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Bob Dylan laments society's lack of spirituality in handwritten letter to fan from 1980

We’re dipping into the Far Out vaults to bring you a handwritten letter in which Bob Dylan not only thanks to the fan for his support, sending him his own love in reciprocation, but also lamenting the lack of spirituality in society.

Bob Dylan was firmly in his gospel phase when he began touring in 1979. The singer had spent much of 1978 delivering the greatest hits tour to packed out stadiums. But the next year he was finding inspiration in The Good Book and he wasn’t shy about sharing it, interrupting songs to deliver sermons on the anti-christ and cursing the scourge of humanity.

The provocative troubadour was dedicating each night exclusively to selections from his new gospel records, refusing to play his classic songs. If that wasn’t enough to piss off the rock and roll crowd, he also paused during performances to give rambling sermons on wickedness of man and the imminent return of Jesus Christ.

Before jumping into a powerful performance of ‘Solid Rock’ Dylan provided the baying crowd with a nearly seven-minute sermon.

“We’ve had a lot of previews of what the Anti-Christ could be like,” he said. “We had that Jim Jones, he’s like a preview. We had Adolf Hitler, a preview. Anyway, the Anti-Christ is gonna be a little bit different than that. He’s gonna bring peace to the world for a certain length of time. But he will eventually be defeated too. Supernaturally defeated. And God will intervene.

Dylan’s refusal to perform the classics songs for the paying crowd meant that Dylan was facing an incredibly hostile crowd every night. During four nights in Toronto’s Massey Hall, Dylan took time to share his frustrations with a fan who had written to him.

He wrote that while he was happy to keep performing in the same manner that the crowds were “more interested in lining up for Apocalypse Now than to be baptized and filled with the Holy Ghost.”

You can take a look below at the full supportive letter and reflect on a moment of Bob’s long and varied iconography.

Credit: RR Auctions


Dear Steve —

We are up in Toronto singing and playing for about 3000 people a night in a downtown theatre — the Spirit of the Lord is calling people here in this beautiful and clean city but they are more interested in lining up for Apocalypse Now than to be baptized and filled with the Holy Ghost —

Wanna thank you for that Bible as it is helpful in discerning a few phrases from and shedding some light on what the King James version reads —

God will lift up your head as you begin to realize that “… He thru Christ has reconsiled man unto Himself” (II Corinthians) You are in basic training and bootcamp and I thank God you are and your commitment runs deep and you will be used to minister and break the hold of darkness on those you become face to face with — “Study to show thyself approved”

You will be strong in the Lord and seeing that looks are deceiving, you will work miracles that way — He has called you to be a saint and your responsibility is to Him and Him alone —

Be praying and not look back no more — press on toward what is ahead — I send love to you and will pray for strength and more strength for you — Always

In the name of Jesus Christ
Son of God, manifest in the flesh

Bob Dylan