Music

50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics

We're gonna say it: Robert Allen Zimmerman is arguably the bard in modern times.

The artist otherwise known as Bob Dylan - who has just been awarded the Nobel Prize for literature -  has been responsible for some of the finest pieces of prose and poetry of the last century, and set them to some of the most culturally important songs that there have ever been. (Don't mean to drag you into this, Ed Sheeran, but you've a way to go yet mate.)

Dylan has done all this while remaining an idiosyncratic - and let's face it, curmudgeonly - character, prone to wild left-turns in style. Put simply: he'll chase any musical whim he fancies (see 1965's Bringing It All Back Home, where he abandoned acoustic instruments in favour of electric ones and Street Rock, his 1986 collaboration with hip-hop pioneer Kurtis Blow). 

In celebration of his new album, Shadows In The Night, which sees him 'uncover' a selection of songs originally made famous by Frank Sinatra, we've pulled together our 50 favourite bits of Dylan's lyrical wisdom. Clearly, we can't be comprehensive, so make sure you let us know your choice cuts, too, using the comments section below...

Shadows In The Night is out now

[Images: Rex/Allstar]

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics

    The Times They Are A-Changin'

    Album: The Times They Are A-Changin' (1964)
     
    "Come mothers and fathers,
    Throughout the land,
    And don’t criticize,
    What you can’t understand."
  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 1

    Blowin' In The Wind

    Album: The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (1963)

    "The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind."

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 2

    Idiot Wind

    Album: Blood On The Tracks (1975)

    "It was gravity which pulled us down and destiny which broke us apart."

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 3

    Rainy Day Women #12 & 35

    Album: Blonde On Blonde (1966)

    "Well, they’ll stone ya when you’re trying to be so good,
    They’ll stone ya just a-like they said they would,
    They’ll stone ya when you’re tryin’ to go home,
    Then they’ll stone ya when you’re there all alone,
    But I would not feel so all alone,
    Everybody must get stoned."

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 4

    Positively 4th Street

    Single: Positively 4th Street (1965)

    "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."
     

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 5

    Every Grain Of Sand

    Album: Shot Of Love (1981)

    "Don’t have the inclination to look back on any mistake."

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 6

    Brownsville Girl

    Album: Knocked Out Loaded (1986)

    "Strange how people who suffer together have stronger connections than people who are most content."

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 7

    Forever Young

    Album: Planet Waves (1974)
     
    "May your hands always be busy,
    May your feet always be swift,
    May you have a strong foundation,
    When the winds of changes shift."
  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 8

    It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)

    Album: Bringing It All Back Home (1965)

    "As human gods aim for their mark,
    Make everything from toy guns that spark,
    To flesh-coloured Christs that glow in the dark,
    Easy to see without looking too far,
    That not much is really sacred."
     

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 9

    John Wesley Harding

    Album: John Wesley Harding (1967)

    "I am a lonesome hobo,
    Without family or friends...
    ...Stay free from petty jealousies,
    Live by no man’s code,
    And hold your judgment for yourself,
    Lest you wind up on this road."

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 10

    Lay, Lady, Lay

    Album: Nashville Skyline (1969)

    "Why wait any longer for the one you love When he’s standing in front of you."

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 11

    Maggie's Farm

    Album: Bringing It All Back Home (1965)

    "Well, I try my best,
    To be just like I am,
    But everybody wants you,
    To be just like them."

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 12

    Union Sundown

    Album: Infidels (1983)

    "Democracy don’t rule the world,
    You’d better get that in your head,
    This world is ruled by violence,
    But I guess that’s better left unsaid."

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 13

    The Man In Me

    Album: New Morning (1970)

    "The man in me will hide sometimes to keep from bein’ seen,
    But that’s just because he doesn’t want to turn into some machine."

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 14

    Like A Rolling Stone

    Album: Highway 61 Revisited (1965)

    "When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose."

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  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 15

    Trust Yourself

    Album: Empire Burlesque (1985)

    "Trust yourself,
    Trust yourself to do the things that only you know best.
    Trust yourself,
    Trust yourself to do what’s right and not be second-guessed."

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 16

    Honest With Me

    Album: "Love And Theft" (2001)
     
    "I’m not sorry for nothin’ I’ve done,
    I’m glad I fought—I only wish we’d won."
  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 17

    Absolutely Sweet Marie

    Album: Blonde On Blonde (1966)

    "...to live outside the law you must be honest."

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 18

    Dear Landlord

    Album: John Wesley Harding (1967)

    "...if you don’t underestimate me,
    I won’t underestimate you."

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 19

    If You See Her, Say Hello

    Album: Blood On The Tracks (1975)

    "We had a falling-out, like lovers often will,
    And to think of how she left that night, it still brings me a chill.
    And though our separation, it pierced me to the heart,
    She still lives inside of me, we've never been apart."

     

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 20

    I Feel A Change Comin' On

    Album: Together Through Life (2009)

    "Well now what's the use in dreamin',
    You got better things to do.
    Dreams never did work for me anyway,
    Even when they did come true."
     

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 21

    Masters Of War

    Album: The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (1963)
     
    "Come you masters of war,
    You that build all the guns,
    You that build the death planes,
    You that build the big bombs,
    You that hide behind walls,
    You that hide behind desks,
    I just want you to know,
    I can see through your masks."
  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 22

    The Ballad Of Frankie Lee And Judas Priest

    Album: John Wesley Harding (1967)

    "So when you see your neighbour carryin' somethin',
    Help him with his load,
    And don't go mistaking Paradise,
    For that home across the road."
     

