‘How Bob Dylan prayed the sinners prayer in my home and wrote his first Christian album there’
Two-time Oscar winner, Al Kasha, shares his amazing ‘miracle’ conversion story and the story of how Dylan came to his home Bible study for six months.
Al Kasha (born 22 January 1937) is a Brooklyn–born composer, songwriter and arranger, as well as businessman. He is most noted for his years of collaboration with songwriter, Joel Hirschhorn.
The songwriting duo won two Oscars for Best Song, “The Morning After” from The Poseidon Adventure in 1972 and “We May Never Love Like This Again” from The Towering Inferno in 1974.
Along with Hirschhorn, Kasha also received two Tony nominations for “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and “Copperfield,” two Grammy nominations and an Emmy, as well as four Golden Globe nominations and a People’s Choice award. In all, Hirschhorn and Kasha’s songs sold over 90 million records.
But Kasha had a terrible secret; he suffered from Agoraphobia and for an agonizing period he became a prisoner in his Beverly Hills home.
Kasha said he was suffering from Agoraphobia, which is an anxiety disorder in which there are repeated attacks of intense fear and anxiety, and a fear of being in places where escape might be difficult, or where help might not be available.
|Dan Wooding interviews Al and Ceil Kasha as Susan Stafford (left) the original host of ‘Wheel of Fortune’, looks on|
“Because of this, I wouldn’t leave my room or my house,” he said during an exclusive Red Carpet interview at the recent 19th Annual Faith & Values Awards Gala, held at the Universal Hilton Hotel in the heart of Hollywood. “So here I was with all this great success – two Oscars, two Tony nominations, and lots of hit records, and I was gripped by such fear.”
Ceil, his wife then said, “We became an Agoraphobic family…”
At that time, Al was working with Debby Boone on “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” that was in production on Broadway, but he said that she had to come to his home because of his illness.
But then one night, while at his lowest point, he turned on the TV in his bedroom and began watching “The Hour of Power” from the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California.
“I watched Robert Schuller as he was preaching and he said, ‘God’s perfect love casts out fear.’ It was 3:30 AM in the morning of October 8, 1978, when I prayed to ask Jesus to come into my life as my Messiah and I got saved through this television program.
“I remember that the room was shaking as I accepted the Lord, My wife did so a few days later. So we’ve been born again and since that amazing time.”
Ceil Kasha then cut in and said, “Without a doubt, I didn’t think he’d ever leave our bedroom or leave the house and finally the Lord spoke to him and said, “Al, you’re my child you’re my son.”
Al Kasha added, “What happened was absolutely a miracle.” For immediately, he said, he was healed of this debilitating illness and was able to function again in a normal way.
Not long after, Kasha met up with Jess Moody, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Van Nuys, an independent congregation with some 10,000 members, who he said “was very sensitive to people in Hollywood.” It was Moody who then suggested that Kasha begin studying at theological seminary, and he became an ordained Southern Baptist pastor, and started his weekly Bible study in his home where he would teach with his two Oscars on the piano, as I well know as I often would attend, as would people like Bob Dylan, Donna Summer and Mel Carter.
“We had them all coming along to my home Bible study, and that would include struggling actors and actresses, singers and dancers, but also these big stars as well,” he told me. “At that time, there was no place for them to go so we would try to solve some problems that they were facing that were biblically based.”
He then spoke about Bob Dylan who he said had been told about the study by some friends who had shared about this Jewish man who was teaching about Jesus.
“I knew him [Dylan] before he started coming, but I hadn’t seen him in years since I was a record producer at Columbia Records in 1960,” said Kasha. “I was then 21-years-old and Bob had just signed with them.
“He came to the house every week for six months. In fact he wrote the album, ‘Slow Train Coming’ in in our house. Bob was, at that time, going through a spiritual search and if you look at his track record as a writer, he was always seeking after Jesus and he finally realized that Jesus was his Savior.”
Kasha said that the night that Dylan prayed the “Sinners Prayer” with him, he was with his friend called Clark Mathias and his wife, Ceil.
I asked Ceil if she could remember what happened and she replied, “I sure do, like it was yesterday. There was an amazing warm feeling in our home and in our hearts, and he [Dylan] just opened up and said [after Al Kasha had asked him if he wanted to receive Jesus into his life], ‘Yes I do, yes I do, yes I do,’ and that was that.”
Al Kasha then added, “And he wrote his whole entire ‘Slow Train Coming’ Album in front of our fireplace.”
Did Bob Dylan ever share those songs with you when he was writing them?
“Yes he did,” said Kasha. “We gave him a key to the house because we were song writers and song writers feel a sense of spirit in a room. You know, Dan, you’re a writer yourself and I am sure you would say, ‘I want to sit where I feel something good.’ So he [Dylan] had a key to our house and we trusted him. I heard the guitar playing some nights but I wouldn’t bother him. It was an incredible experience.”
Kasha added, “He [Dylan] said that he felt out home was ‘spiritually anointed’. So many other people also got saved at our home and I see many of them here tonight for this affair. I could hug every one of them.”
I asked Al Kasha what his all-time favorite of the ones Bob Dylan wrote in his home.
“He has a song called ‘Jesus is Lord’ and I love that one,” he said. “However, there are many that I love and I don’t really want to pick out one because I want everyone to buy the album, but I love a lot of them.”
I then asked Al Kasha where he thought Dylan was today spiritually and how a friend had told me that Dylan had never renounced his faith in Jesus Christ, but was once again on a search.
“Well I’m still Jewish, and Jesus was Jewish, so I’m a Jew who accepted Jesus Christ as my savior,” he said. “I think he [Dylan] still feels that way and I know that’s his stand. I can’t speak for him, but he’s told that to people so many times about what happened to him, but I do feel that a lot of people took advantage of him which wasn’t fair.”
Al Kasha concluded by saying, “Looking back, it is an amazing thing that happened in our home. It’s been 32 years and our Bible study eventually wound up being a church — the Oasis Church – which we founded.”
With that Al and Ceil were off to the gala where they were both given a special Lifetime Achievement Award from Dr. Ted Baehr, the founder of Movieguide®.
To see Dan Wooding’s interview with Al and Ceil Kasha that was videoed by Peter Wooding, Dan’s son, please go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRAVTzfJRVs
Note: I would like to thank Robin Frost for transcribing this interview.