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The Top 100 People Positively Influencing Jewish Life, 2017

ARTS AND CULTURE

Bob Dylan

Musician

“Not once have I ever had the time to ask myself, ‘Are my songs literature?’” Bob Dylan wrote to the Nobel Prize Committee, but by that time the committee had already decided that for him. At the end of 2016, it awarded the 76-year-old legendary singer-songwriter the Nobel Prize for Literature for “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

With this award, the former Robert Allen Zimmerman cemented his legacy as one of the greatest Jewish artists of the century, his work encompassing everything from folk to rock 'n' roll to country music to gospel to blues to, most recently, the great American songbook.

Despite being mostly private about his faith and briefly converting to born-again Christianity, Dylan has led a surprisingly Jewish life. He grew up in a tight knit Jewish community in Minnesota, and as one article points out, wore a kippa and tallit at his son’s bar mitzvah at the Western Wall, sang “Hava Nagilah” at a Chabad telethon, and wrote the ferociously pro-Israel “Neighborhood Bully.” He has also peppered his work with biblical references, studied the Talmud, adapted Jewish prayers to songs like “Forever Young,” and even briefly flirted with the JDL.

Reflecting on his long strange trip in his Nobel acceptance speech, Dylan said, “I return once again to Homer, who says, ‘Sing in me, oh Muse, and through me tell the story.’” (Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.)

ARTS AND CULTURE

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