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 23

    Man In The Long Black Coat

    Album: Oh Mercy (1989)

    "...every man’s conscience is vile and depraved,
    You cannot depend on it to be your guide,
    When it’s you who must keep it satisfied."

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 24

    I'll Keep It With Mine

    Album: Biograph (1985) / Bootleg Series Vol. 9 (2010)

    "I can’t help it,
    If you might think I’m odd,
    If I say I’m not loving you for what you are,
    But for what you’re not."

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 25

    Not Dark Yet

    Album: Time Out Of Mind (1997)

    "Behind every beautiful thing there's been some kind of pain."

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 26

    Love Minus Zero / No Limit

    Album: Bringing It All Back Home (1965)

    “She knows there’s no success like failure and that failure’s no success at all.”

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 27

    To Be Alone With You

    Album: Nashville Skyline (1969)

    "To be alone with you,
    At the close of the day,
    With only you in view,
    While evening slips away,
    It only goes to show,
    That while life’s pleasures be few,
    The only one I know,
    Is when I’m alone with you."

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 28

    Blind Willie McTell

    Album: The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961–1991 (1991)

    "Well, God is in His heaven,
    and we all want what’s His.
    But power and greed and corruptible seed,
    seem to be all that there is."

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 29

    Mississippi

    Album: "Love And Theft" (2001)

    "You can always come back, but you can't come back all the way."

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 30

    Tight Connection To My Heart (Has Anyone Seen My Love)

    Album: Empire Burlesque (1985)

    "What looks large from a distance, close-up ain't never that big."

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 31

    Open The Door, Homer

    Album: The Basement Tapes (1975)

    “'Take care of all your memories,'
    Said my friend, Mick,
    'For you cannot relive them.'”

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 32

    Buckets Of Rain

    Album: Blood On The Tracks (1975)

    "Life is sad,
    Life is a bust,
    All ya can do is do what you must."

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 33

    One Too Many Mornings

    Album: The Times They Are A-Changin' (1964)

    "You're right from your side, I'm right from mine."

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 34

    To Ramona

    Album: Another Side Of Bob Dylan (1965)

    "The flowers of the city,
    Though breathlike, get deathlike at times.
    And there's no use in tryin',
    To deal with the dyin',
    Though I cannot explain that in lines."

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 35

    Hurricane

    Album: Desire (1976)

    "An innocent man in a living hell,
    That’s the story of the Hurricane,
    But it won’t be over till they clear his name,
    And give him back the time he’s done..."
     
    N.B. This song challenged the imprisonment of the boxer Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter, in 1967, on a charge of murder. In 1985, Carter's sentence was quashed and he was released, but only after serving 20 years for a crime he didn't commit.
  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 36

    Just Like A Woman

    Album: Blonde On Blonde (1966)

    "She takes just like a woman, yes, she does,
    She makes love just like a woman, yes, she does,
    And she aches just like a woman,
    But she breaks just like a little girl."

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 37

    Subterranean Homesick Blues

    Album: Bringing It All Back Home (1965)

    "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 38

    Death Is Not The End

    Album: Down In The Groove (1988)

    "When you’re sad and when you’re lonely,
    And you haven’t got a friend,
    Just remember that death is not the end.
    And all that you’ve held sacred,
    Falls down and does not mend,
    Just remember that death is not the end."

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 39

    Dignity

    Album: Greatest Hits Volume 3 (1994)

    "So many roads, so much at stake,
    So many dead ends, I’m at the edge of the lake.
    Sometimes I wonder what it’s gonna take,
    To find dignity."

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 40

    I Threw It All Away

    Album: Nashville Skyline (1969)
     

    "Love is all there is, it makes the world go ’round,
    Love and only love, it can’t be denied,
    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."

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 41

    It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry

    Album: Highway 61 Revisited (1965)

    "...I wanna be your lover, baby,
    I don’t wanna be your boss."

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 42

    Workingman's Blues #2

    Album: Modern Times (2006)

    "Sleep is like a temporary death."

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 43

    Talkin' New York

    Album: Bob Dylan (1962)

    "Now, a very great man once said,
    That some people rob you with a fountain pen."

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 44

    Oh, Sister

    Album: Desire (1976)

    "Don’t turn away, you’ll create sorrow,
    Time is an ocean but it ends at the shore,
    You may not see me tomorrow."

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 45

    Trying To Get To Heaven

    Album: Time Out Of Mind (1997)

    "I tried to give you everything,
    That your heart was longing for,
    I’m just going down the road feeling bad..."

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 46

    Talkin' World War III Blues

    Album: The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (1963)

    "Half of the people can be part right all of the time,
    Some of the people can be all right part of the time,
    But all of the people can’t be all right all of the time,
    I think Abraham Lincoln said that,
    “I’ll let you be in my dreams if I can be in yours”,
    I said that."

  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 47

    It's All Over Now, Baby Blue

    Album: Bringing It All Back Home (1965)

    "The highway is for gamblers, better use your sense."
  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 48

    All Along The Watchtower

    Album: John Wesley Harding (1967)

    "Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth,
    None of them along the line know what any of it is worth."
  • 50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics 49

    Floater (Too Much To Ask)

    Album: "Love And Theft" (2001)

    "...old, young, age don’t carry weight,
    It doesn’t matter in the end."