Five greatest political songs from Bob Dylan

Dylan specialized in make art from politics.

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The album Slow Train Coming was the first of three in which Dylan explored a newfound (and ultimately short-lived) Christian faith. The album has been clouded by overt references to faith, which upset some fans while pleasing others. Nowhere is that cloud more obvious than on the album’s second single “Slow Train.”

Though there are references – both overt and hidden—to religious faith, I have always heard the track as an incisive political statement of America’s place in the world in the late 1970s.

This was the era of the oil crisis and there are obvious references to that situation – “All that foreign oil controlling American soil,” in addition to throwbacks to the old-school protest of corporate greed – “People starving and thirsting, grain elevators are bursting.” These complaints may be grounded in what he saw at the time as a turning away from religious faith, but the situations he describes are nothing if not political, eventually concluding that “In the home of the brave, Jefferson turnin’ over in his grave.”

He chastises false healers who talk “in the name of religion.” Whether or not you buy into the Christian worldview expressed in “Slow Train,” it is proof that religion and politics are more inseparable than some of us would like to believe.