Sunday Song Lyric - Dylan Edition

Given the number of Sunday Song Lyrics I've posted since 2004, it seems a Bob Dylan lyric is long overdue. The only problem is selecting which one. He has written so many songs -- and there are so many potential lyrics -- that the prospect of singling out a single song for the Sunday lyric is a bit overwhelming. So, this week, I thought I would rely upon the VC's readership. What are your favorite (or even least favorite) Dylan lyrics? Which lyrics are most important? Were most influential? Or simply the most interesting? Please post your answers below.

Note: has a searchable database of Dylan lyrics here.

My ex-girlfriend got REALLY mad when I gave her a tape that included "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" (Peter, Paul and Mary's version) on it:

It ain't no use to sit and wonder why, babe
It don't matter, anyhow
An' it ain't no use to sit and wonder why, babe
If you don't know by now
When your rooster crows at the break of dawn
Look out your window and I'll be gone
You're the reason I'm trav'lin' on
Don't think twice, it's all right

It ain't no use in turnin' on your light, babe
That light I never knowed
An' it ain't no use in turnin' on your light, babe
I'm on the dark side of the road
Still I wish there was somethin' you would do or say
To try and make me change my mind and stay
We never did too much talkin' anyway
So don't think twice, it's all right

It ain't no use in callin' out my name, gal
Like you never did before
It ain't no use in callin' out my name, gal
I can't hear you any more
I'm a-thinkin' and a-wond'rin' all the way down the road
I once loved a woman, a child I'm told
I give her my heart but she wanted my soul
But don't think twice, it's all right

I'm walkin' down that long, lonesome road, babe
Where I'm bound, I can't tell
But goodbye's too good a word, gal
So I'll just say fare thee well
I ain't sayin' you treated me unkind
You could have done better but I don't mind
You just kinda wasted my precious time
But don't think twice, it's all right
8.20.2006 9:21am

When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose
You're invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal.

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?

Though it's taken somewhat out of context, I always felt those lines aptly described SO much of world's it rioters in South Central or those willing to strap a bomb to their own chest.

And whenever someone asks..."Why do those people do that?", I can't help but think..

"When you got nothing, you've got nothing to lose.
You're invisible now, you've got no secrets to conceal."
8.20.2006 10:04am
Toss up for me between "What Good Am I?" and "Disease of Conceit"...

What Good AM I?

What good am I if I'm like all the rest,
If I just turned away, when I see how you're dressed,
If I shut myself off so I can't hear you cry,
What good am I?

What good am I if I know and don't do,
If I see and don't say, if I look right through you,
If I turn a deaf ear to the thunderin' sky,
What good am I?

What good am I while you softly weep
And I hear in my head what you say in your sleep,
And I freeze in the moment like the rest who don't try,
What good am I?

What good am I then to others and me
If I've had every chance and yet still fail to see
Bridge: If my hands tied must I not wonder within
Who tied them and why and where must I have been

What good am I if I say foolish things
And I laugh in the face of what sorrow brings
And I just turn my back while you silently die,
What good am I?

Disease of Conceit

There's a whole lot of people suffering tonight
From the disease of conceit.
Whole lot of people struggling tonight
From the disease of conceit.
Comes right down the highway,
Straight down the line,
Rips into your senses
Through your body and your mind.
Nothing about it that's sweet,
The disease of conceit.

There's a whole lot of hearts breaking tonight
From the disease of conceit,
Whole lot of hearts shaking tonight
From the disease of conceit.
Steps into your room,
Eats your soul,
Over your senses
You have no control.
Ain't nothing too discreet
About of disease of conceit.

There's a whole lot of people dying tonight
From the disease of conceit,
Whole lot of people crying tonight
From the disease of conceit,
Comes right out of nowhere
And you're down for the count
From the outside world,
The pressure will mount,
Turn you into a piece of meat,
The disease of conceit.

Conceit is a disease
That the doctors got no cure
They've done a lot of research on it
But what it is, they're still not sure

There's a whole lot of people in trouble tonight
From the disease of conceit,
Whole lot of people seeing double tonight
From the disease of conceit,
Give ya delusions of grandeur
And a evil eye
Give you idea that
You're too good to die,
Then they bury you from your head to your feet
From the disease of conceit.

