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  • Writer's pictureCreg

Down in the Dumps With Dylan


I don't know why we humans desperately need the affection and love of others. Warmth, comfort, trust, vulnerability all of that hogwash, but it happens to everyone. We say we are done with the love game, then we ante up again. Those in-between moments though between the star-crossed lovers, you go through a love twisted stage of grief.

  1. Denial - We getting back together I love you baby. This is a joke.

  2. Anger- This motherfucker really thought.

  3. Bargaining - I made the mistakes.. I was thoughtless, I needed to spend more time with my partner than my friends. I can sacrifice my identity a little more for a warm bed. I am in. Are you?

  4. Depression- Lots of self-loathing. booze levels are rising at an alarming rate, music sounds better — hurts more.

  5. Acceptance - Forever slightly wounded - I am shaped by these experiences, but better off alone ..... until the process is repeated and to be repeated for the remainder of time.

How does this tie into Dylan, faithful reader? Dylan has written some of the most poignant breakup songs gifted to our ears. He was hurt, he did the hurting, they hurt each other. The visceral words that you hear from that raspy voice and realize that is what you were feeling but did not have the words, thanks for letting me borrow them for 3 minutes plus.

Odd isn't it? Borrowing the words, and during the times Dylan lets those words breath with the blowing of his harmonica or the strumming of his guitar, you sit in your own world of self-projection. We can be inherently self-absorbed when listening to music, coating our own experiences on thick, from the careful words chosen by a poet. Our desperate need to find precise personal meaning with universal stories that can still surprisingly feel so accurate. That is the difference between a horoscope and songwriting, friend. It is not throwing something at a dartboard and hoping it lands. Dylan put these songs into the ether for a reason, for his own, for those who inspired them, and maybe for us — please self-indulge.

Dylan has a multitude of impressive songs when he hit the tallest heights of simpler songs and transitioned to the more multidimensional type of songwriting. You can never point your finger and say this is what that's about, BUT damn could he write a personal one too. Here is a mix of both,

I have a theory, Dylan has songs for all 5 stages of heartbreak grief. For whatever stage you are on faithful reader, I hope it will be a companion till you get through it. Or if anyone wants to reminisce on those days of glory and tears please keep reading. Just maybe you want to enjoy the words of the most brilliant songwriter of all time. idk.

The ebbs and flows and nature of story tellin in these songs are just like us on the spectrum. A swinging pendulum of lots of feelings and lots of nothingness. I put these songs into the category that anchors the feeling of the songs even if they pass through the others. Again you might feel these emotions at different times and different orders, just giving you the traditional run down for continuity's sake.

Disclaimer: This is not me trying to pin a meaning on any of these songs - the songs could mean something different to anyone at any time, a cool exercise though to attempt a few interwoven narratives. I will give more historical Dylan context in another article.

Why would you be spending time making this then? We already have Blood on the Tracks. Well fuck you, that's not as fun is it?



One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)

From Blonde on Blonde

Twice in two different stanzas, a line begins with " I couldn't see..." The repetition of the narrator himself not seeing the difference between them, the difference in feelings, and the awareness of how it was going to affect him and his counterpart. This song is about being in denial about how your relationship is going, how much you really know about them, and the inevitability of waking up from it. Choosing a more upbeat song for this list. Bob is doing the heartbreaking here. It is all downhill from here.

Standout Lyrics:

An’ I told you, as you clawed out my eyes

That I never really meant to do you any harm

Best Paired with: Ignoring your ex's text messages.

Boots of Spanish Leather

From The Times They Are A-Changin'

Ever have been in a situation, maybe it was your partner relocating for a new job, traveling more, or maybe attended a different college? Nothing inherently wrong with any of those realities. Just the literal distance creating the metaphorical distance. The writing convention Dylan does here, switches back and forth between the two lovers writing letters to each other. It cuts deep. The juxtaposition of going from the heartbreaker to heartbroken, making it painfully obvious to everyone but the guy still in love that it is over. Dylan does this by making the girl have constant avoidance of the love and affection being written on the other side by asking if he wants any material things as she travels. Admit it, you have been in this situation before, on either side of the coin or maybe both at different stages in your life. It makes it hurt twice as hard cause you have empathy for both characters. Either way, the man finds out too late that it's over, denial is a bitch.

