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Gotta Serve Somebody - The Gospel Songs of Bob Dylan
Gotta Serve Somebody - The Gospel Songs of Bob Dylan
Actors: Shirley Caesar, Bob Dylan, Jerry Wexler
Genres: Drama, Music Video & Concerts, Special Interests
NR     2006     1hr 22min

In 2003 an all-star cast of gospel singers took Bob Dylan's gospel compositions and created a GRAMMY-nominated album. Now Gotta Serve Somebody: The Gospel Songs of Bob Dylan features roof-raising performances by these spir...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Shirley Caesar, Bob Dylan, Jerry Wexler
Genres: Drama, Music Video & Concerts, Special Interests
Sub-Genres: Religion, Pop, Rock & Roll, Dylan, Bob, Classic Rock, Other Music, Religion & Spirituality
Studio: Image Entertainment
Format: DVD - Color - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 02/07/2006
Original Release Date: 01/01/2005
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2005
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 1hr 22min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 5
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
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Movie Reviews

"Manna for Modern Times"
A reader and righter | the Deep, deep South, of the good ol' U.S. of A. | 09/10/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"A crowd making their way to their destinations in a New York City subway: a blind man with his walking cane; another man doing a soft shoe dance; a woman putting some spare money in a hat; people spilling out of escalators, the humdrum of daily city life...Yet amid this concrete world of souls we see and hear Arlethia Lindsey singing a beautiful version of Bob Dylan's "Every Grain of Sand." Fittingly, this is how the DVD "Gotta Serve Somebody: The Gospel Songs of Bob Dylan" begins and ends--along with official footage of Dylan himself at the piano in 1980, belting out a heartfelt "When He Returns." And the 80 minutes wedged in between these opening and closing scenes is well worth the $17.99. Jeff Gaskill, its executive producer, who, as a 17-year-old in May 1980, watched in stunned wonderment as Dylan delivered up his all-gospel show in Worcester, Massachusetts, should be saluted in a big way for creating and bringing forth this project.

I recently discovered that this DVD was featured at the 2006 Park City (Utah) Film & Music Festival--and won the Gold Medal for Excellence for Best Music Documentary. When it comes to Dylan's so-called gospel years, this is the ultimate DVD to watch and own. It is a stunning combination of musical performances in the studio by traditional and contemporary gospel artists who are covering Dylan's songs from "Slow Train Coming" (1979) and "Saved" (1980); this project is the companion piece to the Grammy-nominated CD, "Gotta Serve Somebody: The Gospel Songs of Bob Dylan" (2003). Contrary to what one reviewer has suggested, this IS a documentary and brings with it professional graphics, directing, and editing--not to mention a powerful narrative.

In addition to the inspiring performances in the studio (I don't say this lightly), there are a number of interviews with the performers, as well as interviews with those who recorded and/or performed with Dylan back in 1979-1980: drummer Jim Keltner, guitarist Fred Tackett, keyboardist Spooner Oldham, producer Jerry Wexler, and singers Regina McCrary, Terry and Mona Lisa Young. Also featured are previously unpublished photographs of Dylan recording in Muscle Shoals Sound Studio during the sessions for "Slow Train Coming" and "Saved."

Oftentimes, when critics are interviewed, it can make for paralyzing analysis; however, in this DVD we hear from Alan Light, a longtime journalist who has obviously thought about this period of Dylan's career, and consequently issues some fresh insight. And for those who have never seen Paul Williams, author of "Dylan--What Happened?"--the groundbreaking book written right after Williams absorbed seven of Dylan's concerts in November 1979 (Dylan actually purchased copies for his friends)--we see and hear his unique take on this historical period of Dylan's life and career.

It's worth mentioning that this project is the only outside Dylan tribute project that Dylan himself became involved in. After becoming aware of the project and reportedly being honored by the artists who were choosing to cover these songs, he chipped in by rewriting his 1979 composition "Gonna Change My Way of Thinking" (featured as the closing song on the CD, a duet with Mavis Staples). This DVD is a wonderful extension of the CD and is something every Dylan fan and appreciator should have.

Just over 20 years ago, in 1985, Dylan said this: "Regina McCrary played with me for a while. She's the daughter of Preacher Sam McCrary from Nashville who used to have the old gospel group the Fairfield Four. Anyway, she would open these shows [Dylan's all-gospel gigs of 1979-1980] with a monologue about a woman on a train; she was so incredibly moving. I wanted to expose people to that sort of thing because I loved it and it's the real roots of all modern music, but nobody cared."