8.20.2006 10:44am
Anderson (mail) (www):
The lines I find myself have most occasion to recall, these days, are from "Tombstone Blues":

John the Baptist, after torturing a thief,
Looks up at his hero the Commander-in-Chief,
Saying, "Tell me, great hero, but please make it brief--
Is there a hole for me to get sick in?"

The Commander-in-Chief answers him while chasing a fly,
Saying, "Death to all those that would whimper and cry!"
And dropping a barbell, he points to the sky
And says, "The sun's not yellow, it's chicken!"

But my favorite 3 Dylan songs would have to be "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry," "Visions of Johanna," and "Tangled Up in Blue."

I just wanna be your lover, baby, I don't wanna be your boss ...
8.20.2006 11:20am
Paul Smith (mail):
Another favorite from Tombstone Blues:

The geometry of innocent flesh on the bone
Causes Galileo's math book to get thrown
At Delilah who sits worthlessly alone
But the tears on her cheeks are from laughter
8.20.2006 11:40am
Steve Lubet (mail):
Bob Dylan’s arcane early lyrics actually contain a series of artfully encrypted predictions about the entire course of the Clinton administration.

For example, “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” got the Lewinsky scandal right down to Monica’s beret:

They asked me for some collateral/And I pulled down my pants/
They threw me in the alley/When up comes this girl from France/

Then “Maggie’s Farm” envisioned the trysts in the infamous “windowless hallway” as well as Clinton’s preferred sexual aid, not to mention his claim that they were never really alone:

Well, he puts his cigar/Out in your face just for kicks./
His bedroom window/It is made out of bricks./
The National Guard stands around his door.

Dylan somehow knew that Paula Corbin would be a clerk, that Clinton would lure her into a hotel room, and that she would marry a guy named . . . well, just listen to “Ballad of a Thin Man:”

You walk into the room/With your pencil in your hand/
You see somebody naked/And you say, "Who is that man?"/
You try so hard/But you don't understand/
Just what you'll say/When you get home/

Because something is happening here/But you don't know what it is/
Do you, Mister Jones?

The tantalizing revelations in the Dylan Code go on and on. There’s the President’s devious response at his deposition in the Jones case:

No, no, no, It ain’t me, Babe,

And his brazen attempt to weasel out of it in court:

Don’t think twice, it’s alright.

And then we came to the last act. Would the big guy lose his law license? Dylan knew he was headed for trouble.

Casanova is just being punished for going/
To Desolation Row.

Of course, he could have appealed – though it wouldn't have done him much good:

The silver saxophones say I should refuse you.

But take heart. He’s still probably enjoying the attention, and who knows how many Republicans he can still take down with him.

I wish I could give Brother Bill his great thrill/
I would set him in chains at the top of the hill./
Then send out for some pillars and Cecil B. DeMille/
He could die happily ever after.
8.20.2006 12:18pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Political Dylan: "Masters of War"

Angry-at-your-ex Dylan: "Positively Fourth Street"

More-mature-relationship Dylan: "Tangled Up in Blue"

Pulse-of-a-generation-yet-still-weird-Dylan: "Ballad of a Thin Man"

Weird-old-America Dylan: "Highway 61 Revisited."

Poetic Dylan: "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall"; "It's All Right Ma (I'm Only Bleeding); "Blowing in the Wind."
8.20.2006 12:32pm
Justin (mail):
To Adler: If you're looking for the definitive lyrics, in terms of meaning, its A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall. My two favorite Dylan songs are Tangled Up in Blue and Girl of the North Country.

To SassKwatch: That's not taking it "somewhat" out of context, that's destroying the entire song's meaning in one crushing blow to support a political message (the problem with the world is the nobodies) that would rightfully make Dylan want to vomit - and would get his friend Johnny Cash, if he were still alive, to shoot you just to watch you die (see, I can take lyrics out of context too!).
8.20.2006 12:42pm
Justin (mail):
Lubet is more cute/amusing, but equally unfortunate in taking Dylan out of context.

I wonder what Dylan must think, to be loved by so many who clearly either don't get, or get but just ignore, his meaning.
8.20.2006 12:44pm
Steve Lubet (mail):
Justin: I've never met Dylan, and I don't claim to speak for him. But I'm willing to bet that he would recognize satire (of self-appointed Dylan expounders).

