By - appleparkfive
To my taste, It's Alright Ma holds up better than most of the beat poets
Yep, it's alright ma from a lyrical standpoint is one of the most surreal and perfectly written pieces there has been or ever will be.
“And if my thought dreams could be seen, that’d probably put my head in a guillotine, but it’s alright ma, it’s life and life only”
For me, all the beat poets.
Dylan put the actual beat into beat poet.
gary snyder tho
Very good comparison, I agree.
Was going to say this song as well! It’s Alright Ma is one of my favorite Dylan songs. The lyrics are so intricate and well crafted.
Yeh I still say that too.
That was what struck me about that song. The music is brilliant but it isn't necessary for the message whatsoever.
Dylan is a lyricist and not a poet. Sure he had poetic lyrics but that’s different than poetry.
As a correlation to this, Ginsberg wrote some songs but they are nowhere near the quality of his poetry which is superb.
IMO as a poet and with a degree in creative writing/literature, Dylan would be a second tier beat poet with the likes of Gregory Corso. I mean, have you guys read Tarantula? It’s objectively terrible.
Also, I don’t even think somebody can answer this question unless they’d never heard the lyrics. Plus, to fully answer this question you’d have to hear the authors read their work as well as Dylan reciting his songs. Poetry is meant to be heard, especially the beats (and classical poets and romantic poets and all the poets).
That’s my two cents anyway.
> I mean, have you guys read Tarantula? It’s objectively terrible.
I'm pretty sure he just sort of churned that out to satisfy a book deal that Albert Grossman made (probably?) without his knowledge in order to capitalize on Dylan when his fame was really peaking in the 1960s. I am not sure if it was really an honest effort at making something significant.
came here for this!
A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, Tangled up in Blue, Isis, Changing of the Guards, Dark Eyes.
These songs can be read as poems or short stories, and I think they really hold up in that context.
Well I adapted Isis into a short story for an English project so can confirm on that one!
Is there any way to read it?
I read the lyrics book before I heard most of the songs. Visions of Joanna works very well just on the page.
I think this one has the most textual depth and literary merit. One of my favorite songs of all time. Stuck Inside of Mobile is up there too. All of BoB is incredible.
How did this happen? Asking because most Dylan fans go the opposite route.
I was fourteen. It was 1975. No Spotify and I had no money.
My father is a huge dylan fan, loves him ten times more than any other artist. I love dylan but hes not.in my top 10 (just for.context). He always talks about how important lyrics are and i always bring up bands with so so or even outright bad lyrics who mean more to me because in my opinion a great song without great lyrics can still be great but great lyrics on a shitty song is still a shitty song. Anyway, i always bring up this song when he starts debating with me about how great dylan lyrics are. Dont get me wrong, i think dylans lyrics ARE mostly.great, but "See the primitive wallflower freeze
When the jelly-faced women all sneeze
Hear the one with the mustache say, "Jeez, I can't find my knees"
Oh, jewels and binoculars hang from the head of the mule" is one of the dumbest things ive ever heard. Anyways.... am i missing something? Cause this sounds like gibberish that someone made up in 4th grade
The first four lines are basically nonsense and wordplay. Nothing wrong with that. Then there's a sudden change of tone with the jewels and binoculars line, which harkens back to the theme of museums where infinity goes up on trial. It's the contrast between the trappings of tourism/civilization and the blind simplicity of nature, but these are social concerns and they fade away in the presence of love, the visions of Joanna.
This is my vote as well. I’ve always enjoyed the imagery.
Except for “the ghost of electricity bowls in the bones of her face”
Never taken speed I see.
“Desolation Row” and “It’s Alright, Ma”
This is the way
I’ll throw in a vote for Mr. Tambourine Man. Most especially the final verse. Intentional or accidental it’s almost a master class in branching sentences that propel incredibly to the two key rhymes — “sorrow” and “tomorrow” — that are spread so far apart and yet work perfectly together. No small feat for several reasons, not least that were the rhyme in a couplet, tercet or quatrain, it would be trite.
Others that come to mind: Desolation Row, Highlands, Dignity (though it has a poor verse or two, *in my opinion.* When the Deal Goes Down (maybe). Hard Rain (definitely). Johanna (though it has a verse I *personally* think doesn’t work well. Forever Young.
An argument could be made that Tangled Up in Blue hews closely to a series of sonnets. Not quite buuuuut….
Anyhow. Top of my blurry head.
curious about that verse in johanna you mentioned
Highlands taught me how to solo over blues chords. Will always have a special place in my heart.
Last verse of Tambourine Man.
