“Blowin In The Wind” (1962)

On the cover of Freewheelin‘ both Suze and Bob look a little chilled. Suze is curled up next to him leaving no space in between and Bob’s got his hands in his pants pockets.  He also has the buttons up top buttoned, the bottom two are opened, and if you look close you can see a lilt to Suze’s hair, the wind seems to be blowing towards them, not behind, on this two way New York Street.

Suze is looking at the camera; Bob’s eyes are directed at the ground, looking for that “restless piece of paper . . . that’s got to come down some time . . .”?

Bob also said that you got to feel it in the wind, this elusive answer, that is forever blowing, or forever just beyond our grasp or evading our sights.

What we can see or hear are the terrific rhymes; the pattern is consistent, and it keeps the song easy to hear  and pleasing to the ears.  The rhyme scheme is a/b/c/b/d/b/d/d. Easy as a, b,c.

What may not be so easy to see, though we do hear them are the internal rhymes.  There’s one in each verse.  In verse 1, “seas” rhymes in the middle of the next line with “sleeps.” In the second, “how” with “allowed,” and for a thematic punch in the third, “ears” with “hear.”

Let’s stick with that last one a bit.  There are only two things that can be heard in this song–the cannonballs flying in verse 1 and the people crying in the last verse.  Oh, and a third, the wind, you can hear the wind blowing, and you can hear Dylan, singing above it, singing into it, breathing life into a song that is a beloved anthem to the power of questions for protest.

Here’s a less than a minute clip from the concert for Bangladesh, 1971:

And here’s a live performance of the whole song on TV in 1963:

 

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
Yes, ’n’ how many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, ’n’ how many times must the cannonballs fly
Before they’re forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

How many years can a mountain exist
Before it’s washed to the sea?
Yes, ’n’ how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, ’n’ how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn’t see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, ’n’ how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, ’n’ how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

 

“Apple Suckling Tree” (1969)

This is a hoot of a song, hootananny-ish, front porch knee slapping music, as are most of the Basement Tapes songs.  Christoper Ricks feels “rough-riding energies” in them.  They’re where a “raucous raunchy world come alive” for him.  “Apple Suckling” fits that bill well.  All the sexual innuendos are there if you want them to be. And like Shakespeare in his darker comedies, Dylan, seems to revel in their bawdiness.

The rhyming instigates sing-along, playfulness, and spontaneity, but it’s more controlled when you see it on the page. The first verse set an a/b/b/b pattern, if you toss aside the “Down there”‘s and “Oh yeah”‘s. The bridge, repeated just once, maintains the ee assonance.  And Dylan shifts to pure assonance again in verse three with a series of long i sounds with “line” repeated and ending with “time.” The final verse, has a rhyming life of its own with an a/a/b/b rhyme scheme.  The song is framed by rhyming patterns that “come alive” on their own–of their own.  There’s a delightful melodious uumph to the song, overall, pleading with each listener to join in.

And why not do so now, with the “rough-riding energy” of pirated music from Dylan’s latest bootleg release. Who knows how long this will last.  As with all of the Basement Tapes songs, grab these good times while you can.

 

Old man sailin’ in a dinghy boat
Down there
Old man down is baitin’ a hook
On there
Gonna pull man down on a suckling hook
Gonna pull man into the suckling brook
Oh yeah!

Now, he’s underneath that apple suckling tree
Oh yeah!
Under that apple suckling tree
Oh yeah!
That’s underneath that tree
There’s gonna be just you and me
Underneath that apple suckling tree
Oh yeah!

I push him back and I stand in line
Oh yeah!
Then I hush my Sadie and stand in line
Oh yeah!
Then I hush my Sadie and stand in line
I get on board in two-eyed time
Oh yeah!

Under that apple suckling tree
Oh yeah!
Under that apple suckling tree
Oh yeah!
Underneath that tree
There’s just gonna be you and me
Underneath that apple suckling tree
Oh yeah!

Now, who’s on the table, who’s to tell me?
Oh yeah!
Who’s on the table, who’s to tell me?
Oh yeah!
Who should I tell, oh, who should I tell?
The forty-nine of you like bats out of hell
Oh underneath that old apple suckling tree

 

“A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall” (1963)

“Hard Rain” is interesting for its lack of rhyming.  Many of us might associate it with poetry and presume rhyme is central to its memorable sound, its cadence and repetition carry it along in a sing-song fashion, the kind we may associate with folk and  ballad.  And then when we hear the likes of Allen Ginsberg speak of it on No Direction Home as a the work that passed the poetic baton from one generation to the next, so rhyme might just be what we assume to characterize such a momentous transition. Ginsberg even says he wept the first time he heard it.