8.20.2006 12:49pm
Stosh (mail):
One of my favorites, from Idiot Wind

"I ran into the fortune-teller, who said beware of lightning that might strike
I haven't known peace and quiet for so long I can't remember what it's like.
There's a lone soldier on the cross, smoke pourin' out of a boxcar door,
You didn't know it, you didn't think it could be done, in the final end he won the wars
After losin' every battle."
8.20.2006 12:50pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
I wish I could give Brother Bill his great thrill/
I would set him in chains at the top of the hill./
Then send out for some pillars and Cecil B. DeMille/
He could die happily ever after.

I kept thinking of those lines during l'affaire Lewinsky myself. The rest of the Monica post above makes me think of a character in an abandoned short story of mine (all my stories are abandoned ones), who lived in a studio apartment and devoted himself to predicting world events by reference to Dylan's lyrics, a la Nostradamus.
8.20.2006 12:53pm
Justin (mail):

As to the first point of my 2nd post, I thought I made it clear that I realized you were trying to be cute, whereas the other poster was just making an offensive point.

The second was meant as a more general point, and was probably in retrospect directed to the first poster if anyone in particular, and not to you.
8.20.2006 12:59pm
tom thumb (mail):
[don't need a weather man to know which way the wind blows...]

Not Dark Yet:

Shadows are falling and I've been here all day
It's too hot to sleep time is running away
Feel like my soul has turned into steel
I've still got the scars that the sun didn't heal
There's not even room enough to be anywhere
It's not dark yet, but it's getting there

Well my sense of humanity has gone down the drain
Behind every beautiful thing there's been some kind of pain
She wrote me a letter and she wrote it so kind
She put down in writing what was in her mind
I just don't see why I should even care
It's not dark yet, but it's getting there

Well, I've been to London and I've been to gay Paree
I've followed the river and I got to the sea
I've been down on the bottom of a world full of lies
I ain't looking for nothing in anyone's eyes
Sometimes my burden seems more than I can bear
It's not dark yet, but it's getting there

I was born here and I'll die here against my will
I know it looks like I'm moving, but I'm standing still
Every nerve in my body is so vacant and numb
I can't even remember what it was I came here to get away from
Don't even hear a murmur of a prayer
It's not dark yet, but it's getting there.

Copyright © 1997 Special Rider Music

Columbia Records
8.20.2006 2:02pm
My favorite lyrics from Bob are all on the underrated John Wesley Harding. Musically, it was notably sparse compared with the production of the records it followed (Bringing it All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde). But the spare production elevated the lyrics, which, depsite the allegorical subject matter, were some of his most compact and straightforward. Although there were not hits, Jimi Hendrix would make "All Along The Watchtower" into a classic.

My favorite cut, though, is "Dear Landlord." His simple, languid piano and slightly quavery voice present a complex and skeptical view of the classic asymmetric relationship.

Dear landlord,
Please don't put a price on my soul.
My burden is heavy,
My dreams are beyond control.
When that steamboat whistle blows,
I'm gonna give you all I got to give,
And I do hope you receive it well,
Dependin' on the way you feel that you live.

Dear landlord,
Please heed these words that I speak.
I know you've suffered much,
But in this you are not so unique.
All of us, at times, we might work too hard
To have it too fast and too much,
And anyone can fill his life up
With things he can see but he just cannot touch.

Dear landlord,
Please don't dismiss my case.
I'm not about to argue,
I'm not about to move to no other place.
Now, each of us has his own special gift
And you know this was meant to be true,
And if you don't underestimate me,
I won't underestimate you.
8.20.2006 2:18pm
Ron Hardin (mail) (www):
People should say what's good about lyrics. Most of the stuff leaves me cold.

We need a lit crit of song lyrics, for good ones.

Ballad of a Thin Man, which shows up as an Imus bumper mocking Dan Quayle (audio )

showing its application to life.

My own favorite lyricist is (Australian) Tiffany Eckhardt, whose trajectory of albums follows her from boyfriends to marriage to children, and whose lyrics stand on their own as poetry.
8.20.2006 2:58pm
My Back Pages:

Crimson flames tied through my ears
Rollin' high and mighty traps
Pounced with fire on flaming roads
Using ideas as my maps
"We'll meet on edges, soon," said I
Proud 'neath heated brow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now.

