Thursday, January 07, 2010

More on Dylan/Handel

Thanks to “Arja & John”:

“There is one Dylan/Handel connection that came rather belatedly to my mind, and one that comes just a few minutes before the Behold, I tell you a mystery/ The trumpet shall sound passage in the Messiah that you refer to.

“The women’s vocals in the unfinished ‘Hallelujah’ (1981 – on the Between Saved and Shot bootleg) are clearly using Handel’s rhythm for the word ‘Hallelujah’ from the Hallelujah Chorus, even if the notes and chords (minor key) are very different.

“Not that it takes a very intimate acquaintance with Handel’s output to reference the Hallelujah Chorus, and on balance the second of your options (Dylan… is familiar with 1 Corinthians 15, vv. 51-52, the New Testament source) is the most likely.

“This chapter is a key passage in the writings of St Paul (readily accessible online via sites such as, where Paul talks about Jesus’ resurrection, and the resurrection that awaits his followers.

“Part 3 of Handel’s ‘Messiah’(Part 1 is basically the Christmas story, Part 2 uses primarily Old Testament prophecies to tell the story of Jesus’ suffering, death and eventual victory) turns its focus to the glories that await the believer, and is largely based on this chapter (verses 20-2 and 51-7).

“A lot of Dylan’s writing 1979-81 seems to come directly or indirectly from Paul – examples include Pressing on (from Philippians), the ‘fiery darts’ from What can I do for you? (from Ephesians); and Watered- down love is of course based on the ‘faith, hope and love’ chapter, 1 Corinthians 13.

“The times they are a-changin’ has obviously been a very important point of reference for Dylan for much of his career, often where the sentiments of the original are being challenged (the 1981 performances at e.g. Drammen and New Orleans, or the succession of important ‘change’ songs – Gonna change my way of thinking, Things have changed, I feel a change comin’ on): Ye shall be changed possibly stands in this tradition.

“The lyrics of the born-again albums are much more self-aware and self-referential than I remember noticing at the time – examples include the ‘don’t look back’ line in Pressing on, or the end-of-line ‘conceal’ in When He returns.

“Ye shall be changed (great song, by the way) is following the Slow train coming/Saved pattern of presenting beliefs founded on Biblical texts whilst taking a swipe at his past work.

“There’s no reason why Dylan shouldn’t be familiar with Handel’s work, and Messiah is a masterpiece, with musical and spiritual depths way beyond its most famous chorus.

“I hope you didn’t sleep through I know that my redeemer liveth.

“Thanks as always for a highly entertaining and informative daily contribution to the Dylan world.”