Bob Dylan in the 1980s
Published:31st Dec '21
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No period of Bob Dylan's six-decade career confounds fans more than the 1980s. The singer began the decade with Saved, the second in a trio of explicitly religious records, and a tour in which he declined to play his older songs because of concern they were anti-god.No period of Bob Dylan's six-decade career confounds fans more than the 1980s. The singer began the decade with Saved, the second in a trio of explicitly religious records, and a tour in which he declined to play his older songs because of concern they were anti-god. Dylan's ambivalence about the songs that made him an icon was mirrored by fans, many of whom found his post-conversion messages strident and judgmental. This made Saved his worst selling album in years and set a pattern for the next several years. Despite being a prolific time, in which the singer released seven studio albums, the decade was defined by inconsistency. Throughout the 1980s, some of his most profound work alternated with lackluster compositions and indifferent performances - sometimes on the same album. However, even as Dylan struggled artistically, all of his albums contained reminders of why he continued to be celebrated. By the end of the decade, his perseverance - both on stage and in the studio - and a spontaneous collaboration with some of his peers coalesced into his best received releases since the 1970s. Rather than closing a book, the combination of Oh Mercy and the first Traveling Wilburys record pointed to new chapters. The 1990s began a remarkable run of success that few popular artists have managed at any stage of their careers.