Half-wracked prejudice leaped forth
"Rip down all hate," I screamed
Lies that life is black and white
Spoke from my skull. I dreamed
Romantic facts of musketeers
Foundationed deep, somehow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now.

Girls' faces formed the forward path
From phony jealousy
To memorizing politics
Of ancient history
Flung down by corpse evangelists
Unthought of, though, somehow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now.

A self-ordained professor's tongue
Too serious to fool
Spouted out that liberty
Is just equality in school
"Equality," I spoke the word
As if a wedding vow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now.

In a soldier's stance, I aimed my hand
At the mongrel dogs who teach
Fearing not that I'd become my enemy
In the instant that I preach
My pathway led by confusion boats
Mutiny from stern to bow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now.

Yes, my guard stood hard when abstract threats
Too noble to neglect
Deceived me into thinking
I had something to protect
Good and bad, I define these terms
Quite clear, no doubt, somehow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now.
8.20.2006 3:03pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
We need a lit crit of song lyrics, for good ones.

Hell, we need a lit crit of literature. There isn't one. Another reason I switched from Ph.D. program in English to law school.
8.20.2006 3:22pm
Glenn W Bowen (mail):
"Dogs Run Free"

8.20.2006 3:38pm
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
It's not by Dylan, but it coulda/shoulda been ... Have you folks heard "Bob"?
8.20.2006 3:46pm
Ron Hardin (mail) (www):
Hell, we need a lit crit of literature. There isn't one.

Richard Poirier _Robert Frost : the work of knowing_
Stanley Cavell _Disowning Knowledge in Six [Seven, depending on edition] Plays of Shakespeare_
8.20.2006 3:57pm
Hattio (mail):
My favorite has got to be Boots of Spanish Leather. Chronicles the death of devotion extremely well. And interestingly it seems a very different song when Nanci Griffith sings it.

But I have to comment on Guest74's comment about giving an ex "Don't think Twice It's allright." I had recently discovered Whiskeytown's awesome song Hard Luck Story and I excitedly told my girlfriend at the time she HAD to listen to it.

The chorus is
"I can leave you if I wanna little baby and I'm leaving you now."

She gave me a strange look, and said "Um, Is there a particular reason you wanted me to hear this?"

Granted, we'd been having problems, but I'm not that big of an asshole. Looking back on it, it was pretty funny.
8.20.2006 4:15pm
Syd Henderson's Cat (mail):
With your mercury mouth in the missionary times
And your eyes like smoke and your prayers like rhymes
And your silver cross, and your voice like chimes
Oh, who do they think could bury you ?
With your pockets well protected at last
And your streetcar visions which you place on the grass
And your flesh like silk, And you face like glass
Who among them do they think could carry you ?
Sad-eyed lady of the lowlands
Where the sad-eyed prophet says that no man comes
My warehouse eyes, my Arabian drums
Should I put them by your gate
Oh, sad-eyed lady, should I wait ?

8.20.2006 4:22pm

The girl from Saturday morn
And her Beau
To me, they spoke the mime.

I knew not of
Their heritage,
And they knew not of mine.

They asked “what of
This solitude?”
And of theirs they did imply.

"But not" they said
"As if we could,
Nor as if we try."
8.20.2006 5:34pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Richard Poirier _Robert Frost : the work of knowing_
Stanley Cavell _Disowning Knowledge in Six [Seven, depending on edition] Plays of Shakespeare_

Poirier was on the right track, from what I've read of him, but I think we can safely say that he and Cavell (whom I've not read) are not guiding lights in today's academy. I like Paul de Man's comment that the university English department is in pursuit of everything except its own subject matter.

(And that's a curiously epistemological slant in your two titles ....)
8.20.2006 5:52pm
Masters of War (I remember -- or misremember -- Dylan's singing the first word as "Damn" rather than "Come"):

Come you masters of war
You that build all the guns
You that build the death planes
You that build the big bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks

You that never done nothin'
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it's your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly

Like Judas of old
You lie and deceive
A world war can be won
You want me to believe
But I see through your eyes
And I see through your brain
Like I see through the water
That runs down my drain

You fasten the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you set back and watch
When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion
As young people's blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud

You've thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world
For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain't worth the blood
That runs in your veins

