Song of the Day #2,509: ‘Ring Them Bells’ – Sufjan Stevens

im_not_thereFrequent readers of this blog, especially those who know me offline, know that I’m as big a movie and TV fan as I am a music fan. Probably even more so.

Back in 2008, I started what I described then as “an occasional series” on Forgotten Gems, favorite movies of mine that never earned a spot in the popular consciousness as great films.

I kicked off the series with a post on 1990’s Miami Blues, a fabulous film that I never see mentioned anywhere.

And then I never posted another Forgotten Gem entry again.

I’d like to get back to that sometime, and maybe I will. In the meantime, I’ll use today’s Random Weekend selection as an excuse to name-drop another title worthy of the Forgotten Gem series.

Today’s SOTD is a cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Ring Them Bells’ by Sufjan Stevens. It comes from the soundtrack of I’m Not There, Todd Hayne’s 2007 kinda sorta biopic about Dylan.

Rather than go the traditional route, Haynes chose to depict the many aspects of Dylan’s career and persona through seven different characters — none named Bob Dylan. The characters ranged from a young black boy (Marcus Carl Franklin) to an old drifter (Richard Gere). Cate Blanchett received an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Jude Quinn, based on the confrontational Dylan on tour in the U.K. in D. A. Pennebaker’s Don’t Look Back. Heath Ledger plays Dylan as father and husband in the Blood On the Tracks period. Christian Bale does double duty, capturing both the early folk days and the later gospel period. And Ben Whishaw shows up as a young Dylan being interviewed throughout the film.

These seven strands are woven together throughout the film to build a collective vision of this figure who is more myth than man.

I’m Not There received a lot of critical acclaim, and showed up on plenty of critics’ top ten lists, but I don’t feel like it’s held up there as one of the great films of its decade, or one of the greatest biopics or films about music ever made. It is both of those things.

So let this serve as an unofficial entry in the semi-occasional Forgotten Gems series. Up next (in less than seven years, I hope): My Kid Could Paint That.

(On a side note: Happy Birthday to frequent commenter Dana!)

Ring them bells, ye heathen from the city that dreams
Ring them bells from the sanctuaries cross the valleys and streams
For they’re deep and they’re wide and the world’s on its side
And time is running backwards and so is the bride

Ring them bells St. Peter where the four winds blow
Ring them bells with an iron hand, so the people will know
Oh, it’s rush hour now on the wheel and the plow
And the sun is going down upon that sacred cow

Ring them bells Sweet Martha for the poor man’s son
Ring them bells so the world will know that God is one
Oh, the shepherd is asleep where the willows weep
And the mountains are filled with lost sheep

Ring them bells for the blind and the deaf
Ring them bells for all of us who are left
Ring them bells for the chosen few
Who will judge the many when the game is through
Ring them bells for the time that flies
For the child that cries when innocence dies

Ring them bells St. Catherine from the top of the room
Ring them from the fortress for the lilies that bloom
Oh, the lines are long and the fighting is strong
And they’re breaking down the distance between right and wrong

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One thought on “Song of the Day #2,509: ‘Ring Them Bells’ – Sufjan Stevens

  1. Dana says:

    Thank you for the birthday wishes.😄

    I appreciated I’m Not There, but not so much that I feel it has been wrongfully forgotten (or under appreciated) since its release. Meanwhile, I am very much looking forward to seeing the new Brian Wilson biopic, Love and Mercy.

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