will you were born. Against your will you will die.”

Rogovoy’s identification of the Midrash as the source for one of the most powerful lines in one of Dylan’s most powerful songs is indeed an astute work of scholarship, giving us a genuinely new insight into the song. What is equally interesting is to go back to the original text, and see how Dylan does not just appropriate it, he also ‘turns’ it in a new direction…

You can find the complete essay here. It is well worth reading. You might want to read about Not Dark Yet and the Midrash, then go back to my blog post on January 1 to hear the song, if you haven't already heard it.

The book is that is referred to is Bob Dylan: Prophet, Mystic, Poet by Seth Rogovoy. You can read a review of the book here.


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