Me

Me” is going to be an interesting rhyming word to explore in Dylan’s oeuvre.  Through it, the man in him may actually be revealed a bit. I’m going to venture a guess that “me” appears more from Blood On The Tracks onward, in that that album marks a path toward more personal, even confessional songwriting. Not that we don’t have personal songs from him before 1974, e.g., “Boots Of Spanish Leather,” “Ballad In Plain D,” and the like, but back then his finger pointing songs directed attention away from him to others. But as with any finger pointing, three more fingers were always pointing back at him, and the “me,” which is a word found in every one of his last two albums, came bursting on the scene in Blood On The Tracks (based on Chekhov short stories?? Really Bob?)

The word explored through its rhymes also will help identify points of view in each song. And as with any word that ends in a vowel, it can go on for as long a singer’s breath can last.  Think of how Dylan screams, the word “you” on the Before The Flood version of “Like A Rolling Stone”:

Once upon a time you dressed so fine
You threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn’t yoooooooooooooooooooooooooou?
People’d call, say, “Beware doll, you’re bound to fall”
You thought they were all kiddin’ yooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooou

Not one “me” in that song by the way; it’s all about “you” or her. But there’s lots of rhyming “me‘s” at the end of lines in Dylan songs. Not quite like being at the end of one’s rope, though there’s a lot of Dylan songs about what that’s like, too. At the end the line mostly is where the “me” in Dylan will be studied in this post. I’m sure we’ll find Dylan there but many of ourselves in a lot of those “me’s” as well.
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me” ends each verse of “Life is Hard,” but it rhymes with only one word in the song, and that word is “be”:

The evening winds are still
I’ve lost the way and will
Can’t tell you where they went
I just know what they meant
I’m always on my guard
Admitting life is hard
Without you near me

The friend you used to be
So near and dear to me
You slipped so far away
Where did we go a-stray
I pass the old schoolyard
Admitting life is hard
Without you near me

It’s a spillover rhyme though so the lack of rhyming at the of each verse with “me” is consistent.  “me sandwiches” “be”–the speaker’s being the lover he speaks of the center of his “me“-ness.

Life is hard, maybe even possible without her.
I’d venture to say that just about every Dylan album has a can’t live without her song; the first perhaps being “Girl From The North Country.”  Here’s Bob singing it with Johnny Cash:
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“When I first heard “If You Ever Go To Houston,” ah, yes, one of Bob’s familiar advice givings songs a la “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” but then I thought why Houston?  He could have picked anywhere, but not if you’re looking for a city in the US that has the sound “you” in it, Youston! And this song is about you and me, as it is with most of Dylan’s songs, and the rhymes with “me” in the next to last verse demonstrate the you/me relationship that I think Dylan wants going on or at least going on for our ears to hear:

Mr. Policeman
Can you help me find my gal
Last time I saw her
Was at the Magnolia Hotel
If you help me find her
You can be my pal
Mr. Policeman
Can you help me find my gal

It ends with the teasingly pleasing “be my pal”/”me find my gal.”

Advice? Yes, if you ever go to Houston, but in Youston expect to find me.

Here’s a live version, Austria, 2010:

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Any song with the title “This Dream of You” is going to be more about the “me” than the “you.” The chorus maintains a you/me interplay, appearing four times in a six verse song:

All I have and all I know
Is this dream of you
Which keeps me living on

But the “me” rhyme is with “see” in the first line of a non-chorus verse:

“Am I too blind to see, is my heart playing tricks on me.”

The me in the song is questioning himself, lost, directionless but for the dreams of a you whose value is everything to him–all he has and all he knows.  It’s one of Bob’s pining for, yearning for songs.

It’s the kind of song he doesn’t want to give up; at least one appears in just about every album.  In them, the “you’s” mean so much to the “me‘s.” And we, the listener, can be either one.

Here’s an audio of it live from Manitoba, Canada, 2012 (starts around 27:30).

