Top 10 Dylan Lyrics

Bob Dylan - Top 10 Lyrics

1) My Back Pages 1964

"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"

Here is Dylan, aged 23. Turning his back on the movement that shot him to fame. Undergoing a painful political conversion in public.

As a song, it is not great. As lyrics, it is somewhat juvenile. He was struggling inside himself to find the new. Tired of the mature nature of his previous songwriting. It exposed him to questions of intent he was determined to reject as an artist.

In amongst the confusion were some simple pearls.

"Using ideas as my maps"

"Lies that life is black and white"

"Fearing not that I’d become my enemy
In the instant that I preach"


The new Dylan was here. Even a song like "The Times they are a Changin" was misconceived to be transparent. This frustrated him.

2) To Ramona 1964

"I can see that your head
Has been twisted and fed
By worthless foam from the mouth"

A love song. A form that would never be the same for fans of Dylan. The girl's name was never important. The girl was also a lost feeling, a connection within.

The listener is free to toy with it as they wish. As background music, or as something more direct. Depending on the listener's head space, the message can be wildly different.

A love song with bite. Marvelous.

3) Positively 4th Street 1965

"Do you take me for such a fool

To think I’d make contact

With the one who tries to hide
What he don’t know to begin with"

Angry Bob. The kind of guy not to mess with. Hands out insults like they were business cards. The previous crowd who had sainted him, now admonished him as a sellout. How wrong could they be?

The song is a savage reaction.

Al Kooper's organ gave a haunting gospel feel to the last two albums of the Electric Trilogy. In combination with Dylan's vicious lyrics - a masterpiece.

4) Idiot Wind 1974

"Now everything’s a little upside down, as a matter of fact the wheels have stopped

What’s good is bad, what’s bad is good, you’ll find out when you reach the top
You’re on the bottom"

Very much the sister song to Positively 4th Street. A different kind of anger. Laid bare by his divorce.

A hypnotic ramble, filled with regret & hate. As with his love songs, it spoke of more than a relationship between two people. The direct nature of these lyrics converted me. I thought the little Dylan I had heard before to be either too simple, or too convoluted. Idiot Wind brought it all together. I could travel back and appreciate anew his old stuff. I was an idiot too.

Idiot Wind is like ocean waves. Let it wash over, or get off the beach. 'Helter Skelter' of the 70's.

5) Ballad of a Thin Man 1965

"Well, you walk into the room
Like a camel and then you frown
You put your eyes in your pocket
And your nose on the ground
There ought to be a law
Against you comin’ around"

Who is Mr Jones? Often pegged as a music journalist. Too simple.

My name is Bob. Define me and you will immediately fail. Walk with me instead.

Even for Dylan, this is far out stuff.

6) She Belongs to Me 1965

"She wears an Egyptian ring
That sparkles before she speaks
She’s a hypnotist collector
You are a walking antique"

Harsh. As with 'Just Like a Woman' which was to come. The beauty of woman. Wonderful, powerful and child-like all in one package.

The title was lazy, probably another of his songs that he picked the title first. Wrote the song. Then the title had only a loose connection. In one sense though, it is perfect.

7) Love Minus Zero/No Limit 1965

"My love she speaks like silence
Without ideals or violence
She doesn’t have to say she’s faithful
Yet she’s true, like ice, like fire"

Well, who could ever match up to this ideal? Exquisitely painted. I've danced around too much.

8) Tears of Rage 1968 (With Richard Manuel)

"It was all very painless
When you went out to receive
All that false instruction
Which we never could believe
And now the heart is filled with gold
As if it was a purse
But, oh, what kind of love is this
Which goes from bad to worse?"

Wow. Some of the most timeless of his lyrics. As described by a prophet.

9) Workingman's Blues #2 (2006)

"In you, my friend, I find no blame
Wanna look in my eyes, please do
No one can ever claim
That I took up arms against you"

Bob didn't forget you. Things have changed. He walked the road as far as could be expected. Saw other avenues, forks. Your path became predictable (for him). It's not a slight. He wanted to spread his words as far as he could. Merle Haggard's #1
   
10) Desolation Row 1965

"Yes, I received your letter yesterday
(About the time the doorknob broke)
When you asked how I was doing
Was that some kind of joke?
All these people that you mention
Yes, I know them, they’re quite lame
I had to rearrange their faces
And give them all another name
Right now I can’t read too good
Don’t send me no more letters, no
Not unless you mail them
From Desolation Row"

The literary references in this song are just mind boggling. Unable to keep up. Often a complaint that Dylan was being too obscure. He was indeed. It was the new way of art that led to his best work. The songs remain listenable some 50 years later. Unbelievable. The last verse of the last song, leading to...    
'Blonde on Blonde' remains his greatest album. For brevity, left off this list. As a complete album - unsurpassed.

Unlucky were 'Tangled Up in Blue', 'Masters of War' & 'God on Our Side'. Frankly, I became re-obsessed with the Electric Trilogy. Whether I selected on Lyrics/Song is debatable.

Special mentions for 'Goin' To Acapulco' and 'I'm Not There'. Lyrically weak. As emotional storehouses - incredible.
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