(HUDSON, N.Y.) – Author Seth Rogovoy will deliver a virtual multimedia presentation called “The Kabbalah of Bob Dylan” on Thursday, June 18, at 7pm, as part of the Yiddish Book Center’s ongoing series of Virtual Public Programs. In the talk, which includes narration, song clips, and video, Rogovoy will review Bob Dylan’s life and career through a Jewish lens.
This live event will be presented via Zoom Webinar. Register in advance in order to be part of the virtual audience on Zoom and submit questions; space is limited.
Seth Rogovoy is the author of Bob Dylan: Prophet Mystic Poet, the first and only full-length biography that details the immense influence of Judaism on the Nobel Prize-winning rock poet’s life and songs. Rogovoy is also the author of The Essential Klezmer: A Music Lover’s Guide to Jewish Roots and Soul Music, the all-time bestselling guide to the music, and the artistic director of the Yiddish Book Center’s annual YIDSTOCK: The Festival of New Yiddish Music (which has been cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic).
Bob Dylan and his artistic accomplishments have been explored, examined, and dissected year in and year out for decades, and through almost every lens. Yet rarely has anyone delved extensively into Dylan’s Jewish heritage and the influence of Judaism in his work.
In his multimedia presentation, “The Kabbalah of Bob Dylan,” which draws from his book, Bob Dylan: Prophet Mystic Poet, Seth Rogovoy, an award-winning critic and expert on Bob Dylan and Jewish music, rectifies that oversight, presenting a fascinating new look at one of the most celebrated musicians of all time.
Rogovoy unearths the various strands of Judaism that appear throughout Bob Dylan’s songs, revealing the ways in which Dylan walks in the footsteps of the Jewish Prophets. Rogovoy explains the profound depth of Jewish content — drawn from the Bible, the Talmud, and the Kabbalah — at the heart of Dylan’s music, and demonstrates how his songs can only be fully appreciated in light of Dylan’s relationship to Judaism and the Jewish themes that inform them.
From his childhood growing up the son of Abe and Beatty Zimmerman, who were at the center of the small Jewish community in his hometown of Hibbing, Minn., to his frequent visits to Israel and involvement with the Orthodox Jewish outreach movement Chabad, Judaism has permeated Dylan’s everyday life and work. Early songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind” derive central imagery from passages in the books of Ezekiel and Isaiah; mid-career numbers like “Forever Young” are infused with themes from the Bible, Jewish liturgy, and Kabbalah; while late-period efforts have revealed a mind shaped by Jewish concepts of Creation and redemption.
In this context, even Dylan’s so-called born-again period is seen as a logical, almost inevitable development in his growth as a man and artist wrestling with the burden and inheritance of the Jewish prophetic tradition.
About the Yiddish Book Center: The Yiddish Book Center is a nonprofit organization working to recover, celebrate, and regenerate Yiddish and modern Jewish literature and culture. Over the past forty years, since its founding in 1980, the organization has rescued more than a million volumes, has established and strengthened Yiddish holdings at 700 university and research libraries around the world, and has posted the full texts of 12,000 titles online in its Steven Spielberg Digital Yiddish Library, making Yiddish one of the most accessible literatures in the world. The Center’s website, yiddishbookcenter.org, features articles about Yiddish and modern Jewish culture in Yiddish and English, books and short works in Yiddish and English translation, podcasts, oral history interviews, audio recordings, and more.