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There’s a terrific internal rhyme in the last stanza of “Duquesne Whistle”: “know me” with “oak tree’s:

The lights on my lady’s land are glowing
I wonder if they’ll know me next time ’round
I wonder if that old oak tree’s still standing
That old oak tree, the one we used to climb

“oak tree” repeats in the last line and the “e” vowel keeps the assonance alive when “me” turns into “we.” The “know me“/”oak tree” is a mosaic rhyme, and the whole song is a mosaic or sorts, with shifting and lively images rolling as if down a track, episodic even, like scenes taken in from inside a train.

Here’s the Dylan-approved video of the song again; it’s violent, as is several of his latest, but it’s got the Charlie Chaplin-esque figure and enough of Dylan himself scattered through it to disrupt the love/unrequited storyline to keep the mosaic feel alive:

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me” helps the rock n’ roll of “Narrow Way,” appearing in the refrain that’s repeated eleven times:

It’s a long road, it’s a long and narrow way
If I cant work up to you, you’ll surely have to work down to me someday.

As a Dylan word, “me” does seem to be one that other rhyming words have to look up to in terms of quantity.  In this song, “me” appears three times in rhyme, once with “sea”:

Yesterday, I could’ve thrown them all in the sea
Today, even one, may be too much for me

once, with “baby” internally:

Can’t walk them baby, you could do no wrong
Put your arms around me, where they belong

and once as a medial rhyme with “sleep” coupled with “weep” for an ensuing couplet:

You can guard me, while I sleep
Piss away, the tears I weep

The song is packed with terminal rhyming–every line ends in rhyme, while the separation of “you” and me” is just about guaranteed by the refrain’s continual threat that if I can’t get up to you, you have to get down to me. “you” and “me” are never going to get together in this song, but the rhyming is endlessly coupling.

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me” appears in a rhyming way twice in “Long And Wasted Years.” Once within the first ten lines with “see’:

is there a place we can go, is there anybody we can see?
maybe,
it’s the same for you as it is for me

and then in a sneaky internal rhyme with “behind” towards the end of the song:

I think that when my back was turned,
the whole world behind me burned

That’s a stretch, right? The terminal rhyme, “turned”/”burned” is the one that matters there.  The song is another you and me song or you vs me, but the lines with the “turned”/”burned” are non sequiturs–out of no where statements (seemingly) like the one Michael Gray admires in “Lonesome Day Blues,” “I wish my mother was still alive.” Another in this song is, “I wear dark glasses to cover my eyes.”
Listen for the rhymes; they please in this song, as they do, in all of Bob’s writing, but listen for those non sequiturs–they tell another story, maybe the real story.  Here he is live, singing it Stockholm fall of 2013. His voice actually sounds pretty good.

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In “Scarlet Town,” Dylan keeps to rhyming couplets and mostly perfect rhymes, the “me“/”he” rhyme in the second verse being one of them:

Scarlet Town in the month of May
Sweet William Holme on his deathbed lay
Mistress Mary by the side of the bed
Kissin’ his face and heapin’ prayers on his head
So brave, so true, so gentle is he
I’ll weep for him as he would weep for me
Little Boy Blue come your blow horn
In Scarlet Town, where I was born
In the beginning of the song where the town is depicted as perfect, bravery in the face of death, the promise of reciprocal weeping, and fairy tales references, perfect rhyming makes sense.  Later though, we sneak a peek at what’s under the covers of perfection and we see torn hems, the end being near, and hearts on platters.

Dylan tells us that evil and good live side by side in Scarlet Town–one side, the left side imperfect, no rhymes, right side, all perfect rhymes, or just about, in Scarlet Town, where “All things are beautiful in their time.”

Dylan singing it live, March 2013, upright at piano (thanks, D. Cantu):

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In light of how some of us still look so forward to seeing Bob or anticipate the arrival of new songs, the following verse from “Early Roman Kings” may sound a bit over the top in its hubris:

One day
You will ask for me
There’ll be no one else
That you’ll wanna see
Of course, this is not Bob singing about Bob–its a condemnation of those kings who acted like, well, kings. The speaker is “I” though, but it can be anyone driven by power, those even who made Detroit fall as the last verse alludes:

I was up on black mountain
The day Detroit fell
They killed ’em all off
And they sent ’em to hell
“Detroit made cars and cars made America,” he says in this superbowl commercial.  Is that “Things Have Changed” I hear in the background?

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