Bob Dylan's Lyrics

Discussion of Joseph Campbell's work with an emphasis on the personal creative impulse as well as the sociological role of the artist in today's global community.

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Stone_Giant
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Post by Stone_Giant » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

I'd be interested in seeing a discussion of Dylan's lyrics and their adherence or otherwise to Campbell's Hero or Myth templates. For instance, one of my favourite Dylan songs is Chimes of Freedom, and to me this has the sense of the mission of a Boddhisattva, "to save all beings from suffering."

"Tolling for the aching ones whose wounds cannot be nursed
For the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones an' worse
An' for every hung-up person in the whole wide universe
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing."


<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Stone_Giant on 2003-11-17 06:52 ]</font>
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Post by Dave Spiro » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

On 2003-11-17 06:50, Stone_Giant wrote:
I'd be interested in seeing a discussion of Dylan's lyrics and their adherence or otherwise to Campbell's Hero or Myth templates. For instance, one of my favourite Dylan songs is Chimes of Freedom, and to me this has the sense of the mission of a Boddhisattva, "to save all beings from suffering."


<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Stone_Giant on 2003-11-17 06:52 ]</font>
Stone,
An interesting point! Certainly Dylan's lyrics often align him with the sufferings of others. Case in point: His song "Hurricane", about the plight of boxer Ruben "Hurricane" Carter, wrongly imprisoned for a murder he did not commit, and was framed for. Dylan's song was the impetus for the movement that would eventually lead to Carter's release. Dylan is one of those rarest of individuals, a person who is very in touch with his experiences as a human being, and who has the creative capability to express it.
"I have a very good understanding with God. I don't understand him, he doesn't understand me." - George Carlin
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Post by BigSky » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

"I married Isis on the fifth day of may,
but I could not hold on to her very long...
So I cut off my hair and I rode straight away,
to the wild unknown country where I could not go on..."

And so on...ISIS is the hero's journey par excellence, this call is the beginning of a wonderful culmination of disappointment :
I broke into the tomb, but the casket was empty.
There was no jewels, no nothin', I felt I'd been had.
When I saw that my partner was just bein' friendly,
When I took up his offer I must-a been mad.

sewing the seeds of the realization of the everyday.

See the whole lyrics here:
http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/isis.html

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Post by Stace8875 » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

I saw a documentary on Dylan, and apparently when he was first signed, he wasn't allowed to write his own material because the producers thought he had no talent for it. Blows my mind....

My daughter's middle name is Isis, after that song. :0)
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Post by Stone_Giant » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Thanks both for your replies - good job I have patience ( the patience of job(e)?) I was wondering if there would be anymore bites at the hook!
To give this thread another whirl I've just been looking at the lyrics to "Like a Rolling Stone". Bob seems to be having a go at some high living ex-girlfriend in it but the sense of someone "refusing the call" comes over to me - even of Siddharta in his indolent luxury maybe. And these two stanzas I find particularly Campbellian/Zen-like:

"You said you'd never compromise
With the mystery tramp, but now you realize
He's not selling any alibis
As you stare into the vacuum of his eyes
And ask him do you want to make a deal?"

and

"You used to be so amused
At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used
Go to him now, he calls you, you can't refuse
When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose
You're invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal."

The "Mystery tramp" is surely issuing the 'call to adventure' and hinting that the protagonist must embrace nothingness/vacuum and in that seeming nadir, find true meaning, true worth....... or have I been cutting down on the medication too much? :wink:
Last edited by Stone_Giant on Sat Jun 08, 2013 5:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by ALOberhoulser » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Having heard the song once or twice :wink
I find it worth visiting how the music builds...
do you want to
make
a
deal?

you got no
secrets
to
conceal

I've always loved Dylan's musical and lyrical genius.
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Post by Clemsy » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

You know, the lyrics to Idiot Wind sometimes feel... cathartic.

Blood on the Tracks is an awesome album... er, CD.

Clemsy
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Post by ALOberhoulser » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

I love this song...the music seems *american* to me too:
IT'S ALRIGHT, MA
(I'm Only Bleeding)
(Words and Music by Bob Dylan)
1965 Warner Bros. Inc
Renewed 1993 Special Rider Music

Darkness at the break of noon
Shadows even the silver spoon
The handmade blade, the child's balloon
Eclipses both the sun and moon
To understand you know too soon
There is no sense in trying.

Pointed threats, they bluff with scorn
Suicide remarks are torn
From the fool's gold mouthpiece
The hollow horn plays wasted words
Proves to warn
That he not busy being born
Is busy dying.

Temptation's page flies out the door
You follow, find yourself at war
Watch waterfalls of pity roar
You feel to moan but unlike before
You discover
That you'd just be
One more person crying.