Well, now somebody cares: via this DVD, you can catch Regina McCrary leading the Chicago Mass Choir in a spiritually uplifting version of Dylan's "Pressing On"--as well as the Fairfield Four covering "Are You Ready?" Shirley Caesar's "Gotta Serve Somebody" will make most anybody care and Dottie Peoples, Helen Baylor and Rance Allen, doing "I Believe in You," "What Can I Do For You?" and "When He Returns," respectively, will likely open up your tear ducts.

If the real root of all modern music is gospel music, as Dylan has asserted, then this DVD will provide spiritual nourishment for anyone in these modern times--whether they find themselves in a subway or in their own living room.

Scott M. Marshall
Toccoa, Georgia (USA)
--Author (with Marcia Ford) of "Restless Pilgrim: The Spiritual Journey of Bob Dylan"
--Author of the four-part online series "Bob Dylan's Unshakeable Monotheism," located at"
Good for what is included, but...
D. Plentus | MA, USA | 02/17/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"If you didn't like Bob Dylan's "gospel era" songs, you probably will not appreciate this DVD, but for those of us who do this video is a worthwhile purchase. Most of the songs from the 2003 "Gotta Serve Somebody" album are featured, with commentary by the artists and film of the recording sessions. Also commentary by Jerry Wexler, Dylan biographer Paul Williams, and other musicians & writers. It's amazing to see the emotion the performers invested in their recordings.
Not included from the CD are When You Gonna Wake Up by Lee Williams & Spiritual QCs and the Bob Dylan/Mavis Staples duet of Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking.
Solid Rock by Sounds of Blackness is featured but not presented as a complete track.
The other tracks from the CD are featured in the documentary, with the full uninterupted tracks available as bonus tracks.
Two songs not on the CD are included, possibly due to lesser audio quality. Every Grain Of Sand by Arlethia Lindsay was recorded while busking in a NY subway station, and In the Garden by the Great Day Chorale was recorded in a church, not a studio.
For Dylan fans, the DVD contains footage of Bob performing When He Returns from Toronto 1980, the first official release of any gospel era video. Unfortunately, it is not presented continuously, most of it is there but's it's intercut with commentary and not available as an uninterupted bonus track. Still nice to see though. The other Bob content is a 1983 animated film set to his original version of Gotta Serve Somebody.
A good DVD for what is included. Only 4 stars due to the missing Bob & Mavis duet and non-continuous Dylan video."
Masterful songs, jaw-dropping performances
Clarity First | Washington, DC | 04/04/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"For the Dylan faithful who never overcame their dismay of the gospel years, this DVD brings it all back home and puts that contentious time into perspective. The film adds solid context to the acclaimed CD by interviewing participants and, more importantly, those who lived through that time with Dylan. If you want to know what happened and how, this is the real deal. For the fan, this DVD features footage of Dylan performing "When He Returns" in 1980; that's the value of such an authorized project. Plus, if you appreciate the power of good music, you MUST see Rance Allen's performance. Love that period or not, this package tells the powerful story of Dylan at his iconoclastic best."
Daring Retribution
Dan R., Griffin | Bronx, NY United States | 11/30/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"As a long-time Dylan fan, I was lucky enough (or should I say blessed), to witness one of the dates on his gospel tour of 1980. I had already read the reviews of the shows, of the near riots over the new material and Dylan's apparent converstion to Christianity. I had also heard his recently released "Slow Train Coming" LP. I was taken by the music and the power of Dylan's conviction during the performance. The audience in Birmingham, Alabama seemed much more open to the changes, and lack of Mr. Tambourine Man, and cheered the Dylan Gospel Tour on to great heights. The arrival of a CD and DVD, a quarter of a century later, celebrating the gospel period with some of today's greatest gospel singers and musicians gives justification, once again, to Mr. Dylan's forsight and artistry. The songs and performances, especially Helen Baylor, make this an appealing collection for any fan of Dylan or a music historian. The backstory tales from the musicians performing on the original tracks and tour, and on the current production, add to the enjoyment of hearing the songs done in this fashion. While the originals appeared to be a stumbling block in Dylan's career, they turned out to be a stepping stone in a lifetime of great music."