How much do I know
To talk out of turn
You might say that I'm young
You might say I'm unlearned
But there's one thing I know
Though I'm younger than you
Even Jesus would never
Forgive what you do

Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul

And I hope that you die
And your death'll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I'll watch while you're lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I'll stand o'er your grave
'Til I'm sure that you're dead
8.20.2006 6:58pm
My favorite line, at least since I went over to the dark side and became a conservative and a Republican, is from Absolutely Sweet Marie: live outside the law one must be honest...
8.20.2006 7:27pm
ricpic (mail):
What a terrible falling off from the glory days of America's great song writers. When you think of the sparkling syncopated word and rhyme combinations of a Johnny Mercer, a Cole Porter, a Lorenz Hart, a Frank Loesser; when you think of the playful seriousness of their lyrics; and then to come to the lugubrious, plodding, self-important and above all self-pitying Dylan: stark evidence of our culture's collapse.
8.20.2006 8:51pm
Tom952 (mail):
JA - Can we try this with Pink Floyd next time?
8.20.2006 9:34pm
Average Joe (mail):
I admit that I am a Dylan heretic. Bob Dylan's music has always been a problem for me because he sings so far out of tune that I find listening painful. A commenter on Althouse, someone with the gift of perfect pitch, recently compared Dylan's singing to a stray cat in heat, and even though I only have relative pitch, I have to agree. Whenever I complain about Dylan's singing to Dylan fans they always tell me something like "... oh yes, ... but ... but ... the lyrics are really great and profound ..." at which point I change the topic of conversation. Having read the lyrics posted in this comment section, none of which can hold a candle to, for example,

And this torment won't be through
Until you let me spend my life making love to you
for wit, romance, and eroticism, I am very strongly inclined to agree with ricpic (8.20.2006 7:51pm) above. I remain a Dylan heretic. Nothing against the man himself, and I understand that other people, people who have included some of my friends and lovers, find his work rewarding, I just do not understand the adulation and apparently never will.
8.20.2006 10:40pm
Justin (mail):
Average Joe,

you don't find the lyrics you quote trite and contrived? It reminds me of one of my favorite parody songs, called "Title of the Song":

Declaration of my feelings for you
Elaboration on those feelings
Description of how long these feelings have existed
Belief that no one else could feel the same as I
Reminiscence of the pleasant times we shared
And our relationship's perfection
Recounting of the steps that led to our love's dissolution
Mostly involving my unfaithfulness and lies
Penitent admission of wrongdoing
Discovery of the depth of my affection
Regret over the lateness of my epiphany

Title of the song
Naïve expression of love
Reluctance to accept that you are gone
Request to turn back time
And rectify my wrongs
Repetition of the title of the song

Enumeration of my various transgressive actions
Of insufficient motivation
Realization that these actions led to your departure
And my resultant lack of sleep and appetite
Renunciation of my past insensitive behavior
Promise of my reformation
Reassurance that you still are foremost in my thoughts now
Need for instructions how to gain your trust again
Request for reconciliation
Listing of the numerous tasks that I'd perform
Of physical and emotional compensation
Acknowledgment that I acted foolishly
Increasingly desperate pleas for your return
Sorrow for my infidelity
Vain hope that my sins are forgivable
Appeal for one more opportunity
Drop to my knees to elicit crowd response
Prayers to my chosen deity
Modulation and I hold a high note...
8.21.2006 12:41am
sierra (mail):
Most influential, as a kid:

Leave your stepping stones behind, something calls for you.
Forget the dead you've left, they will not follow you.
The vagabond who's rapping at your door
Is standing in the clothes that you once wore.
Strike another match, go start anew
And it's all over now, Baby Blue.

Influential now:

I have gone from rags to riches in the sorrow of the night
In the violence of a summer's dream, in the chill of a wintry light,
In the bitter dance of loneliness fading into space,
In the broken mirror of innocence on each forgotten face.
I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
Sometimes I turn, there's someone there, other times it's only me.

I actually find it hard to listen to a lot of Dylan's earlier ramblings, and prefer the later songs influenced by religion, e.g., "Jokerman":

It's a shadowy world, skies are slippery gray,
A woman just gave birth to a prince today and dressed him in scarlet.
He'll put the priest in his pocket, put the blade to the heat,
Take the motherless children off the street
And place them at the feet of a harlot.