So don't fear if you hear
A foreign sound to your ear
It's alright, Ma, I'm only sighing.

As some warn victory, some downfall
Private reasons great or small
Can be seen in the eyes of those that call
To make all that should be killed to crawl
While others say don't hate nothing at all
Except hatred.

Disillusioned words like bullets bark
As human gods aim for their mark
Made everything from toy guns that spark
To flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark
It's easy to see without looking too far
That not much
Is really sacred.

While preachers preach of evil fates
Teachers teach that knowledge waits
Can lead to hundred-dollar plates
Goodness hides behind its gates
But even the president of the United States
Sometimes must have
To stand naked.

An' though the rules of the road have been lodged
It's only people's games that you got to dodge
And it's alright, Ma, I can make it.

Advertising signs that con you
Into thinking you're the one
That can do what's never been done
That can win what's never been won
Meantime life outside goes on
All around you.

You lose yourself, you reappear
You suddenly find you got nothing to fear
Alone you stand with nobody near
When a trembling distant voice, unclear
Startles your sleeping ears to hear
That somebody thinks
They really found you.

A question in your nerves is lit
Yet you know there is no answer fit to satisfy
Insure you not to quit
To keep it in your mind and not fergit
That it is not he or she or them or it
That you belong to.

Although the masters make the rules
For the wise men and the fools
I got nothing, Ma, to live up to.

For them that must obey authority
That they do not respect in any degree
Who despise their jobs, their destinies
Speak jealously of them that are free
Cultivate their flowers to be
Nothing more than something
They invest in.

While some on principles baptized
To strict party platform ties
Social clubs in drag disguise
Outsiders they can freely criticize
Tell nothing except who to idolize
And then say God bless him.

While one who sings with his tongue on fire
Gargles in the rat race choir
Bent out of shape from society's pliers
Cares not to come up any higher
But rather get you down in the hole
That he's in.

But I mean no harm nor put fault
On anyone that lives in a vault
But it's alright, Ma, if I can't please him.

Old lady judges watch people in pairs
Limited in sex, they dare
To push fake morals, insult and stare
While money doesn't talk, it swears
Obscenity, who really cares
Propaganda, all is phony.

While them that defend what they cannot see
With a killer's pride, security
It blows the minds most bitterly
For them that think death's honesty
Won't fall upon them naturally
Life sometimes
Must get lonely.

My eyes collide head-on with stuffed graveyards
False gods, I scuff
At pettiness which plays so rough
Walk upside-down inside handcuffs
Kick my legs to crash it off
Say okay, I have had enough
What else can you show me?

And if my thought-dreams could be seen
They'd probably put my head in a guillotine
But it's alright, Ma, it's life, and life only.
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Post by porcupine » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

This thread has been around for a while, but I thought I'd put my 2 cents in because I am both a huge Campbell and Dylan fan. Perhaps it's not such a rare combination after all. Incidentally, I put a post on the Converstaion With A Thousand faces section regarding the connection between Campbell and Woody Guthrie. I'm not totally satisfied with the answers yet and "it looks like it's a dying and it's hardly been born", but maybe a Dylan fan can add some insight.

Anyways, back to Dylan. Dylan has a vast amount of lyrics and a worthy endeavor may be to analyze some of them with Campbell's research in mind. To me, the more intersting approach would be to analyze Dylan as an artist and a man, and to explore the connections to the Hero motif that Campbell puts forward in Hero With A Thousand Faces. To touch briefly on some of the elements of Dylan's story that parallels this premise:

Dylan created his own background upon arrival in NYC in 1961. He came in as legend has it, after leaving Minnesotta in a snow storm with the goal of starting his own music career and to meet his hero Woody Guthrie. In addition to this obvious call to adventure story, Dylan also is dealing with rites of passage issues, atonement with the father, and certainly the importance of followiing his bliss and entering the forest at a point of his own choosing cannot be left out.

Since Dylan did make up a lot of details about his past to his new associates in NYC, his experience could be examined in how well it fits with a hero profile, or furthermore, how conscientious Dylan was about creating his own mythology and hero status. Dylan has always been well read and his deliberateness should never be underestimated. More often than not he seems to be very aware of the images he projects, that they are mostly not happy accidents.