Standout Lyrics:


Oh, but I just thought you might want something fine

Made of silver or of golden

Either from the mountains of Madrid

Or from the coast of Barcelona


Oh, but if I had the stars from the darkest night

And the diamonds from the deepest ocean

I’d forsake them all for your sweet kiss

For that’s all I’m wishin’ to be ownin’

Best Paired with: This meme

Til I Fell in Love with You

From Time Out of Mind

You might find this an interesting place for the heartbreak grief breakdown. This is a straight-up song about "hey life was pretty fucking chill until I met this girl and it went to shit, and now I am literal shit." The denial is that life is so much better when you are in a relationship. Bobby D needs to relax and pick up the pieces. It will get better, old chum.

Standout Lyrics:

Well, my nerves are exploding and my body’s tense

I feel like the whole world got me pinned up against the fence

I’ve been hit too hard, I’ve seen too much

Nothing can heal me now, but your touch

I don’t know what I’m gonna do

I was all right ’til I fell in love with you

Best Paired With: Going outside and playing frisbee with your pals. (Life will be okay)



Don't Think Twice, It's Alright

From The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan

I like to call this a "kick rocks" song. It is a straight-up killer. One of the best breakup songs of all time. It makes me want to break up with someone and give them words sprinkled with a sneer. You could have put this into the acceptance category, but it is just a tad too spiteful. Yeah, you were kind of shitty, and I am here to remind you of that, but never again. He says in the song "I ain't saying you treated me unkind," but most of the lyrics say otherwise. I could put this whole song in the standout lyrics.. maybe I will.

Standout Lyrics: (Whole Song)

It ain’t no use to sit and wonder why, babe

It don’t matter, anyhow

An’ it ain’t no use to sit and wonder why, babe

If you don’t know by now

When your rooster crows at the break of dawn

Look out your window and I’ll be gone

You’re the reason I’m trav’lin’ on

Don’t think twice, it’s all right

It ain’t no use in turnin’ on your light, babe

That light I never knowed

An’ it ain’t no use in turnin’ on your light, babe

I’m on the dark side of the road

Still 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 talkin’ anyway

So don’t think twice, it’s all right

It ain’t no use in callin’ out my name, gal

Like you never did before

It ain’t no use in callin’ out my name, gal

I can’t hear you anymore

I’m a-thinkin’ and a-wond’rin’ all the way down the road

I once loved a woman, a child I’m told

I give her my heart but she wanted my soul

But don’t think twice, it’s all right

I’m walkin’ down that long, lonesome road, babe

Where I’m bound, I can’t tell

But goodbye’s too good a word, gal

So I’ll just say fare thee well

I ain’t sayin’ 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

Best Paired With: Putting the song on repeat. Letting go, moving literally and figuratively. Delete those photos buddy. Delete that numba. Listen to this anytime you feel weak again.. and you are thinking just maybe...

Just Like a Woman

From Blonde on Blonde

We have been there — verbally or in our own heads. The dismantling of a person you once adored. Breaking them down into pieces, examing those pieces even further, which happens to be their ugliest traits. No longer wanting to look for the complexities only the flaws. The internal rhyme scheme using takes, fakes, makes, aches with being a woman, but she breaks like a little girl. You are not all you presented yourself to be, phony.

Standout Lyrics:

Please don’t let on that you knew me when

I was hungry and it was your world

Ah, you fake just like a woman, yes, you do

You make love just like a woman, yes, you do

Then you ache just like a woman

But you break just like a little girl

Best Paired With: A venting session with a friend you can trust not to judge you for the shitty things you might regret saying.

Positively 4th Street

A single between Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde

A straightforward song about hey I am changing and you are not happy about that, but fuck off. Classic. People get comfortable and are afraid of their partner not doing, thinking, or saying the same shit they were spewing when they were 19. They want consistency and control if it intimidates, scares, or makes them insecure about their own footing in life. Hoping potentially you might fail at whatever "new" you are attempting to create. Shit starts to go astray. This is a song that does not necessarily have to fit into the breakup narrative, but in the name of reader-response criticism, and for the sake of this article it fits nicely.

Standout Lyrics:

Yes, I wish that for just one time

You could stand inside my shoes

You’d know what a drag it is

To see you

Best Paired With: Continuing the process.

