Monday, April 2, 2012

Bible Stories: Man Gave Names

Bob Dylan: Man Gave Names

The Bible tells us that "in the beginning was the word" (John I), and to the extent that <the word> is based on sound, the logical extension of this is "and the music sounded good." Genesis tells us that "in the beginning, there was God" (and God is the Word).

Also in Genesis, the Bible says that "God ... formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name ..."

Bob Dylan didn't really turn me on much in the 60s. I mean, I recognized his authoring talent, and the music was all right, but it wasn't until Nashville Skyline and then New Morning that I liked what I heard. Now, I confess to not being overly informed about the details of the man's well documented life. However, I assume that most people know that he was raised Jewish. Many may not know that it was about the time Slow Train Coming came out ('79) that Dylan converted to Christianity (click to read an informative account)

The list of songs on Slow Train actually makes it quite obvious that he got religion : Gotta Serve Somebody, When He Returns, Precious Angel, and of course Man Gave Names. But on the surface, there isnt anything in the titles that to the layman that says Christ any more than say, Mohammed. Islam speaks of angels and of dedicating one's life to God, but my knpowledge of the Quran says that God and not man named the animals just as he set out the conditions of their lives. And for all the divisiveness of some voices today, it is instructive to note that the Quran includes Christians and Jews who believe among those who will rise again on the Judgement Day.

The playful humor - both in words and musical style- of Man Gave Names To All The Animals is part of what I like about the song. The lyrics still make me smile and chuckle. The rhymes are still cute, and especially the last unfinished line typifies Dylan's light stroke with the subtle depth. Just like you know what he's not saying.

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