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Winter Edition
Volume 96, Number 4

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Bob Dylan, one of the most influential popular musicians in history, performed in Brubaker Auditorium this fall.
Bob Dylan, one of the most influential popular musicians in history, performed in Brubaker Auditorium this fall.
Bob Dylan headlines students’ concert series
Folk-rock legend’s performance furthers campus dialogue about Christianity and popular culture

Bob Dylan, one of the most important figures in popular music during the last 45 years, performed at Messiah College this fall. On November 6, more than 1,600 jubilant fans crowded into Brubaker Auditorium to hear this cultural icon perform live. The sold-out concert was part of Dylan’s national tour of colleges and universities, which included institutions such as Purdue University, Harvard University, and the University of Pittsburgh.

The Student Activities Board (SAB), a subgroup of the Student Government Association, invited Dylan to perform on campus, selecting him for his significant cultural influence, artistic merit, and the truth communicated in his songs. “SAB wants to bring in the best that popular culture has to offer,” said SAB advisor Jeff Rioux in The Swinging Bridge student newspaper. “Getting Bob Dylan to perform in concert would be as big as getting T. S. Eliot to read his poetry on campus.”

SAB, whose mission is to educate and build community through art and entertainment, brings a variety of Christian and secular entertainers to campus in order to promote dialogue about Christianity and popular culture. This fall, students also enjoyed performances by Last Tuesday, Sara Groves, Pedro the Lion, Ben Kweller, and the Innocence Mission. To complement Dylan’s concert, SAB hosted a variety of activities: an open mike night featuring members of the Messiah College community performing covers of popular Dylan songs; a presentation on Dylan’s spiritual development by Scott Marshall, author of Restless Pilgrim: The Spiritual Journey of Bob Dylan; and an after-concert celebration and discussion of Dylan’s significance in popular culture.

As an artist, Dylan has influenced many musicians, including the Beatles; performed at the March on Washington when Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech; composed and sang “Like a Rolling Stone,” a hit that Rolling Stone magazine hailed as the greatest rock and roll song of all time; and has been nominated for the past seven years for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Dylan also pioneered many “firsts” in the global music realm—including being the first artist to release a song that broke the barrier of the traditional three-minute length, and being the first to use his album covers as a form of serious artistic expression. He has performed for presidents and a pope. Dylan was recognized nationally for his achievements when he was awarded the Kennedy Center Honors in 1997.

For some students, the opportunity to see Bob Dylan perform at Messiah College marks a cultural highlight of their college years. “Dylan’s visit to Messiah has been the most important cultural event to happen during my time as a student,” says Sarah Adams, editor of The Swinging Bridge, Messiah’s student newspaper. “I love the way that he sings humble songs that are gilded with some of the most poetic and playful language that we’ve ever seen. While Dylan is very private about any decisions of faith that he may or may not have made, he still presents us with songs and lyrics that reflect the truth of life as it really happens, which is the most valuable subject matter for any writing.”
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