Dylan's journey continues as he does meet Woody Guthrie and becomes embraced by a community which he ultimately abandons n the name of his own artistic path and desires. This is an enormous break which distinguishes Dylan further from anyone involved in the folk/protest boom of the late 50s and early 60s. It's alos a very fateful cultural move as this decision changes his music so drasticly and to such an impact that it's effects can still be felt today. This stubornness to always go where he is told not to go by his elders, certainly provides Dylan with the new material that he sets out to discover and in turn destroys his own former self. These are themes Campbell goes on at length about when he tells the stories about Native American sand paintings and the children who are told to go in any direction except north, and of course they go north. Without looking up the reference, the only term that comes to mind is Jeff King. Unless you're making a scholarly effort, its easy to lose track of the stories where they overlap. Any of you who have listened to Campbell at length have probably experienced the same phenomenon I have where you can get lost in anything he says, but you stop yourself because the next topic is also so fascinating.

Anyways, again back to Dylan. I think this pattern Dylan has established of constantly reinventing himself is reflected in his life and his lyrics, and it is a worthy study to examine these patterns with the Hero motif among others. If there is another artist in the 20th century who has been so successful and so willingly changed his or her style with each movement, I would love to know about it. At present only Picasso comes to mind, and again, he would also prove to be a fine subject of examination in this light.

In the meantime, here's a Dylan quote that demonstrates a thorough understanding of the Bible and how to make an old idea new again.

"God said to Abraham kill me a son,
Abe said 'man you must be putting me on',
God said no, Abe said 'what'?
God said you can do what you want Abe but,
The next time you see me coming you'd better run,
Abe said 'where do you want this killing done'?
God said out on Highway 61."

I mean, that has everything. the whole story of Abraham being asked to kill his own son. His allegiance to God vs. his free will "you can do what you want Abe, but..." God's vengeance. "Next time you see me comin you better run" Abraham's fear and Dylan's use of the informal "Abe" making this an everyman story and making no small reference to his own fater whose name was Abe. There are nuggets like this throughout Dylan's catalog that are ripe for interpretation into Mythology. Add that to his own life story and I'd say you've got a very worthy subject for the application of art and mythology in the 20th century.
Bryan<br><br>"My patron saint is fighting with a ghost. He's always off somewhere when I need him most."
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Post by kamuizot » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

In Campbell’s biography “A fire in the Mind” there is a nice story of Campbell meeting Dylan at a luncheon hosted by Barbara McClintock. It goes on to recount Campbell attending a Grateful Dead concert and he described it as a re-creation of the Dionysian mysteries in our time.
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Post by Shiva » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

I am a huge Dylan fan so I was delighted to see this topic.

Dylan plays with alot of mythology in quite a bit of his music.

One song I have been looking into lately is the song Jokerman from his 1983 album Infidels:
Standing on the waters casting your bread
While the eyes of the idol with the iron head are glowing.
Distant ships sailing into the mist,
You were born with a snake in both of your fists while a hurricane was blowing.
Freedom just around the corner for you
But with the truth so far off, what good will it do?

Jokerman dance to the nightingale tune,
Bird fly high by the light of the moon,
Oh, oh, oh, Jokerman.

So swiftly the sun sets in the sky,
You rise up and say goodbye to no one.
Fools rush in where angels fear to tread,
Both of their futures, so full of dread, you don't show one.
Shedding off one more layer of skin,
Keeping one step ahead of the persecutor within.

Jokerman dance to the nightingale tune,
Bird fly high by the light of the moon,
Oh, oh, oh, Jokerman.

You're a man of the mountains, you can walk on the clouds,
Manipulator of crowds, you're a dream twister.
You're going to Sodom and Gomorrah
But what do you care? Ain't nobody there would want to marry your sister.
Friend to the martyr, a friend to the woman of shame,
You look into the fiery furnace, see the rich man without any name.

Jokerman dance to the nightingale tune,
Bird fly high by the light of the moon,
Oh, oh, oh, Jokerman.

Well, the Book of Leviticus and Deuteronomy,
The law of the jungle and the sea are your only teachers.
In the smoke of the twilight on a milk-white steed,
Michelangelo indeed could've carved out your features.
Resting in the fields, far from the turbulent space,
Half asleep near the stars with a small dog licking your face.

Jokerman dance to the nightingale tune,
Bird fly high by the light of the moon,
Oh. oh. oh. Jokerman.

Well, the rifleman's stalking the sick and the lame,
Preacherman seeks the same, who'll get there first is uncertain.
Nightsticks and water cannons, tear gas, padlocks,
Molotov cocktails and rocks behind every curtain,
False-hearted judges dying in the webs that they spin,
Only a matter of time 'til night comes steppin' in.

Jokerman dance to the nightingale tune,
Bird fly high by the light of the moon,
Oh, oh, oh, 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.
Oh, Jokerman, you know what he wants,
Oh, Jokerman, you don't show any response.