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
“Let me forget about today until tomorrow”
That last section always blows my mind. So meaningful on an unlimited number of levels. I hope I can write something some day half as profound
The *only* thing about that, for me, is that OP says pretend we don't know the music or rhythm, and the lyrical rhythm of Dylan's delivery is a big piece of what makes Mr. Tambourine Man; that's why his version is superior to the Byrds cover, for example.
It definitely plays a part but I think it more than stands up on its own.
He opened his solo portion of his *30th Anniversary show at Madison Square Garden with It's All Right Ma, so I think that *he* thinks that's a pretty good one. So, I'll go with that one.
He also referenced that song in his 60 Minutes interview in the early 2000's ... referencing it with regards to how he can't write songs in the same way that he used to.
Don’t you mean 30th anniversary show?
Yes : )
Chimes of Freedom
“for the mistreated, mateless mother, they mis-titled prostitute”
Bob has always been woke
I always thought Angelina was such a beautifully constructed set of lyrics. Obviously, I love the song itself, and its composition, but the lyrics on their own are in my opinion some of his best work as strictly a ‘writer’.
Michael Chaiken, the (former) curator of the Bob Dylan Archive, said that *Shot of Love* has the most written material of any Dylan album. If I were allowed in the Archive, that's the first box I'd open. Would love to see the manuscripts/notebooks for "Angelina," "Caribbean Wind," "The Groom's Still Waiting at the Altar."
You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go. It's so joyful. And Murder Most Foul because it's so profound.
“Purple clover, Queen Anne’s lace, crimson hair across your face, you can make me cry if you don’t knOWWWW”
Sounds like he had fallen in love. Completely. So joyful and full of light. I've always thought of him as a poet. Fascinating person he is.
Murder Most Foul is perfection. I can’t tell you how relieved I am to see someone else acknowledge this song. I was talking to a music industry professional and BD fan about this song and he said he couldn’t believe it passed quality control. Made me question my sanity, lol. I think it’s up there with his best work. Love, love, love it. I’ve listened to it 100 times and it hits as hard every time.
Even after so much time has passed it was pretty ballsy of him to write it. Like much of his writing he says out loud what so many people think.
What do you love most about it? It hasn’t grown on me yet, but I’m open to it
I find it completely hypnotic. Every time I listen to it I go on a 17-minute journey, just transported to another time and place. He’s describing an event we’ve all seen before so you can picture it all go down as he sings. He doesn’t leave out a single detail, from the first shot to the throat to the last thing that was said to him before he was killed, etc. But, you’re only watching it happen as an onlooker for part of the song because at some point he starts singing from the perspective of a dying JFK, so at times you’re in the backseat of the car and inside of his head. I love that he makes it clear he doesn’t believe it all happened the way our government describes, I love how he questions America’s soul, I love how honest and blunt he is. The 2nd half of the song, where he’s requesting songs, it’s unclear to me who’s making the requests; a dying JFK or Dylan himself. I think that not only do we spend part of this song inside of JFK’s head we also get to spend a little time in Dylan’s head. I read a review that compared this song to American Pie in that they are both history lessons in American culture, and I think that’s pretty accurate. I recommend watching the Zapruder film and then listening to the song with no distractions, maybe even while reading the lyrics if you can’t quite make them out. Every line is significant, but I don’t need to tell a Dylan fan that. 😊
What do you love most about murder most foul? I’m trying to reevaluate it
Perhaps the courage that it took to write and make it public. He pulls no punches when he writes about JFK's actual killers. As in this line : ' We ask for no quarter, and no quarter me give, we are right down the street from the street where you live." Also the way he mentions the important fact that this was a brutal murder , done in broad daylight, for everyone to see. I think Bob believes this was a seminal event in the American story. I will say that for those not interested in our history, it might not resonate as much, but personally I am deeply moved by this work. He's wonderful.
Lots to choose from. Personally, I always come back to "Visions of Johanna." "The ghost of electricity howls in the bones of her face" will always be my go-to "why Dylan deserved the Nobel" line.
Other strong shouts that come to mind: "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding," "Gates of Eden," "Chimes of Freedom," "Desolation Row" – that whole quasi-Beat period.
"Changing of the Guards" is another highlight, as is "Man in the Long Black Coat" (and several other Oh Mercy titles), and I'm also partial to Dylan's later, more outwardly comical lyrics – especially "High Water (for Charley Patton)" and "Cry a While."
