The Picasso of Song – Bob Dylan Turns 74

by Tony Shea on May 24, 2015

in MUSIC, POETRY

bob dylan

Bob Dylan turns 74 today. The Picasso of songwriters, Dylan is number 1 on the list, the greatest song writer of them all, living or dead, a highly prolific virtuoso who has evolved and deepened with age, a rare artist who has remained relevant with the passage of time. Using all of humanity as his canvass, Dylan’s songs are highly detailed literary narratives interweaving rhyming poetry and dialogue, miniaturized novels alive with characters. Dylan has explored numerous genres in his career from folk and blues to rock n’ roll to swing and even jazz in service to his lyrical muse, selling more than 100M albums along the way. Seeming never to have taken his considerable artistic gifts for granted, Dylan has been working non-stop for more than fifty years, releasing 36 studio albums (as well as numerous live albums), while remaining perpetually on the road in what has been called the “Never Ending Tour.”

Here’s my top five list of the best of Bob Dylan:

5. THINGS HAVE CHANGED


“Things Have Changed” is a song from the 2000 film Wonder Boys. Released as a single, it went on to win the Oscar for Best Original Song ( a nice addition to go along with Dylan’s 11 Grammy Awards).

A worried man with a worried mind
No one in front of me and nothing behind
There’s a woman on my lap and she’s drinking champagne
Got white skin, got assassin’s eyes
I’m looking up into the sapphire tinted skies
I’m well dressed, waiting on the last train
Standing on the gallows with my head in a noose
Any minute now I’m expecting all hell to break loose

People are crazy and times are strange
I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range
I used to care, but things have changed

This place ain’t doing me any good
I’m in the wrong town, I should be in Hollywood
Just for a second there I thought I saw something move
Gonna take dancing lessons do the jitterbug rag
Ain’t no shortcuts, gonna dress in drag
Only a fool in here would think he’s got anything to prove
Lot of water under the bridge, Lot of other stuff too
Don’t get up gentlemen, I’m only passing through

People are crazy and times are strange
I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range
I used to care, but things have changed

I’ve been walking forty miles of bad road
If the bible is right, the world will explode
I’ve been trying to get as far away from myself as I can
Some things are too hot to touch
The human mind can only stand so much
You can’t win with a losing hand
Feel like falling in love with the first woman I meet
Putting her in a wheel barrow and wheeling her down the street
I hurt easy, I just don’t show it
You can hurt someone and not even know it
The next sixty seconds could be like an eternity
Gonna get low down, gonna fly high
All the truth in the world adds up to one big lie
I’m love with a woman who don’t even appeal to me
Mr. Jinx and Miss Lucy, they jumped in the lake
I’m not that eager to make a mistake

People are crazy and times are strange
I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range
I used to care, but things have changed

4. SHELTER FROM THE STORM


From the 1973 album Blood on the Tracks which peaked at #1 on the Billboard album charts.

’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”

3. WHEN I PAINT MY MASTERPIECE


Dylan wrote this song back in 1971. It was first released as a cover by The Band on their fourth record Cahoots. The Band is of course crucial to the overall Bob Dylan DNA, having served ably as his backing band for a number of years and helping him create the Basement Tapes so I though it fair to include their version here.

Oh, the streets of Rome are filled with rubble
Ancient footprints are everywhere
You can almost think that you’re seein’ double
On a cold, dark night on the Spanish Stairs
Got to hurry on back to my hotel room
Where I’ve got me a date with Botticelli’s niece
She promised that she’d be right there with me
When I paint my masterpiece

Oh, the hours I’ve spent inside the Coliseum
Dodging lions and wastin’ time
Oh, those mighty kings of the jungle, I could hardly stand to see ’em
Yes, it sure has been a long, hard climb
Train wheels runnin’ through the back of my memory
When I ran on the hilltop following a pack of wild geese
Someday, everything is gonna be smooth like a rhapsody
When I paint my masterpiece

Sailin’ round the world in a dirty gondola
Oh, to be back in the land of Coca-Cola!
I left Rome and landed in Brussels
On a plane ride so bumpy that I almost cried
Clergymen in uniform and young girls pullin’ muscles
Everyone was there to greet me when I stepped inside
Newspapermen eating candy
Had to be held down by big police
Someday, everything is gonna be different
When I paint my masterpiece

2. DON’T THINK TWICE


Appearing on The Freewheelin Bob Dylan from 1963, this song has been covered by dozens of different artists including Dolly Parton, Elvis Presley, Peter Paul and Mary, and Billy Bragg among many others.

