Jewish-born Bob Dylan - musical poet to a generation and Jimmy Carter's favorite troubadour - has become a born-again Christian, according to the fundamentalist California minister who says he is his pastor. The Rev. Ken Gulliksen says Dylan recorded an album this month that will let the world know "in no uncertain terms" his new religious convictions.
Gulliksen, pastor of the Vineyard Fellowship in California's San Fernando Valley, says that he met Dylan about five months ago and that Dylan has accepted Christ and joined his church. This reported change in the popular musician's life has apparently caused consternation among some of his long-time associates.
Says Dylan's PR man, Paul Wasserman: "He's not reborn. He only hangs out with some of those people and studies with them. There's been no conversion. He's Jewish. Nominally."
Rumors about Dylan's recent fascination with Christianity have swept through the music industry over the last three months. His popularity and singular style are such that his philosophical whims can have enormous monetary repercussions, but no one knew for certain just how hard the singer was knocking on heaven's door. Dylan spent the first part of this month inside a guarded recording studio near Muscle Shoals, Ala.
Backed up by the lead singer and the drummer of the hot new British group Dire Straits, Dylan cut an album whose lyrics and liner notes, Gulliksen says Dylan told him, would make clear his religious convictions. Efforts to reach Dylan, or to obtain detailed information from Columbia Records and the new album's producers, Jerry Wexler and Barry Beckett, were unsuccessful.
"I think it's like giving birth, it should be reasonably private, this is a creative process," said Wexler of the hush-hush recording session. Muscle Shoals - a small town in the northwestern part of Alabama - is known for the quality of its musicians and studios, and Dire Straits had recorded there before. Some critics have noticed the similarity in style between the veteran star and the British group whose first American hit, "Sultans of Swing," currently tops music charts.
Co-producer Wexler testily fended off questions about Dylan's religious convictions. Gulliksen, however, claimed that Dylan "is part of our church." He noted that famous people who receive the Lord can be suddenly "put out front and on the spot" before they are prepared to explain their faith; he suggested letting Dylan speak for himself through his new album. The album's release date is not yet set.
One of Gulliksen's close friends is Hal Lindsey, author of The Late Great Planet Earth, a best-selling book in which Lindsey argues the imminence of the apocalypse. Some of Dylan's earlier, hits have flirted with the notion of worldwide destruction (his savage "Hard Rain," for example, was written during the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962). Apparently the curious music world and Dylan's legions of fans will have to buy his album to learn how deeply a born-again Dylan feels the influence of Lindsey, the Vineyard Fellowship and God. CAPTION: Illustration, no caption, By Allen Carroll