Idiot Wind

From Blood on the Tracks

Another personal favorite of mine. No objective interpretations. No matter, Idiot Wind is a tour de force. Leaking all feelings —knowing there is no going back. A build-up to invoke whatever emotions that were attempting to reach the surface on your listen will come faster as a result of it. It is an introspective look on relationships, but also ripping that same relationship and showing spite to the intended listener. For those who are just getting into the Dylan game, Blood on the Track is known for being the divorce album. What is curious about these lyrics, he shoots down his former lover but does not disregard his own part in all of it with his last portion of the song "You’ll never know the hurt I suffered nor the pain I rise above /And I’ll never know the same about you, your holiness or your kind of love/And it makes me feel so sorry" and "We’re idiots, babe / It’s a wonder we can even feed ourselves" It is such a difficult balance. To be so fucking hurt and pissed at someone, but also trying to objectively analyze your relationship. It is supposed to be disorganized and overwhelming. Dylan doesn't hesitate but invites the chaos. The song recalls what went wrong, what has changed, accusations, metaphorical deaths, and more. Honestly deserves its own article so I am going to stop here.

Standout Lyrics:

I can’t feel you anymore, I can’t even touch the books you’ve read

Every time I crawl past your door, I been wishin’ I was somebody else instead

Down the highway, down the tracks, down the road to ecstasy

I followed you beneath the stars, hounded by your memory

And all your ragin’ glory

Best Paired With: Pen and paper or keyboard and document. Reflect as you go on your own shit or try to make sense of his.

Ballad in Plain D

From Another Side of Bob Dylan

Ever have a significant other's friend hate your guts? External forces creating tension within your bond. Not angry at the lover themselves, but the noise around it that may have caused the end too soon. An end, that in your eyes never should have come to pass. Ballad in Plain D tells a story of a "could-be dream-lover of his lifetime," that was tarnished from her family. It is one-sided. That is usually how it goes when you are pissed. Admit it, brother, you are not being the most cerebral when you are blaming others. The narrator juxtaposes his spite for the family with his awe for the lover. This is a special one, not for the premise, but for the way, it's told. It is a methodical step-by-step process of a verbal interaction that was the final blow to the relationship. Only looking from the side that bills him as the hero of the story. It is patient in its telling and poetic in its words.

"All is gone, all is gone, admit it, take flight I gagged in contradiction, tears blinding my sight My mind it was mangled, I ran into the night Leaving all of love's ashes behind me"

The tale ends with one of my favorite ending verses from his writing.

Standout Lyrics:

Ah, my friends from the prison, they ask unto me

"How good, how good does it feel to be free?"

And I answer them most mysteriously

"Are birds free from the chains of the skyway?"

Best Paired With: One-time cathartic venting.



To Ramona

From Another Side of Bob Dylan

Maybe one day. "I"d forever talk to you/ But soon my words/ Would turn into a meaningless ring" One person or the other is going to eventually stop listening to what the other person is saying. One person going one way, the other going the opposite. The bargaining of trying to get them to pivot. Pivot your way, as they do the same. Maybe one day, one of us will buck, right?

Standout Lyrics:

I’ve heard you say many times

That you’re better ’n no one

And no one is better ’n you

If you really believe that

You know you got

Nothing to win and nothing to lose

From fixtures and forces and friends

Your sorrow does stem

That hype you and type you

Making you feel

That you must be exactly like them

Best Paired With: Letting go of that idea that pivot will happen.

You're A Big Girl Now

From Blood on the Tracks

OOOOOf. It will be a time when you have to let go of any claim you had on the person whose life was intertwined with your own. It is the shittiest human feeling of pure jealousy and arrested development. Dylan refers to the breakup meaning she is her own woman now and alludes to her sleeping with other men. No matter how evolved this species gets, plus 5,000 on not feeling hurt to the bone when you get that news for the first time. It is a petty thing, but when you were in for the long haul it is hard to fathom this is a new reality, "Why am I in pain when you are not anymore? When did I become the stagnant one? Of all the gut-wrenching news I heard, all I really want is to throw that aside because in a fucked up way I still want you, how can I do that?"

Pathetic and realistic, such as life.

Standout Lyrics:

A change in the weather is known to be extreme

But what’s the sense of changing horses in midstream?

I’m going out of my mind, oh, oh

With a pain that stops and starts

Best Paired With: Unfollowing or deleting your social media.

