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Bob Dylan’s newly released, Slow Train Coming, an album with born-again Christian themes, was reviewed by Jann Wenner in Rolling Stone on this date in 1979. Wenner called it “one of the finest records Dylan has ever made. In time, it is possible that it might even be considered his greatest.” Yet “so much emotion has become invested in Dylan’s public image,” he continued, “that the greater numbers of his critics and devotees torture themselves before they will put aside their previous definitions of him.” The album emerged following a conversion experience in which “Jesus did appear to me as King of Kings, and Lord of Lords,” Dylan reported. “There was a presence in the room that couldn’t have been anybody but Jesus... I felt it all over me.... The glory of the Lord knocked me down and picked me up.” Produced by Jerry Wexler (who resisted Dylan’s evangelizing by saying, “Bob, you’re dealing with a 62-year-old confirmed Jewish atheist. I’m hopeless. Let’s just make an album”), the album included Mark Knopfler as lead guitar and featured “Gotta Serve Somebody,” which became Dylan’s first hit in three years and won him a Grammy. Slow Train Coming was listed at #16 in the 2001 book CCM Presents: The 100 Greatest Albums in Christian Music and went platinum in the US, where it reached #3. Within a few years, Dylan was hanging around with Lubavitcher Hasidim, en route to a more enigmatic religious stance today. To see Mavis Staples and Jonny Lang singing Dylan’s hit, look below.
“You might be a rock’n’ roll addict prancing on the stage
Might have money and drugs at your commands, women in a cage
You may be a business man or some high degree thief
They may call you Doctor or they may call you Chief.
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” —Bob Dylan