Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan's lyrics never explicitly invoke his Jewish roots, but Jewish influences are never far from the surface.

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Or, just as likely, the recipient of the folk tradition might move on. The sons and daughters of Hibbing's miners no doubt pre­ferred Elvis to Woody Guthrie, just as Robert, in com­mon with so many American Jews of his generation, preferred the singing of Woody and Little Richard to those of his rabbi.

Dylan's music was that of an outsider posing as a dis­possessed insider. He claimed an American folk tradition that had not belonged to his grandparents. In taking over this tradition and claiming to be its guardian, he could not but subvert it. His imagination would not stand still. He had to keep moving--to keep wandering--as if fearing exposure, just as, when a young man, he had feared being revealed as "Zimmerman." The result has been an uncom­fortable but undoubtedly genuine originality that resists easy summary.

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Michael Billig

Michael Billig is professor of social sciences at Loughborough University.