To Ramona, Gates Of Eden, Every Grain Of Sand, Father Of Night
*"Ramona, come closer, shut softly your watery eyes."* plays in my head like twice a day
For the flowers of the city /
Though breathlike, get deathlike sometimes
So many beautiful lines in Ramona, and seems somewhat overlooked… the album “Another Side Of…” in general, just gets overshadowed by his other records of that period. But it’s got some amazing songs … Chimes Of Freedom, My Back Pages, etc.
It might be the best record of his first 4....
I could get on board with that.
And someday maybe
Who knows, baby
I'll come and be cryin' to you
> Ramona, just a name.
I feel like it's a very underrated song in general in his catalog:
> Your cracked country lips, I still wish to kiss, and to be the strength of your skin
> There's no use in trying to deal with the dying, though I cannot explain that in lines
A Hard Rains a Gonna Fall
Widespread Panic did a great cover of this the other night
Nice. I’m a big WSP fan.
It was Sunday night at Red Rocks.
Queen Jane Approximately
Two come to mind. Any time I'm in a lyrical rut myself, I read through "Ballad of a Thin Man" and study the bizarre imagery to remind myself how one set of words can mean so many things depending on the readers imagination. I'm also a big fan of "Like a Rolling Stone." It tells a clear story while also employing elaborate imagery and turn-of-phrase that I can't find in any other song. I think the only song-writer I've found who can somewhat match that is Paul Westerberg.
Shelter from the storm has a few gorgeous lyrics in it. Crown of thorns etc
Last night I danced with a stranger, and they just reminded me you was the one
My favorite line
I'm going for Shelter from the Storm.
Nobody has mentioned Masters of War .... I think its brilliant .... still holds up some 60 years later
Just want to take stock of *how many* different songs are being listed in this thread. That's a great testament to Dylan's skill. And that these songs are spread out across decades shows that you could fill a book of his "most impressive lyrics."
"A hard rain's a gonna fall" and Desolation Row are my nominations
Too many options…
Talkin’ World War III Blues
“Well, now time passed and now it seems
Everybody's having them dreams,
Everybody sees themselves walkin' around with no one else,
Half of the people can be part right all of the time,
Some of the people can be all right part of the time,
But all of the people can't be all right all of the time,
I think Abraham Lincoln said that,
‘I'll let you be in my dreams if I can be in yours’
I said that”
Love minus zero
“She doesn’t have to say she’s faithful, yet she’s true like ice like fire”
Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues
“If your looking to get silly you better go back to from where you came, because the cops don’t need you and man they expect the same”
I love how earnest, funny, indignant, and gentle he can be and how he mixes all his moods into his art.
My back pages
I cannot believe nobody has mentioned One More Cup of Coffee. Lyrically, amazing song.
Blind Willie McTell
Visions of Johanna
No time to think- amazing lyrics. Terrible production
The rhyme scheme and delivery in that song is like no other.
Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands is a sacred text
The whole of Every Grain of Sand. His lyrical masterpiece imo
"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 am hanging in the balance of the reality of man
Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand"
I'll add a few that I consider runner ups. Visions of Johannah and Changing of The Guards have his best imagery. It's Alright Ma is more straightforward lyrically but he absolutely kills it. The last verse of Mr. Tambourine Man is easily one of the best verses he's ever wrote. Brownsville Girl has a collection of his best one liners.
Yes it is a dead set masterpiece. A wonderful melody with one of his most profound and personal sets of lyrics. One of my favourite verses-
I gaze into the doorway of temptation's angry flame
And every time I pass that way I always hear my name
Then onward in my journey, I come to understand
That every hair is numbered like every grain of sand
Every Grain Of Sand
I remember All Along the Watchtower being in a poetry textbook in college. I think it was in a section on lyrical poetry. Out of all of his lyrics, I wonder why that one?
A hard rain’s a gonna fall or it’s alright ma
Changing of the Guard
Stuck inside of Mobile ….. the over-played Times they are a changing is still a masterpiece of word smithing
yes, I wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes
You’d know what a drag it is to see you
No singular “best” - all that have been mentioned are definitely worthy. I’d add Mississippi.
Go away from my windowwww leave at your own chosen speed
For me, Idiot Wind and If You See Her, Say Hello stand out
It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)
I really like desolation row
Hard Rain, Lay Down Your Weary Tune, It’s Alright Ma, Let Me Die in My Footsteps, Series of Dreams, Brownsville Girl, Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands
Dignity. Chimes of freedom,
John Brown, Tangled Up in Blue, and Hurricane are great stories just off the top of my head. They'd be great with or without lyrics.
"Gates of Eden" works perfectly as a written poem.
