Bob Dylan Countdown #121: “Pressing On”Posted: February 14, 2012
Whatever you think about I’m Not There, Todd Haynes’ film tribute to Bob Dylan’s chameleonic nature (I’ll elaborate on my opinion of it in future posts,) you cannot deny that the music was well-chosen. Pulling this song off Saved for the Christian Bale/gospel period portion of the movie was an inspired choice, abetted by an equally inspired cover performance by John Doe.
Dylan’s original version is gospel music at its finest. There is really nothing at all related to rock music tethered to the song, and that’s a wise choice. The stirring nature of the piano and organ is just the right touch for a song about perseverance and fortitude.
I think the fact that “Pressing On” is really all about the music more than the lyrics might be what makes it palatable to even the biggest skeptics of Dylan’s religious period. The message can be applied really to anyone of any faith (or even lack thereof,) relatable to whomever must persist in the face of constant obstacles.
The lyrics shouldn’t be discounted entirely though. In just two verses, Dylan makes a strong argument for the nature of faith. “What kind of sign they need when it all come from within/When what’s lost has been found, what’s to come has already been?” he asks. It’s an unanswerable question, really, and one that proves the point he’s trying to make.
There are very few vocal performances I like more from Bob than this one. And, as misapplied as the female backing vocals on other Dylan songs around that period were, the performances here of Clydie King, Regina Havis, and Mona Lisa Young are truly gorgeous and essential. All doubters better have their A game intact when they try to disparage “Pressing On,” or else the sheer force of the song’s will blow them right away.