“Senor” (1978)

 

Senor” is an exhausting song, or rather its about exhaustion.  Its universe is the long trail, the dusty unending road, where people on it just keep asking questions like, “Do you know where we’re headin’?” and “How long are we gonna be ridin’?”  It’s a song begging to use the word “still.”  And Dylan does use it all at once three times in the third verse:

There’s a wicked wind still blowin’ on that upper deck
There’s an iron cross still hangin’ down from around her neck
There’s a marchin’ band still playin’ in that vacant lot
Where she held me in her arms one time and said, “Forget me not”

And its use creates an internal rhyming with “blowin,’” “hangin,” and “playin.” Those words are gerunds, nouns formed from verbs, action transformed into inaction. Verb into noun.  Movement and stillness.  The forever blowing, hanging, and playing (still playing Bob?), create still pictures–like paintings or photographs do.  The wind still blowin on that upper deck frames the upper deck; as the cross still handing freeze-frames “her neck.” Likewise, the vacant lot is forever not emptied of any folk but forever populated by a marching band.
It works on so many poetic levels and so does his voice when he sings this verse.  Have a listen from this live performance:
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“Make You Feel My Love” (1997)

Listen closely to this verse from “Make You Feel My Love
When the evening shadows and the stars appear
And there is no one there to dry your tears
I could hold you for a million years
To make you feel my love

Something sneaky to the ear is going on here.  When I initially heard the first line I thought “shadows” was a verb, as if the evening shadows something, but “and” joins “shadows” to “the stars” making that impossible. “appears”/”tears”/years” are the rhyming words.  But “stars appear” with “your tears” does something else for the ear.  I think it’s the t in “stars” as well as the r that accompanies the r in “your” and the t in “tears” that gives it a sing-ability, a tonal unity good for the singer, good for the listener, and distant for the reader.
As Christopher Ricks says, “Every song, by definition, is realized only in performance.”  I think this can be said of this verse–listen closely to the way Dylan sings it and I think you’ll hear  the sounds from those letters mesh into words to create a tone that echoes throughout the song and perhaps the entire cd.