Is there some sort of a unique connection between Bob Dylan’s family and mine? I will let you decide for yourself…
My stepson, Kevin Dixon, ended his life by walking in front of a speeding Amtrak train in a town outside of LA in 2018. It was not entirely unexpected, as he had been battling depression for some time and unable to find answers that worked for him. But it was a terrible shock just the same. After graduating from Berklee, he started out as a sound engineer at Capitol Records, where I was privileged to spend time with him. Later, he continued on to becoming a sound engineer at Universal Hollywood. He was also a rock and blues guitar player of some note, in a band called They Eat Their Own back in the nineties. After one album and tour, the band entered into a band war with Hole, who ended up being signed by Geffen. TETO ended up disbanding.
Here is a link to their hit song, Like a Drug…
I had known Kevin since he was six years old, and he was my friend. He was, in fact, a friend to everyone who knew him.
Kevin was funny and smart and a talented musician. To lose a family member like that is devastating, to say the least. I was numb for months, replaying our last conversations over and over. Last summer, as the first anniversary of his passing approached, I found myself coping with a deepening sense of helplessness. What could I have done? What could have been different? But then I fell into an abyss of emptiness — Kevin was not there to answer.
I have been involved with a Messianic congregation in the Twin Cities. I asked their Rabbi what I should do about what I was experiencing. He suggested that I listen to Bob Dylan’s song “Slow Train Coming.” “Surely you jest,” I thought. Dylan was, from all I had heard, consumed with the trappings that came from fame and the perks of being, to make an understatement, something of a legend. Dylan is very popular in Minnesota. There is even a mural of Dylan in downtown Minneapolis. He is everywhere. Like air. Or leustrife.
There was a problem, though — namely, that I had tuned Dylan out long ago. I had been avoiding having anything to do with him for years. The first ‘uh-oh’ came with “Everybody Must Get Stoned”. Everybody did NOT have to get stoned. In fact, I never did. I thought it set a very bad example for young people.
Next there was “Mr. Tambourine Man.” I immediately developed earworms from that song and could not bear to hear it.
But the final straw came when I heard “Like a Rolling Stone.” He couldn’t possibly have written it about me, but felt as though he had somehow gotten inside my head. After a stellar scholastic career both in the US, at Bucknell University, and at the University of Edinburgh, in Scotland, graduating decorated with honors in 1964, I had been kicked out of my family’s home in Fairfield, Connecticut, because I had taken a job in New York City, rather than in my hometown. So on a hot and humid Saturday afternoon, I found myself walking up and down 57th street in New York, eating a melting Hershey bar, which was supper, with thirty dollars to my name and a month’s train pass for the New Haven Railroad. To make matters worse, I had forfeited my first month’s salary to the employment agency in New York, so there would be no money coming in for a few more weeks.
I managed to find a cheap room at the Allerton House, a women’s hotel, and when I showed up at my new job at Mutual of New York (MONY) at 1740 Broadway, around the corner from Carnegie Hall, that Monday, found that my friends in the training department had discovered a woman who would be delighted to have me stay with her for two weeks, as her roommate was out of town and <gasp>she did not want to live on the Upper East Side all alone. I was not allowed to pay for anything but my subway fare. Next, a childhood friend who lived in the Village invited me to stay for the rest of the summer, so I moved in with her until I could afford a place. That was in September, when a friend of mine named Carol (Saki for short) and I found a nice new apartment at 7 West 14th Street. This worked well as I was also attending grad school at NYU.
So, the trauma was, fortunately short-lived, but deep. But when I heard Dylan screaming “How does it FEEL?” I said, “Really? Would you like me to tell you, mister spoiled rotten kid from, I have no doubt, a wonderful Jewish family in the Midwest who would never kick you out and probably begged you not to leave? Really?” I just tuned him out from that point on. That was, until now.
I humbled myself and went to Youtube. I found a version of the song that showed a slow train rather than Dylan, and watched and listened to it. Amazingly, it helped. I listened to it again. I cried. And at that point I started to wonder if I might be healed after all, and if this influence might have something to do with it.
So I began to learn about Dylan. I listened to his gospel albums, “Slow Train,” “Saved” and “Shot of Love”. I found myself amazed to think that this man, whom I had once discarded as a sarcastic and shallow performer, could actually be something more than that. A Believer. The songs were wonderful. “In the Garden” was breathtaking. Gospel doesn’t get any better than this, I thought. Dylan had toured for nearly three years with just these songs, and even preached some hellfire and brimstone to the audiences! Nothing like this had ever happened in the history of rock music. I was stunned. He had even started out at the Warfield Theater in San Francisco, not far from where I lived for two years in the late 60’s, and where my own first child was born. How had I not heard of this?
This article discusses the timeline of Dylan’s being born again:
When Dylan came through Minnesota last fall I was excited to travel to Mankato to hear him. A beautiful concert. A memorable event. “You Gotta Serve Somebody” was the last song of his main set. I decided to find out for myself what Dylan was really all about.
