Bob Dylan — Slow Train (Live at Massey Hall, April 20th 1980)
The following letter of support was handwritten by Bob Dylan in April of 1980 to a friend who had just joined the U.S. Military, and highlights a period in his life when he attracted much derision as a result of his religious leanings. A few months previous, having recently converted to Christianity, Dylan had begun travelling North America to promote his new album of gospel music, Slow Train Coming. His new direction wasn't taken well by many fans, and Dylan's resolute refusal to play any of his old tracks during the tour — not to mention his occasional preaching from the stage — caused further ripples of discontent among his audience. Despite the reaction however, he soldiered on.
This particular missive was penned by Dylan on the third leg of his Gospel Tour, in between playing four shows at Massey Hall in Toronto.
Transcript follows. Image courtesy of RR Auction, who sold the letter in 2006.
Image: RR Auction
PARK PLAZA HOTEL
Dear Steve —
We are up in Toronto singing and playing for about 3000 people a night in a downtown theatre — the Spirit of the Lord is calling people here in this beautiful and clean city but they are more interested in lining up for Apocalypse Now than to be baptized and filled with the Holy Ghost —
Wanna thank you for that Bible as it is helpful in discerning a few phrases from and shedding some light on what the King James version reads —
God will lift up your head as you begin to realize that "... He thru Christ has reconsiled man unto Himself" (II Corinthians) You are in basic training and bootcamp and I thank God you are and your commitment runs deep and you will be used to minister and break the hold of darkness on those you become face to face with — "Study to show thyself approved"
You will be strong in the Lord and seeing that looks are deceiving, you will work miracles that way — He has called you to be a saint and your responsibility is to Him and Him alone —
Be praying and not look back no more — press on toward what is ahead — I send love to you and will pray for strength and more strength for you — Always
In the name of Jesus Christ
Son of God, manifest in the flesh