My favorite "protest" song, rather timely I might add:

Well, he's surrounded by pacifists who all want peace,
They pray for it nightly that the bloodshed must cease.
No, they wouldn't hurt a fly. To hurt one they would weep.
They lay and they wait for this bully to fall asleep.

Most fascinatingly obscure:

Peace will come with tranquility and splendor on the wheels of fire
But will offer no reward when her false idols fall
And cruel death surrenders with its pale ghost retreating
Between the King and the Queen of Swords.

Words that I recall when feeling betrayed:

I woke up on the roadside, daydreamin' 'bout the way things sometimes are
Visions of your chestnut mare shoot through my head and are makin' me see stars.
You hurt the ones that I love best and cover up the truth with lies.
One day you'll be in the ditch, flies buzzin' around your eyes,
Blood on your saddle.

Not to mention this one:

I hate that foolish game we played and the need that was expressed
And the mercy that you showed to me, who ever would have guessed?
I went out on Lower Broadway and I felt that place within,
That hollow place where martyrs weep and angels play with sin.

Love &Theft has a lot of witty couplets:

She's looking into my eyes, she's holding my hand
She says, "You can't repeat the past."
I say, "You can't? What do you mean, you can't?
Of course you can."

And this, which cracked me up:

Othello told Desdemona, "I'm cold, cover me with a blanket.
By the way, what happened to that poison wine?"
She says, "I gave it to you, you drank it."
8.21.2006 12:55am
One of my favorite Bob Dylan songs is "Bob"

I, man, am regal — a German am I
Never odd or even
If I had a hi-fi
Madam, I'm Adam
Too hot to hoot
No lemons, no melon
Too bad I hid a boot
Lisa Bonet ate no basil
Warsaw was raw
Was it a car or a cat I saw?

Rise to vote, sir
Do geese see God?
"Do nine men interpret?" "Nine men," I nod
Rats live on no evil star
Won't lovers revolt now?
Race fast, safe car
Pa's a sap
Ma is as selfless as I am
May a moody baby doom a yam?

Ah Satan sees Natasha
No devil lived on
Lonely Tylenol
Not a banana baton
No "x" in "Nixon"
O, stone, be not so
O Geronimo, no minor ego
"Naomi", I moan
"A Toyota's a Toyota"
A dog, a panic in a pagoda

Oh, no! Don Ho!
Nurse, I spy gypsies — run!
Senile felines
Now I see bees I won
UFO tofu
We panic in a pew
Oozy rat in a sanitary zoo
God! A red nugget! A fat egg under a dog!
Go hang a salami, I'm a lasagna hog

Weird Al Yankovic
8.21.2006 1:21am
sierra (mail):
Words to remember while on hold waiting for customer service:

Nothing was delivered
And I tell this truth to you,
Not out of spite or anger
But simply because it's true.
Now, I hope you won't object to giving,
Giving back all of what you owe,
The fewer words you have to waste on this,
The sooner you can go.
8.21.2006 8:51am
sierra (mail):
And my least favorite, not sure whether it wants to be densely allusive or too cute by half. I get the impression this is what starts to happen when you're immature and everyone's calling you a genius.
8.21.2006 8:58am
jallgor (mail):
I seem to recall Dylan stated that "Blowing in the Wind" wasn't meant to be a political song and it really bothered him when the anti-war movement sort of adopted it. I also recall him saying that most of his songs lyrics have no meaning at all (at least no conscious meaning) and he would chuckle at people who thought they "got it" when there was nothing to get. Was this in "Chronicles" or am I imagining it?
8.21.2006 10:03am
I'm partial to Dylan's songs dealing with the law. There's Hurricane, of course. But my favorite is probably The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll. It's a great lyric (based on a true story, apparently). It's also one of Dylan's finest political songs.