The rhyme scheme for Times They Are A 'Changing is incredible. Truly a masterwork. Mr. Tambourine Man is also great. Something about the line, 'the haunted, frightened trees' just gets to me.
Most of the Time. If You See Her, Say Hello. Mississippi. Chimes Of Freedom. Desolation Row. Tangled Up In Blue. Cross the Green Mountain.
Those are the first ones that come to mind. There are way more.
The entirety of My Back Pages. Especially “my existence led by confusion boats, mutiny from stern to bow”. My favourite Dylan lyric of all time
Just adding sone I haven't seen. Red river shore, Mississippi, someone's got a hold of my heart, dark eyes, born in time, up to me, with God on our side, just like Tom thumbs blues, my own version of you, Caribbean wind.
Oh and wigwam
A good example of this is his ode to woody eulogy
Actually it's called last thoughts on Woody Guthrie
"Changing of the Guards" should be a legendary Dylan track on the strength of the lyrics alone. Street-Legal deserves mountains of praise it'll never get.
"I and I" is a masterpiece, along with "Jokerman", "License to Kill", and the absolutely haunting "Blind Willie McTell". Infidels is woefully underrated.
"Pay in Blood" is stunning genius, as is most of Tempest, which I consider Dylan's finest album. The title track, "Scarlet Town", and especially "Tin Angel" are all almost unbearably brilliant.
But the Dylan track haunting and inspiring me most lately, on lyrical might alone, is "My Own Version of You". I write songs myself, and I DESPERATELY wish I'd written it. I wrote something along the same thematic lines a while back, but it's 1/100th the slyly dryly complex masterwork "My Own Version of You" is. Maybe by my late 70s I can write something 30/100ths as good.🍀
So many greats are already mentioned, but I haven't seen Idiot Wind, Hurricane or Don't Think Twice It's Alright yet.
Maybe To Ramona
I usually prefer it where there's a sense that the music and lyrics are working together, and neither would really work without the other. I think It's Alright Ma falls into that category very well.
Chimes of freedom is up there for me
It’s alright ma
Wiggle like a bowl of soup
He who is not busy being born is busy dying
Just Like Tom Thumbs Blues
Couldn't agree more about the aforementioned Mr. Tambourine Man, Desolation Row, It's Alright Ma, Stuck Inside of Mobile
“I’ve been to sugar town and I shook the sugar down”
That’s easy. It’s in the song ‘Isis’
“The World’s Biggest Necklace”
It’s probably one of the ones with a complex rhyme scheme — they tend to look better on the page.
I’d say Angelina or Key West. Honourable mention to Murder Most Foul
Chimes of Freedom.
“I ain’t saying’ you treated me unkind.
You could’ve done better, but I don’t mind.
You just kinda wasted my precious time.
But don’t think twice, it’s all right.”
Key West (Philosopher Pirate). Those lyrics have such a strong sense of place and mood, it’s incredible. He is able to capture the essence of Key West perfectly- I get transported right there every time I hear it. Not the drunken margaritaville Key West, but an enchanted Key West full of luscious flowers, sweet smelling air and bright moon light, rooted in history with stories to tell. A place to lay down your worries and connect with the deeper meaning of it all.
Two that really impress me are Jokerman and Every Grain of Sand. They both contain wonderful imagery, directing the the mind to all sorts of extraordinary thoughts. The latter also has a very personnel aspect to it, as the voice in the song tries to come to terms with issues of faith and existentialism.
what's crazy to me about "Gates of Eden" is that it's Dylan doing William Blake but it's actually better than any William Blake. "Utopian hermit monks, sidesaddle on the Golden Calf"? GTFO.
That whole second side of Bringing it All Back Home is insane though and I respect the "It's Alright Ma" voters because I used to be one of y'all.
“Oh whatever makes her happy, I won’t stand in the way, though the bitter taste still lingers on from the night I tried to make her stay”
hits like a wall every time
Don’t Think Twice, it’s Alright has always held a special place in my heart.
From a short story perspective I would say: ''Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts''.
I agree with everyone on "It's Alright Ma" but "Desolation Row" is a close second
Dark Eyes always gets me
I’m surprised that no one has yet mentioned “Lay down your weary tune.” The rhyme, meter and theme make it akin to the 19th century Romantics (Shelley, Keats, Blake, et. al.)
“The last of leaves fell from the trees /
And clung to a new love’s breast /
The branches bare like a banjo moan /
To the winds that listen best” (Dylan)
“The poetry of the earth is never dead: /
When all the birds are faint with the hot sun, /
And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run /
From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead” (Keats)
Poem to Woody Guthrie is amazing.
My Back Pages.