...Come writers and critics who prophesize with your pen...
-Bob Dylan, "The Times They are A-Changin'"

♫ "'I thought you'd never say hello,' she said." : Introduction

Bob Dylan is perhaps one of the best-known modern artists of the 20th Century and beyond. His contributions and influence on the world of modern music has been profound and striking. Now, although much of this can be said simply because of his wide-ranging musical abilities, or his historical fusion of many different musical genres, by far, the mass majority of his legacy will remain and be built up, due to the perpetual freshness of his poetic lyrics.

This said, Dylan's lyrics have always been shrouded in mystery. Now, while it is true that some of his songs have very definite meanings, intended for particular audiences and/or the conveyance of particular moods, others are not so clean-cut. Furthermore, Dylan has never been particularly forthcoming with insight as to the meanings of his works. As Clinton Heylin stated, "If Dylan has professed disdain for prosaic analysis, he has also delighted in leaving clues for literary sleuths."1 Whatever Dylan's strategy, it has worked, as there are now volumes of various interpretations around the world, regarding the meaninings of his words.

This is an attempt to aggregate a collection of interpretations and studies of Bob Dylan's words, and an effort to gain insight. It is an opportunity to populate E2's database with all things Dylan. Hopefully, you'll join in the fun and wax expositional.

♫ "People bending broken rules..." : Guidelines

I thought long and hard about how I wanted to organise this. In particular, there were two E2 taboos upon which I did not want to encroach. Thus, the guidelines:
  • It is my recommendation that you post your analysis under a node titled the same as the song name -- do not post them in this node, as it would make it hard to sort different studies, especially if one desires to do analysis work on more than one song! Furthermore, I encourage outright posting of said song's lyrics if and only if there is not a writeup already existing, and you are including some sort of interpretation. Use your head, follow the E2 Lyrics Noding Standard. On the other hand, if you're dissecting the song, line by line for example, duplicating the lyrics, or portions thereof, between bits of exegesis, is OK. Oolong pipes up, "I'd say that where lyrics have been posted unexplicated previously they should usually be superseded by any new writeup on a song...", and I agree. Furthermore, all Dylan lyrics should likely be (c) either "Special Rider Music" or "Ram's Horn Music". I encourage you to find out which is appropriate and include it in your writeup. This can usually be found with each associated song, at http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/.
  • Similarly, I highly discourage cut and paste writeups. If you find some literary criticism of Dylan on the web, or in a book, or magazine somewhere, that's fine, and you might reference it. But I seriously don't recommend dropping it straight into a node, much less as one uncredited. I don't throw around much weight here at E2 and am not able to take much action if you do, but there are plenty of others who can.
  • This is a living document, and I have been somewhat picky (and probably subjective) about what I consider analysis. If you alert me of a writeup, and I don't add it, don't take it personal, I enjoy reading all Dylan write-ups, regardless of quality or subject matter. You may even be able to convince me to change my mind.
  • Finally, I would recommend making a link (softlink or otherwise) back to this writeup so that people can get a better grasp of this project's scope.

♫ "What was it you wanted?" : Input

Lyrical Interpretation! Literary Criticism! Historical Analysis! Exegesis!
That's what.

Actually, curious bits of information regarding songs would be appreciated as well, I'd assume, by all noders. However, I'm specifically trying to focus on lyrical meaning, as interpreted by you.

Taking into account another suggestion by Oolong, I am going to open up this node to analysis of entire Dylan albums, as well. Same rules apply, although I don't think that, for entire albums, trivial bits of information will do the trick -- a full album necessitates a full analysis.

♫ "Tell me what you're gonna do" : Output

Simply put, /msg me when you have completed a song, and I will list it here, first in alphabetical order, by song title, and then chronologically, by writeup time, for all to see and admire. Don't doubt that I'll be doing my fair share. Also, if you find analyses that exist already, that I do not have listed, please let me know, and I will add them to the list.

♫ "And I still got their advice oozing out of my ears..." : Final Suggestions

Having trouble getting started? Finding it difficult to express just what you're trying to say? No problem! There are plenty of authors out there that have written tomes on Dylan, concerning his life and music. Perhaps the two best-known biographers in recent years are Robert Shelton (No Direction Home: The Life and Times of Bob Dylan) and Clinton Heylin (Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades Revisited), but there are plenty of others. Watch D.A. Pennebaker's classic, Don't Look Back. Furthermore, closer to the analysis side of things, there have been plenty of scholars who have studied Dylan's lyrics; check out Christopher Ricks and Betsy Bowden. Again, however, use any of these resources for references, if possible, but don't just copy them verbatim, and don't just recycle their ideas. Their words have been published already. Yours haven't... let's change that!

So let's get started! You can view the complete Bob Dylan discography for a list of albums and songs, if this will help.

Song Writeups:

Album Writeups:

1 Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades Revisited, p. 372. (c) 2003 Clinton Heylin, HarperEntertainment

I don't particularly care whether you +/- vote this writeup -- give your votes to those who do the grunt work!

Last update: October 3, 2005: Added wu for "All Along the Watchtower", by Biron the Bulb
August 20, 2004: Added wu for "Slow Train Coming", by 18thCandidate.
July 16, 2003: Added writeup for "Black Diamond Bay", by cswiii.
June 23, 2003: Added some pointers for researching past Dylan commentary; did some minor formatting modification.
June 21, 2003: Added writeup for "Standing in the Doorway" by cswiii
June 20, 2003: Added drownzsurf's writeup for Playboys and Playgirls.
June 5, 2003: Added excellent Heylin quote, per pedrolio... thanks!
May 30, 2003: Added writeup by dannye.
May 27, 2003: Included some information about copyrights, added new writeup by cswiii.