Shelter From the Storm

From Blood on the Tracks

This song addresses the perks of love. There is a time when the internal chaos intersects with the outside noise becoming all too familiar and overwhelming. You will find a bag of bones in a meat suit with a certain gentleness and care that has not occurred in your insignificant existence just yet. Within that infrastructure, you will lock eyes and discover your own salvation. Not only someone to calm the chaos — turn down the noise, but someone who helped you become more you. "Creeg lighten up on the melodrama" Fair faithful reader. Life is not that serious but at a certain point, everyone needs shelter from the storm. This song is the realization whatever that comfort and the safe place were that his lover provided is now gone, but man what would he do for it to return. One of my personal favorites.

Standout Lyrics:

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”

Best Paired With: Drinking bourbon unironically.


From Desire

Most of this article is breaking away from the historical context of Dylan. This song was written for his then estranged wife, perhaps a last-ditch effort. Dylan recalls past memories, self-evaluation, and promises of continued devotion and love. The closest thing I think we will see to the real Dylan, not the illusion of getting on his knees and begging.

Standout Lyrics:

You must forgive me my unworthiness

Best Paired With: Regret



Girl From North Country

From The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan

Similar to sound to Boots of Spanish Leather, a tad bit more depressing. The typical metaphor of winter pertaining to the end of a love affair. What is left after? This song ponders on the fact of how much should I think of this person? Do I care? Does she? Does she remember? It is a simple song with a relaxed rhyme scheme of ABAB. The use of imagery and idiom gives the song a more mystical feeling that is appropriate to heartbreak. The concept of "She once was a true love of mine" Flipping the meaning of true love on its head. Slowly transitioning to acceptance, but damn it, Bob plays that harmonica with such sadness is it forever stuck in this stage.

Standout Lyrics:

I’m a-wonderin’ if she remembers me at all

Many times I’ve often prayed

In the darkness of my night

In the brightness of my day

Best Paired With: Attempting your own poetry, It is okay, baby, don't be embarrassed. Nobody is looking.

I Threw It All Away

From Nashville Skyline

Oh yeah, buddy. No need for grandeur or finger-pointing. Fold your hand and admit it, you are the one who fucked things up. Bob goes country on us on this track. What is more depressing than that? Ending three of the four stanzas with "I threw it all away." I imagine a guy couple drinks too deep venting to his new tinder date making it all too transparent that he is not over his ex.

Standout Lyrics:

No matter what you think about it

You just won’t be able to do without it

Take a tip from one who’s tried

Best Paired With: This tweet

If You See Her, Say Hello

From Blood on the Tracks

Soft spot song. Another lingering on acceptance, but too much sadness in the heart. Whatever hate you feel or time spent away, this song is acknowledging things will never be the same. Whatever it is that you are, has been fundamentally changed. This is during a raw stage of being aware of that, but in a way that is negatively affecting him. It is a beautiful song showing the grace of a relationship. Attempting to let a person move on even if it puts you through hell. A simple sentiment of if you see her, say hello is so nuanced. You hear it, you know exactly what it means. A combination of selfless love, loyalty, the push-pull of holding on or letting go, and the intention and pretending of haven moved on.

Standout Lyrics:

And I've never gotten used to it

I've just learned to turn it off

Either I'm too sensitive

Or else I'm gettin' soft

Best Paired With: Being Aloof

Visions of Johanna

From Blonde on Blonde

I am a little upset with myself here, lads. I am not pigeon-holing one of Bob Dylan's best songs of all time. It contains so much with so little. I am going to take the first part of the puzzle of the song — expand it.

The singer separates himself from his own actions in this tale. He creates almost two versions of himself. He references himself in the third person when he is commenting on his actions or thoughts of himself that portray him in a negative light. "Just Louise and her lover so entwined/And these visions of Johanna that conquer my mind" The speaker is displacing his sorrows for his former lover and physically putting them onto his new one. Bob paints the picture of love-making as something to quiet the noise rather than healing the soul. Louise provides for him words and bodily comfort in pockets of time, it is just a constant reminder that his idea of perfection — Johanna is not here. Describing her ghost-like something that can’t be touched or abstained in the mortal world. Forever seeking something grander that is now taking hold of his whole reason for living. He too continues to reference figures of transcendence with Mona Lisa and Madonna. Questioning his own mortality and sanity in the meantime. His own self-worth is shot — his salvation is missing. Depressing as fuck.

Standout Lyrics:

The fiddler, he now steps to the road

He writes ev’rything’s been returned which was owed

On the back of the fish truck that loads

While my conscience explodes

The harmonicas play the skeleton keys and the rain

And these visions of Johanna are now all that remain

Best Paired With: A chastity belt.