Here’s video clip of Ginsberg speaking of poetry and quoting the line from “Hard Rain,” “I’ll know my song well before I start singing”:

“Poetry is words that are empowered to that make your hair stand on end,” he says.  And this Dylan song does do exactly that to the tuned in listener willing to really take in and on the accumulating images of beauty become wasteland.

The song is a conversation, and the repeated question by the parent figure, mother, father, Mother Earth (the blued son, humanity?, the one who responds to each question) repeats the “one”/”son” terminal rhyme beginning each verse, for example:

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?

Where is the first question, what did you see and hear, who did you meet, the questions that follow, all asking something about the past.  The chilling, hair stand on end question is “What will you do now”?

Before that question, there are rhymes, mostly word ending -in sounds Dylan is good for, e.g., “drippin”/”a-bleedin.”  The third verse has several of them.  But Dylan chooses words that give him freedom to match them in sound.  This line,

Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world

for instance, contains the shaky assonance of “roar” and “world.”  And Dylan knows how he can sing, pronounce them just for the right unity.

The answer to the question about the boy’s future, which may be just within reach of a longer future that prophecies the hard rain that will fall, starts to include more range of rhyme:

I’m a-goin’ back out ’fore the rain starts a-fallin’
I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
Where the executioner’s face is always well hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it
Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’
But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’

Some of it is from repeated words, where, where, where . . .and some internal, “a-goin'” and “a-fallen'” and some alliteration, “people,” “pellets,” “poison,” “prison,”  and one now terminal, the best rhyme “hidden,”/”prison.” It’s not perfect, “s” vs “d” prevent that, but the double assonance of “pris” with “hid” and “on” with “en” is magnificent, while it also creates the chilling image and perhaps a major theme with “hidden prison,” the one we live in that is our body, the one we can’t see but live in everyday, the possibilities are endless.

This song is a work of art. Here is the Live at Town Hall live version audio from 1963. Dylan last sang this song just this past July–he knows his song well now, knew it then, and he keeps singing it.

 

 

 

“Walkin’ Down The Line” (1963)

This is an amusing song, with mostly auto-rhymes, words repeated for easy perfect rhyming as in the opening verse’s terminal “line”/”line”/”line”:

Well, I’m walkin’ down the line
I’m walkin’ down the line
An’ I’m walkin’ down the line
My feet’ll be a-flyin’
To tell about my troubled mind

But the repetition in each verse of three in a row terminal exact ending words seems to prepare the reader for the last two lines with terminal rhymes matching the repeated words, in this case, “flyin'” and “mind,” an interesting rhyme because -ind of “mind” looks like it would rhyme with the -in” in mind, but it does not; the rhyme is with the -mi in “mind.”

This pattern continues, but for one exception in verse 6 where “because” has no rhyming partner:

I see the morning light
I see the morning light
Well, it’s not because
I’m an early riser
I didn’t go to sleep last night

It stands out in this way, and for me, it stands out as the most entertaining of all the verses.

Not to be lost in all the “walkin’ down the line” that appears in the song is the walking down each line that the poet is doing to get to a line that breaks the repetition, as if he’s waiting for someone to give him that one original thought that he craves in “Brownsville Girl”:

Now I’ve always been the kind of person that doesn’t like to trespass
but sometimes you just find yourself over the line
Oh if there’s an original thought out there, I could use it right now

Over the line, (get over the line already!) over that “Walkin’ down the line” line is a rhyme that awaits that won’t merely repeat.  The pattern works–it’s bluesy humorous.