Jokerman dance to the nightingale tune,
Bird fly high by the light of the moon,
Oh, oh, oh, Jokerman.
I have also recently discovered Joseph Campbell's Power of Myth at the request of a friend who wanted to give me guidance about the worlds major religions... I have been reading about them as culture myths and this person suggested I look into Joseph Campbell. I'm very glad I took the advice.

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Post by Billeen » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

The Hurricane was mentioned, but I think every song on the Desire album has major mythic overtones. My favorite is One More Cup Of Coffee.
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Post by cadfael » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

The Byrds are Bob Dylan,
As Dylan is the Byrds,
They sang Mr.Tamborine man simplified,
And Robert Zimmerman gave us the full ride,
In the end a voice for a generation,
And also a composer in elation,
For his musical neigbors,
They felt him in his labors,
And they echoed his songs,
Such is loving one's neighbor.

Cadfael

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Post by LivvySidhe » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

What about "Shelter from the Storm?"

'Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood
When blackness was a virtue and the road was full of mud
I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form.
"Come in," she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm."

And if I pass this way again, you can rest assured
I'll always do my best for her, on that I give my word
In a world of steel-eyed death, and men who are fighting to be warm.
"Come in," she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm."

Not a word was spoke between us, there was little risk involved
Everything up to that point had been left unresolved.
Try imagining a place where it's always safe and warm.
"Come in," she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm."

I was burned out from exhaustion, buried in the hail,
Poisoned in the bushes an' blown out on the trail,
Hunted like a crocodile, ravaged in the corn.
"Come in," she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm."

Suddenly I turned around and she was standin' there
With silver bracelets on her wrists and flowers in her hair.
She walked up to me so gracefully and took my crown of thorns.
"Come in," she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm."

Now there's a wall between us, somethin' there's been lost
I took too much for granted, got my signals crossed.
Just to think that it all began on a long-forgotten morn.
"Come in," she said,
"I'll give you 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
And the one-eyed undertaker, he blows a futile horn.
"Come in," she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm."

I've heard newborn babies wailin' like a mournin' dove
And old men with broken teeth stranded without love.
Do I understand your question, man, is it hopeless and forlorn?
"Come in," she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm."

In a little hilltop village, they gambled for my clothes
I bargained for salvation an' they gave me a lethal dose.
I offered up my innocence and got repaid with scorn.
"Come in," she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm."

Well, I'm livin' in a foreign country but I'm bound to cross the line
Beauty walks a razor's edge, someday I'll make it mine.
If I could only turn back the clock to when God and her were born.
"Come in," she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm."


It goes something like this: when the mythic spiral of time turned its beaded head and understood what was going on, it snapped. All<br>these years I had been sleeping in the mind of the snake, June. I have to tell<br>this to someone. - Joy Harjo
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Post by Dave Spiro » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

I would suggest "Changing of the Guards"

Sixteen years,
Sixteen banners united over the field
Where the good shepherd grieves.
Desperate men, desperate women divided,
Spreading their wings 'neath the falling leaves.

Fortune calls.
I stepped forth from the shadows, to the marketplace,
Merchants and thieves, hungry for power, my last deal gone down.
She's smelling sweet like the meadows where she was born,
On midsummer's eve, near the tower.

The cold-blooded moon.
The captain waits above the celebration
Sending his thoughts to a beloved maid
Whose ebony face is beyond communication.
The captain is down but still believing that his love will be repaid.

They shaved her head.
She was torn between Jupiter and Apollo.
A messenger arrived with a black nightingale.
I seen her on the stairs and I couldn't help but follow,
Follow her down past the fountain where they lifted her veil.

I stumbled to my feet.
I rode past destruction in the ditches
With the stitches still mending 'neath a heart-shaped tattoo.
Renegade priests and treacherous young witches
Were handing out the flowers that I'd given to you.

The palace of mirrors
Where dog soldiers are reflected,
The endless road and the wailing of chimes,
The empty rooms where her memory is protected,
Where the angels' voices whisper to the souls of previous times.

She wakes him up
Forty-eight hours later, the sun is breaking
Near broken chains, mountain laurel and rolling rocks.
She's begging to know what measures he now will be taking.
He's pulling her down and she's clutching on to his long golden locks.

Gentlemen, he said,
I don't need your organization, I've shined your shoes,
I've moved your mountains and marked your cards
But Eden is burning, either brace yourself for elimination
Or else your hearts must have the courage for the changing of the guards.

Peace will come
With tranquility and splendor on the wheels of fire
But will bring us no reward when her false idols fall
And cruel death surrenders with its pale ghost retreating
Between the King and the Queen of Swords.
"I have a very good understanding with God. I don't understand him, he doesn't understand me." - George Carlin
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