I immersed myself in this new influence — I read every book I could find about him, as well as Chronicles I, and listened to each of his studio albums, watched dvds about him. As I was borrowing most everything from the Wayzata library — where the trains run along the shore of Lake Minnetonka — nothing was experienced chronologically. I heard Love and Theft before Blonde on Blonde. I agonized through Blood on the Tracks and yelled Idiot Wind at the top of my lungs one night as I was coming home to rid myself of the remnants toxic past relationship. It worked! I quickly set aside Street Legal but ended up making peace with Self Portrait. I learned about his paintings and was mesmerized by the colors and life in them. And the train tracks…
And so I found myself in the marvelous universe of Dylan.
But before long I hit a brick wall of contradictions. Infidels. How could the saved Dylan appear to dive comfortably back into songs of darkness? How did we go from a precious angel to a strange woman in his or the narrator’s bed who had nothing to say worth listening to? Had Dylan even written the gospel songs? Was somebody trying to muzzle him? He was a commodity before being saved. Had he been misled? Used? Deliberately led astray? A well-intended and innocent victim? Was pressure being put on him from all sides?
What was going on?
I began to wonder if Dylan was just one person or a conglomerate of some sort. He seemed to have different iterations — not unlike software — the geeky folksinger, the shrieking heroin waif, the good father, the angry Jew, the preacher…Was he being reinvented? Was he being told what to do? Were others calling the shots? Whom or what did Dylan really serve?
Nevertheless, there were still powerful biblical themes and references. A Man of Peace is a about of the subtlety of the enemy. I and I shows the irony about God’s view and our view. Neighborhood Bully is an endorsement of the misunderstandings about the state of Israel. Jokerman was no mystery to me — it could have been written about my father, who became very successful after a near-tragic suicide attempt, but was always aloof and inscrutable.
So where was Dylan? Who or what was he? Was he really some sort of prophet as his supporters claim, or did he actually have access to inside information about military events that were going to happen? A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall is an example of this. Dylan first performed that song one month before the Cuban Missile Crisis. Then he backtracked, and claimed it had been written in response to the CMC. Had he or they made a mistake? Was this a way of covering their tracks?
This DVD is valuable in that it interviews people involved in Dylan’s Jesus years. Ironically, it stops short of explaining what happened afterward.
This cluster of articles gives an in-depth look at those concerts…
As red flags appeared, I took a step back. I wrestled to understand what Al Kasha and his childhood friend Louis Kemp meant when they said Dylan had ‘gone back to his Jewish roots.’ This is true. He did. He went to, or perhaps had always come from, the mystical Jewish roots of the Talmud and Kaballah. But voluntarily? Was there more going on behind the scenes?
Could any sincere Believer put Yeshua back on the shelf. But did he? Then too, the Kabbalah can also used as an ancient occult source. There are also numerous Masonic references in his music and symbols used in performance. Was he connected to them too?
Just when I had made an uneasy peace with the contradictions about Dylan, last December I reread a passage and came upon a stunning realization — that the day that Dylan had his motorcycle accident in 1966 — July 29th — was the same day Kevin had died, in 2018.
Here is an article about the crash…
This is the connection.
When I told the rabbi about this, his jaw dropped. He seemed stunned. He said not a word. Did he know something I did not? I began to wonder.
Was this just an odd coincidence, or was there was more to unravel?
When did this connection start? Around the time I first met Kevin, in July, 1965, when he was visiting his father, Richard, at his summer house on Dune Road in Westhampton Beach…or later, when I bought Kevin his first guitar at Macy’s on Harold Square?
This is what I needed to find out. I was willing to look ridiculous, as, if there were any merit to this concept, a lot of time had been lost, and that could have been my fault. I hoped I could be forgiven, as I seemed to owe Dylan some kind of an apology for not knowing that he was saved, and for not following him and his music through the years.
Then he contacted me on Twitter. Everything stopped.
Was this actually Dylan? This was overwhelming. I did not know what to think. I told the Rabbi, and he just blew it off. What is going on, I wondered? Was he not in the least surprised?
I took another step back. But my quest has intensified, as it seems to have a connection not only to Dylan, but somehow to this Messianic community. Had I been set up? I had to find out.
At the end of the day, however, after I listen to some Dylan and study the lyrics, I decided to return to the tracks from Trouble No More.
This article discusses the release of TNM:
A few days after contacting me, Dylan dropped his album Rough and Rowdy Ways…
on my birthday.
Just another coincidence, or more evidence of some sort of connection?
Now I am starting to wonder if there has been some sort of an experiment involving both our families. Something Dylan may have gotten roped into when he went to NYC.
So far, this is just a working hypothesis…
I am doing everything I can think of to unravel and clarify this mystery of why there seems to be some sort of a connection between Bob Dylan’s family and mine, and, if so, what it means….