And the humor is worth reveling in as well as how simple it is, as Arlo Guthrie and Pete Seeger get across in this live 1975 recording of it:

And here’s Arlo singing the “Bobby Dylan tune” at Woodstock:

“Silvio” (1988)

Silvio” off of the much criticized Down in the Groove begins with couplet terminal rhymes:

“fast”/”past” and “got”/”not”. But then as soon as the bridge kicks in

Silvio
Silver and gold
Won’t buy back the beat of a heart grown cold
Silvio
I gotta go
Find out something only dead men know

with the monorhyme (aaaaaa), the rest of the song follows suit, with 5 verses of monorhyming lines before the bridge kicks in again at the end:

Honest as the next jade rolling that stone
When I come knocking don’t throw me no bone
I’m an old boll weevil looking for a home
If you don’t like it you can leave me alone

I can snap my fingers and require the rain
From a clear blue sky and turn it off again
I can stroke your body and relieve your pain
And charm the whistle off an evening train

I give what I got until I got no more
I take what I get until I even the score
You know I love you and furthermore
When it’s time to go you got an open door

I can tell you fancy, I can tell you plain
You give something up for everything you gain
Since every pleasure’s got an edge of pain
Pay for your ticket and don’t complain

One of these days and it won’t be long
Going down in the valley and sing my song
I will sing it loud and sing it strong
Let the echo decide if I was right or wrong

Silvio
Silver and gold
Won’t buy back the beat of a heart grown cold
Silvio
I gotta go
Find out something only dead men know

Plenty of perfect rhymes in this song for all perfectionists, “long”/”song” being one of them, and this is not a long song, rather short even, the stuff of catchy pop tunes, right there in every groove.
Here’s a live version from 1996 with Eric Clapton, Ron Wood:

“I and I” (1983)

In “I and I” the ayes have it, any eye will do. I think Dylan plays with the meaning that sound summons to our mind when we hear it; the printed word “I” is just a mere symbol for the sound’s message to our ears:

I and I
In creation where one’s nature neither honors nor forgives
I and I
One says to the other, no man sees my face and lives

Forgiving and living lives throughout the song in rhyme with this chorus, and it’s where “I” and “I” lives, too, or you and me or even an eye for an eye.  But one must have an eye for eye to hear the other rhyme sounds, more than eyes are needed to catch the union of sound rhyme creates. But really only hearing is needed–one must have any eye to hear rhymes, or an ear for seeing where they are, and in this song they appear in every other line, alternating rhymes that is, alternating like an I for an aye or for an eye:

“truth”/”tooth” is one of my favorites in the third stanza:

Took an untrodden path once, where the swift don’t win the race
It goes to the worthy, who can divide the word of truth
Took a stranger to teach me, to look into justice’s beautiful face
And to see an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth

Though I do have an eye for the second rhyme in the last verse:

Noontime, and I’m still pushin’ myself along the road, the darkest part
Into the narrow lanes, I can’t stumble or stay put
Someone else is speakin’ with my mouth, but I’m listening only to my heart
I’ve made shoes for everyone, even you, while I still go barefoot

Neither looks like they could rhyme, but they they do, according to my ears.

“I and I” live, London, 1993–thanks again for keeping a steady eye on this one for us woolhall, wherever you are; the electric guitar and harmonica are especially pleasing to the ear in this performance–worth playing through to the end:

 

“Honest With Me” (2001)

So you bought Dylan’s Love and Theft on September 11, 2001, the day it was released, pop it on and play “Honest With Me” which begins with the line,

Well, I’m stranded in the city that never sleeps

You then watch the day’s events unfold, with many stranded in NYC and elsewhere that day from the World Trade Center bombings.

Eery, gives you the creeps; the second line is even,

Some of these women they just give me the creeps

Dylan likes performing this song.  He’s done so 601 times according to bobdylan.com since its release, and is on his current playlist as I write this.

Dylan is honest with the couplet rhyming throughout the song, “bear”/”air” maybe the only forced or wrenched one, but to be honest, not really. And each couplet is a new rhyme, except of course for the repeated chorus which is

You don’t understand it—my feelings for you
You’d be honest with me if only you knew

Eery, creepy in its coincidence is that finger pointing, “you”/”knew” repeated five times in the song.  Much controversy over who knew what about 9/11 before it happened.  I don’t want to get into that, but there are those out there who were not honest about what they knew, honest about what they were planning to do:

I’m here to create the new imperial empire
I’m going to do whatever circumstances require

Watch an energized Bob perform “Honest With Me” Live 8/10/11 (thanks, woolhall)

 

“Foot Of Pride” (1983)

I can think of two, maybe three songs off of Infidels that should have been replaced by “Foot Of Pride.”  It’s a song that marks that religion departure period sound.  Funky, with a distinct serious harmonica, and that breezy Knopfler guitar framing the background.  It’s Infidels-like more than other songs on Infidels.