In the courtroom of honor, the judge pounded his gavel
To show that all's equal and that the courts are on the level
And that the strings in the books ain't pulled and persuaded
And that even the nobles get properly handled
Once that the cops have chased after and caught 'em
And that the ladder of law has no top and no bottom,
Stared at the person who killed for no reason
Who just happened to be feelin' that way without warnin'.
And he spoke through his cloak, most deep and distinguished,
And handed out strongly, for penalty and repentance,
William Zanzinger with a six-month sentence.
Oh, but you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears,
Bury the rag deep in your face
For now's the time for your tears.
8.21.2006 12:41pm
BobH (mail):
I don't know about best or favorite, but here's funniest:

God said to Abraham, "Kill me a son."
Abe said, "Man, you must be puttin me on!"
God said "No."
Abe said, "What?!?"
God said, "You can do what you want, Abe, BUT --
"Next time you see me comin, you better RUN!"
Abe said, "Where you want this killin done?"
God said, "Down on Highway 61."
8.21.2006 1:12pm
Random User:
My votes: something from "Tangled up in Blue" or "Shelter from the Storm".

Well the deputy walks on hard nails,
And the preacher rides a mount.
But nothing really matters much;
It’s doom alone that counts.
8.21.2006 2:00pm
Thales (mail) (www):
"Mississippi" from "Love &Theft" is one of Dylan's recent masterpieces. As for a list of candidates, it should include Visions of Johanna, Man in the Long Black Coat, It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding), Blind Willie McTell, among others. All contain lyrics worth thinking about and posting as a Sunday Song Lyric.

Also, noting that Dylan lacks a good singing voice is akin to pointing out that it snows in the winter. It's obviously true and hardly the point of enjoying his music. Welcome to the world of affected vocal style, where opera singers tread not. Although, one should listen to his early recording of the ballad "Moonshiner" before asserting something as blanket as "Dylan can't sing."
8.21.2006 3:14pm
Porkchop (mail):
"Dylan, Wheezin' in the Wind"

He was -- I was there. It was unrecognizable and (because?) utterly incomprehensible. He never could sing, but he used to make up for that with his delivery -- not anymore; he just mumbles off key.

Former fans of all ages were walking out in droves. I stuck it out, hoping that it would get better. It didn't. Well, at least I got to drink beer with my brother-in-law -- he paid for the tickets, so I bought the beer.
8.21.2006 3:43pm
Porkchop (mail):
My last was supposed to feature a link to the Washington Post review of the Frederick, Maryland Dylan concert. Oh well, just pull up the Style section of today's post -- you can't miss it.
8.21.2006 3:53pm
Very few of our popular song writers refer to Eskimos, let alone make them the hero, but Bobby Z. did. My favorite part of Quinn is

"I like to do just like the rest, I like my sugar sweet,
But guarding fumes and making haste,
It ain't my cup of meat."

With Bob, expect the unexpected, he wrote meat, when you thought he would write tea.
8.21.2006 5:43pm
R Gould-Saltman (mail):
Aw, Sierra, "115th Dream"'s humor's kinda dopey, but the humor's less juvenile than much of what guys twice Dylan's age (at the time) write for tv and movies now. (Remember the National Lampoon ? There stands proof that, for instance, PJ O'Rourke, in his earlier days, was not above, to quote Robin Williams, "going for the dick joke", again and again and again...)

How can you not love "I told him 'They refused Jesus, too!' and he said 'You're not him!'"?

Dylan cracks himself up so much at the beginning of "115th" that the band has to start again. "Who has that much fun making a record these days?
8.22.2006 12:26am
sierra (mail):
Gould-Saltman: While no doubt liberating at the time, a good deal of Dylan's early work simply doesn't age well. 115th Dream is a perfect example of what John Lennon later critized Dylan for: imagery that seemed more inspired by random items from a rhyming dictionary than anything else. I mean, come on, "loon"/"harpoon"? The fact that it appeared on the same album as such breakthroughs as "It's Alright Ma," "Mr. Tambourine Man," "Subterranean Homesick Blues," and "Baby Blue" further identifies it as a piece of hack work. And the fact that I had to sit through the song in my high school American History class, out of some misguided attempt on the part of the teacher to achieve some rapport with his students and be considered hip, makes it my very least favorite indeed.

There are also some songs that show flashes of brilliance, but which are rendered dubious if we are to accept them as nonfiction, e.g., Hurricane and Joey. An unspeakable couplet from the latter:

His closest friends were black men 'cause they seemed to understand
What it's like to be in society with a shackle on your hand.

That is, Crazy Joe Gallo, Mafia racketeer and hitman, born with a shackle on his hand. While Dylan famously severed formal ties with the leftist "movement," such appalling tributes as George Jackson showed similar signs of a bad hangover.
8.22.2006 2:13pm