Michael J. Gilmour
Few contemporary artists have endured so long, reinvented themselves so frequently and successfully (folk, rock, country, gospel music), and contributed in such diverse media (music, film, poetry, prose, sketches) as Bob Dylan. What is more, there may be no other artist of the 20th and 21st centuries with such an unusual list of significant honours: Grammy Awards; an Academy Award (2000); a Polar Music Prize (2000); a Kennedy Center Honour (1997); honorary doctorates (Princeton University; St Andrew's University); nominations for the Nobel Prize for Literature; and a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation (2008), among them. In addition to this impressive list, Bob Dylan's music and writing is often the subject of serious academic analysis from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, including literary, cultural, religious, and music studies. This article argues that the use of the Bible in the songs and other art forms that comprise the Bob Dylan canon defies simplistic systematization and containment within categories. Dylan's art is idiosyncratic, involves constant blending and bending of his sources, and is often inconsistent; a biblical image or phrase used one way in one time and place may appear quite different in another.
David W. Stowe
Religious music functions both to create group identities and to dissolve social boundaries. Historically, American music has been characterized by racial and religious crossover. While many ethnic groups have participated in constituting American music, the most seminal crossovers have occurred between African and European Americans. Jazz was shaped largely by the interactions of Jews and African Americans. Gospel music developed from the interaction of vernacular slave spirituals, Protestant hymns, and the secular blues. Christian hymns have been thoroughly indigenized by many Native American groups. Compared to Buddhists and Jews, American Hindus and Muslims have made few musical adaptations of their worship music, but their music has been widely sampled in American popular styles. In recent decades, mainline Protestant hymnals have come to reflect the deeply multicultural reality of American sacred song.
Music, a source of motivation, well-being, entertainment, and survival in diverse lives of African Americans, has afforded them experiences of signifying their humanity amidst horrific oppression, while engaging in creativity, worship, and rituals of celebration. Rooted within African traditions, where sacred and secular are one, some African American musical genres are more fluid, engaging a tension between how people label and use music. This music shares common traditions and attributes. Using themes of poetry, praise, power, protest, philosophy, and politics, this analysis of African American sacred and secular music: (1) introduces the socio-historical, cultural, cosmological origins and terminology of this music; (2) examines selected musical typologies, from antebellum Spirituals to hip-hop and contemporary classical African American music that foregrounds tenets of so-called sacred and secular music; (3) explores a religious/spiritual impact of these cultural artifacts; and (4) concludes with a literature review of scholarship regarding African American sacred and secular music.