The rhyming in it is complex, the terminal rhyme pattern varies from verse to verse.  The more remarkable trail to follow is the medial and leonine rhymes, rhymes with middle of the line words rhyming with the end of lines.

Verse 2:

Hear ya got a brother named James, don’t forget faces or names
In these times of compassion when conformity’s in fashion

Say one more stupid thing to me before the final nail is driven in.

Verse 3:

He said he only deals in cash or sells tickets to a plane crash

Miss Delilah is his, a Phillistine is what she is

Verse 4:

You’ll play the fool and learn how to walk through doors

A whore will pass the hat, collect a hundred grand and say thanks

They like to take all this money from sin, build big universities to study in

So the bulk of this medial rhyming takes place in the middle of the song; six verses and three bridges comprise it. And there’s struggle in it–the words are biting, caustic, condemning, and aimed  at a a range of corruption.  Infidels is a condemning word.  Infidel! Does each song on Infidels identify one?  Doesn’t seem like it.  Maybe “Foot Of Pride” does too obviously to too many.  As Ricks says, Dylan brings the foot or pride “down with . . . biblical weight”:

Well, there ain’t no goin’ back
When your foot of pride come down
Ain’t no goin’ back

Pride and rhyme slapping down smack in the middle of things in this song.

Speaking of putting one’s foot down, here’s Lou Reed with a cover of the song from the Dylan 30th anniversary concert special, 1992:

 

 

“Everything Is Broken” (1989)

An irony with “Everything Is Broken” would be that the rhyming in it never breaks down. The song is packed with successive pairs of terminal rhymes or couplets.  And many of them are full or perfect rhymes, meaning both elements of the rhyme are precisely matched as all of the rhymes are in the first four lines:

Broken lines, broken strings
Broken threads, broken springs
Broken idols, broken heads
People sleeping in broken beds

The fourth stanza has nothing but perfect terminal rhymes:

Broken cutters, broken saws
Broken buckles, broken laws
Broken bodies, broken bones
Broken voices on broken phones
Take a deep breath, feel like you’re chokin
Everything is broken

There’s only one chink in the armor of all this perfection and couplet creating going on and it’s with the word “jiving” found near the end of the first verse:

Broken lines, broken strings
Broken threads, broken springs
Broken idols, broken heads
People sleeping in broken beds
Ain’t no use jiving
Ain’t no use joking
Everything is broken

“jiving” sits there alone as the only un-rhymed line ending word.  Yes, “joking” ends in “ing” as does “jiving” so you get the “ing” sound symmetry, but wasn’t “joking” meant to rhyme with “broken”?

Even more curious is that the first verse is the only one with seven lines; besides the two bridges, the other verses contain six, so it stands to reason that one word would be the odd man out.

Maybe the word “jiving” needs to stand out because maybe nothing really is broken.  The second bridge suggests that it may all be a perception, a psychological shift in perspective when the speaker is left without someone:

Every time you leave and go off someplace
Things fall to pieces in my face

Yes, everything feels broken when you’re gone–the whole litany of broken things is a jive, except that one about broken hearts:

Streets are filled with broken hearts

That one maybe the speaker can attest to, no jiving there.

Here’s Neil Young and Tom Petty with a cover of the tune from a 1989 Bridge Benefit.

“Early Roman Kings” (2012)

Tempest

“Early Roman Kings”‘ main rhyming pattern is the alternating rhyming abab as in its second verse

All the early roman kings
In the early early morn
Coming down the mountain
Distributing the corn
Speeding through the forest
Racing down the track
You try to get away
They drag you back
Tomorrow is Friday
We’ll see what it brings
Everybody’s talking
Bout the early roman kings

But there are interesting diversions from or exceptions to that pattern.  In the very first verse, “in” jumps in with “coffin” to create couplets:

Drivin’ the spikes in
Blazin’ the rails
Nailed in their coffins
In top hats and tails

In the middle of the third verse appropriately an internal rhyme appears with “lecherous” and “treacherous”

They’re lecherous and treacherous
Hell-bent for leather
Each of ‘em bigger
Than all them put together

But the rhyme sound, the assonance namely, pushes forward with “Hell-bent,” “leather,” “them,” and “together.”

Indeed, Dylan’s rhyming bell still rings, like the bell in Breaking Bad:

I ain’t dead yet
My bell still rings
I keep my fingers crossed
Like them early roman kings

Live Version from just this past June 2014 with nice clear video (thanks to Ernest Habringer):

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