Rated: Not Rated | Running Time: 94 Minutes
From: MVD Entertainment Group
Available on DVD and Digital Platforms: February 9, 2018
Get it via : Amazon
I’m not a Bob Dylan fan. There, I said it. While I admire the career he has had, for whatever reason his music style just never clicked with me. Not the acoustic Dylan, not the electric Dylan, and hell, I didn’t even know there was a gospel Dylan, until now.
And guess what? I’m still not a fan, of his.
What I am a fan of, though, are the gospel singers who took his gospel songs and turned them into their own. With that I am now a fan of “Gotta Serve Somebody: The Gospel Songs Of Bob Dylan.” The DVD is being reissued in conjunction with the fifteenth anniversary of the release of the Grammy-nominated album of the same name.
Opening with Ariethia Lindsey singing “Every Grain of Sand” in the subway, the documentary takes you on a look at the songs as they touched the lives of the various singers. The documentary also takes a look at the Dylan gospel era, beginning in 1979 when he decided to go gospel. Of course there was the confusion by the fans, the band, and everything Dylan, but interviews with those around him and those who covered him attempt to break down the powerful nature of gospel, and analyze if Bob could bring the spirit to the music. It appears he did.
The documentary is straightforward, mixing interviews with the singers and groups along with videos of their recordings of the various songs. Couple that with some interviews of some journalists as well as producers, and you can see that Bob Dylan was able to tackle gospel.
The singing list on the DVD is as follows, all of which show the range of the gospel Dylan put together:
- Arlethia Lindsey – Every Grain of Sand
- Bob Dylan – When He Returns
- Sounds of Blackness – Solid Rock
- Shirley Caesar – Gotta Serve Somebody
- Dottie Peoples – I Believe in You
- Aaron Neville – Saving Grace
- Helen Baylor – What Can I Do For You’
- The Fairfield Four – Are You Ready
- Great Day Chorale – In the Garden
- Mighty Clouds of Joy – Saved
- Chicago Mass Choir featuring Regina McCrary – Pressing On
- Rance Allen – When He Returns
What the DVD does best is let the signers and groups tell how the music touched their lives. For example, Helen Baylor explained, “I don’t know who picked it for me, but the lyrics fit my life.”, at which time she explained the parallels of drug use, hitting bottom, and rising up in “What Can I Do For You?” I was also floored by the performance of “Pressing On,” by the Chicago Mass Choir featuring Regina McCrary.
The most touching performance for me, however, was from Rance Allen. He prayed for days leading up to his recording date, “Lord when I go into the studio to do this one song, let your anointing rest on me. Lord, illuminate the room.” I believe the Lord was there with Rance, but Rance was the one illuminating the room with the wonderfulness of “When He Returns.”
I really enjoyed “Gotta Serve Somebody: The Gospel Songs Of Bob Dylan.” The one thing I thought was missing, and while I understand the documentary was to highlight the gospel singers, it would have been interesting to have side by side versions of Bob singing against the gospel singers. Rance Allen’s version of “When He Returns” is the only version for direct comparison as earlier in the film we see a live version of Dylan doing the song. Maybe it was better they didn’t do the comparisons, though, because quite honestly I liked Rance’s version better than Bob’s.
I love the passion of gospel music and of gospel singers, and “Gotta Serve Somebody: The Gospel Songs Of Bob Dylan” did a wonderful job of showing both. See the gospel songs of Dylan with gospel passion. It’s 4 stars out of 5.
That’s it for this one! L8R!!