It ain’t no use to sit and wonder why, babe
It don’t matter, anyhow
And it ain’t no use to sit and wonder why, babe
If you don’t know by now
When your rooster crows at the breaks of dawn
Look out your window and I’ll be gone
You’re the reason I’m traveling on

Don’t think twice, it’s all right.

It ain’t no use in turning on your light, babe
That light I never knowed
And it ain’t no use in turning on your light, babe
I’m on the dark side of the road
But I wish there was somethin’ you would do or say
To try and make me change my mind and stay
We never did too much talking anyway

So don’t think twice, it’s all right.

It ain’t no use in calling out my name, gal
Like you never done before
It ain’t no use in calling out my name, gal
I can’t hear you any more
I’m a-thinking and a-wond’rin’ walking down the road
I once loved a woman, a child I’m told
I give her my heart but she wanted my soul

Don’t think twice, it’s all right.

So long honey, babe
Where I’m bound, I can’t tell
Goodbye’s too good a word, babe
So I’ll just say fare thee well
I ain’t saying you treated me unkind
You could have done better but I don’t mind
You just kinda wasted my precious time
But don’t think twice, it’s all right.

1. TANGLED UP IN BLUE

Rolling Stone magazine listed this song at #68 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. They also listed Dylan’s song “Like a Rolling Stone” in the top slot; alas the song does not appear here because I don’t like it. This is my best Dylan song, also from Blood on the Tracks.

Early one morning the sun was shining
I was laying in bed
Wond’ring if she’d changed it all
If her hair was still red
Her folks they said our lives together
Sure was gonna be rough
They never did like Mama’s homemade dress
Papa’s bankbook wasn’t big enough
And I was standing on the side of the road
Rain falling on my shoes
Heading out for the East Coast
Lord knows I’ve paid some dues getting through

Tangled up in blue.

She was married when we first meet
Soon to be divorced
I helped her out of a jam I guess
But I used a little too much force
We drove that car as far as we could
Abandoned it out West
Split it up on a dark sad night
Both agreeing it was best
She turned around to look at me
As I was walking away
I heard her say over my shoulder
“We’ll meet again someday on the avenue”

Tangled up in blue.

I had a job in the great north woods
Working as a cook for a spell
But I never did like it all that much
And one day the ax just fell
So I drifted down to New Orleans
Where I happened to be employed
Working for a while on a fishing boat

Right outside of Delacroix
But all the while I was alone
The past was close behind
I seen a lot of women
But she never escaped my mind and I just grew
Tangled up in blue.
She was working in a topless place
And I stopped in for a beer
I just kept looking at her side of her face
In the spotlight so clear
And later on as the crowd thinned out
I’s just about to do the same
She was standing there in back of my chair
Said to me “Don’t I know your name ?”
I muttered something underneath my breath
She studied the lines on my face
I must admit I felt a little uneasy
When she bent down to tie the laces of my shoe

Tangled up in blue.

She lit a burner on the stove and offered me a pipe
“I thought you’d never say hello” she said
“You look like the silent type”
Then she opened up a book of poems
And handed it to me
Written by an Italian poet
From the thirteenth century
And every one of them words rang true
And glowed like burning coal
Pouring off of every page
Like it was written in my soul from me to you

Tangled up in blue

I lived with them on Montague Street
In a basement down the stairs
There was music in the caf,s at night
And revolution in the air
Then he started into dealing with slaves
And something inside of him died
She had to sell everything she owned
And froze up inside
And when finally the bottom fell out
I became withdrawn
The only thing I knew how to do
Was to keep on keeping on like a bird that flew

Tangled up in blue.

So now I’m going back again
I got to get her somehow
All the people we used to know
They’re an illusion to me now
Some are mathematicians
Some are carpenter’s wives
Don’t know how it all got started
I don’t what they’re doing with their lives
But me I’m still on the road
Heading for another joint
We always did feel the same
We just saw it from a different point of view

Tangled up in Blue.

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Tony Shea ( Editor-in-Chief, New York)

Tony Shea is based in New York, having recently moved from Los Angeles after more than a decade on the sunny coast. His short films have won numerous awards and screened at major festivals around the world including Comic-Con. As a musician, he is the lead singer for Los Angeles rock n’ roll band Candygram For Mongo (C4M) candygramformongo.com who has been a featured artist on Clear Channel Radio’s Discover New Music Program and whose songs have been heard on Battlestar Gallactica (Syfy Channel) and Unhitched (Fox) among other shows and films.

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