One Too Many Mornings

From The Times They Are A-Changin'

An enlightened time when one realizes that too many maco/micro arguments have happened. They have strayed too far off the path too many times. Not being able to see the other's point of view no longer. Somewhere down the road they stopped putting the effort into that which leads to the demise of their partnership. Bob takes us to this small scene of thinking of a time where this bed- room - home was a safe and loving place. This can't be fixed - they have become all too great at verbal jousting. The genius of this song is that says something so clearly about breaking up and accepting it. I will save it for standout lyrics.

Standout Lyrics:

It’s a restless hungry feeling

That don’t mean no one no good

When ev’rything I’m a-sayin’

You can say it just as good.

You’re right from your side

I’m right from mine

We’re both just one too many mornings

An’ a thousand miles behind

Best Paired With: Driving with the radio off.

It Ain't Me Babe

From Another Side of Bob Dylan

(Preferred interpretation is the response to being the figure of protest songs.)

It Ain’t Me Babe is a song of self-acknowledgment and reflection. Homie is just straight up saying. “I am not cut out for what you are asking me to be” It has hints of self-deprecation and excuse-making, but it is honest. The character is admitting that he is not the person who is willing to sacrifice everything for a lover. Realizing and accepting this, it is time to move on.

Standout Lyrics:

Go melt back into the night, babe

Everything inside is made of stone

There’s nothing in here moving

An’ anyway I’m not alone

Best Paired With: This gif

It's All Over Now, Baby Blue

From Bringing It All Back Home

This song is a tad bit bitter, but that doesn’t mean it's not acceptance, baby. Bob breaks down various characters who abandoned their posts and taking what’s theirs.

All your seasick sailors, they are rowing home

All your reindeer armies, are all going home

The lover who just walked out your door

Has taken all his blankets from the floor

Really hitting it home there is no chance for reconciling. Just like he is, his lover needs to begin her new path with learned experiences from past ones. Ending each stanza with its all over now baby blue. Bob is not just suggesting this as he wants the best for her. He also taunts her with images and thoughts that suggest the former love has changed for the worse, but she cannot return to her former role — neither can he — or them.

Standout Lyrics:

The vagabond who’s rapping at your door

Is standing in the clothes that you once wore

Strike another match, go start anew

And it’s all over now, Baby Blue

Best Paired With: Letting go of the all so holy nostalgic memory lane.

Most Likely You Go Your Way (and I'll Go Mine)

From Blonde on Blonde

A guy is done with the mind games. The teeter-totter bullshit is done. No wishy-washiness knocking on his door. The man is finally over it, now declaring when the chips fall - who will actually be better off. Ahh yes, faithful reader. The time has come. When the games, the manipulation does not phase you. The ex-lover attempts to use words and other men to get a reaction, but it is null. Rock on, brothers.

Standout Lyrics:

Other kinda lover

And yes, I believe you do

You say my kisses are not like his

But this time I’m not gonna tell you why that is

I’m just gonna let you pass

Best Paired With: This Gif


Bonus Track - (Rinse and Repeat)

You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go

From Blood on the Tracks

This song is perfect, with some undertones of pessimism and cynicism and all other types of isms in this article. This song gives us the real reason why we keep going through the stages of heartbreak grief. It is not only our animalistic side looking for a mate, or the desire for security and comfort. It is more soulful than that.

I’ll look for you in old Honolulu

San Francisco, Ashtabula

Yer gonna have to leave me now, I know

But I’ll see you in the sky above

In the tall grass, in the ones I love

People and the ones you love are forever instilled in the way you see the world and the experiences you endure. You take pieces of each person you part with, and grow for the better. This song acknowledges that most relationships end in turmoil, but maybe it’s still worth it. Not everything needs to be everlasting. He is speaking to his new lover, one that makes him feel things deeper than before. He knows the risks but chooses to move forward even though she “will make him lonesome” when she goes. The song accurately portrays the optimism you feel when you fall in love. It is some goofy movie shit, but Bobbo nails it. Who knows, maybe this time for the narrator, for me, or for you it will work out.

Standout Lyrics:

Flowers on the hillside, bloomin’ crazy

Crickets talkin’ back and forth in rhyme

Blue river runnin’ slow and lazy

I could stay with you forever and never realize the time

Best Paired With: These gifs

Cheers lads, enjoy all the rides.

- Creeg

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