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Bob Dylan Lyric Manuscript on Jews, “the coming of the Messiah” plus a Harmonica

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Item: 23192
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DYLAN, BOB. (b. 1941). Influential American singer songwriter and Nobel Prize winner. AMs. Unsigned. 1p.. Small 8vo. New York (?), N.d. (Circa early 1980’s). One page of lyrical musings with Biblical references written in ballpoint pen on a page from a New York City Ritz Carlton Hotel telephone message pad. Accompanied by a Hohner Special 20 E flat Hohner Marine Band harmonica in its original case, purportedly given by Dylan with the manuscript to the previous owner.

“I was hoping you’d say that

You don’t disappoint me

__

to the Jews, I sang ‘you do good deeds to hasten

the coming of the messiah but the song Messiah

comes when the earth is flooded, flooded with atheists –

 I see two bush [drawing] growing side by side have

Two bushes entangled with each other become

One bush yielding gorgeous beautiful plant

The other poison fruit…

Soon one [?] Water them both and one will And the good one surely be strangled

Don’t water them and

__

A murderer saw a (judge)

Killed him in the street put on his robes”

Bob Dylan portrait

Bob Dylan

Born Robert Zimmerman, the son of Jewish immigrants who fled the Russian pogroms and settled in Minnesota, Dylan’s interest in music began in high school. After becoming involved in the Minneapolis folk music scene of the 1960s, Dylan traveled to New York City to meet his hero, Woody Guthrie. Beginning in February 1961, and after adopting the name Bob Dylan (an homage to poet Dylan Thomas), Dylan performed with an acoustic guitar and harmonica around New York’s Greenwich Village. He landed a record deal with Columbia Records and in March 1962 he released his debut album  of folk and gospel standards as well as two original compositions. It was the start of a prolific recording career that included his anti-establishment anthems “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and “The Times They Are a-Changin.” Subsequent albums included the songs “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall,” “Like a Rolling Stone,” “Mr. Tambourine Man,” and “All Along the Watchtower.”

In 1978, Dylan converted to Evangelical Christianity, releasing three gospel albums and refusing to perform his earlier, secular works. The albums and the proselytizing were poorly received by both fans and the media. Interestingly, Dylan continued to participate in Jewish religious life. On the apparent contradiction, Dylan stated, “Here’s the thing with me and the religious thing. This is the flat-out truth: I find the religiosity and philosophy in the music. I don’t find it anywhere else. Songs like ‘Let Me Rest on a Peaceful Mountain’ or ‘I Saw the Light’ – that’s my religion. I don’t adhere to rabbis, preachers, evangelists, all of that. I’ve learned more from the songs than I’ve learned from any of this kind of entity,” (“Dylan Revisited,” Newsweek).

Dylan’s lyrics “you do good deeds to hasten the coming of the messiah” refer to the Jewish belief that ordinary people carrying out good deeds can bring about the messianic age and paraphrases the Biblical verse “while waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God,” from 2 Peter 3:12. Dylan’s writing draws extensively on Biblical material and religious imagery, which can be found in his songs “God Knows,” “Nettie Moore” and “Things Have Changed,” which also quotes from 2 Peter chapter 3. Our manuscript appears to lay out a parable of sorts about two plants whose roots are entangled.

According to New School University professor Anne Margaret Daniel, who has written extensively about Dylan and spent time researching in his archives at the Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa, our manuscript page likely dates to the early 1980s when Dylan was working on his album Infidels. Infidels, released in October 1983, draws inspiration from Biblical themes and includes the song “Neighborhood Bully,” about Israel’s right to exist.

In excellent condition accompanied by the E flat harmonica and a PSA/DNA Letter of Authenticity for the manuscript dated March 13, 2024.

Unlike recent sales of Dylan manuscripts, this is not a fair copy of a song, but are unknown and unpublished lyrics that offer a fascinating insight into Dylan’s creative process.

Bob Dylan Lyric Manuscript on Jews, “the coming of the Messiah” plus a Harmonica

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