November 17, 1978 1978, Bob Dylan was on stage performing in San Diego at the San Diego Sports Arena, when an audience member tossed a silver cross onto the stage, which Dylan then picked up and put into his pocket.
Towards the end of the show someone out in the crowd … knew I wasn’t feeling too well. I think they could see that. And they threw a silver cross on the stage. Now usually I don’t pick things up in front of the stage … But I looked down at that cross. I said, ‘I gotta pick that up.’ So I picked up the cross and I put it in my pocket … And I brought it backstage and I brought it with me to the next town, which was out in Arizona … I was feeling even worse than I’d felt when I was in San Diego. I said, ‘Well, I need something tonight.’ I didn’t know what it was. I was used to all kinds of things. I said, ‘I need something tonight that I didn’t have before.’ And I looked in my pocket and I had this cross
Dylan believed he had experienced a vision of Christ in his Tucson hotel room. “Jesus did appear to me as King of Kings, and Lord of Lords,” he’d later say. “There was a presence in the room that couldn’t have been anybody but Jesus … Jesus put his hand on me. It was a physical thing. I felt it. I felt it all over me. I felt my whole body tremble. The glory of the Lord knocked me down and picked me up.”
Hints of Dylan’s newfound faith began to appear publicly. In the final four weeks of the tour, Dylan could be seen wearing the same silver cross that catalyzed his conversion. During performances of “Tangled Up in Blue,” lyrics were replaced with explicit references to the Bible. As Heylin writes, “Rather than having the mysterious lady in the topless bar quoting an Italian poet from the 14th century [sic], she was quoting from the Bible, initially from the Gospel According to Matthew. Gradually, though, the lines changed, until he settled upon a verse from Jeremiah—the one he would quote on the inner sleeve of the Saved album: ‘Behold, the days come, sayeth the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah’ (Jeremiah 31:31).
At San Diego, the night of the cross thrown onto the stage, he played “Tangled Up in Blue” sixth (this was standard by this point – in each of the shows I’m discussing her TUiB is sixth). In the verse where “She lit a burner on the stove and offered me a pipe”, the “she” is wearing “a dress made out of stars and stripes” (so: “she lit a burner on the stove, wearing a dress made out of stars and stripes”) and then the verse continues roughly the same, with a reading from a “book of poems written by an Italian poet in the thirteenth century”.
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