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50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics

50 Pieces of wisdom from Bob Dylan lyrics

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In celebration of his new album, Shadows In The Night, which sees him 'uncover' a selection of songs originally made famous by Frank Sinatra, we've pulled together our 50 favourite bits of Dylan's lyrical wisdom.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]

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."

Blowin' In The Wind

Album:The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (1963)

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

Idiot Wind

Album:Blood On The Tracks (1975)

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

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."

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."

Every Grain Of Sand

Album:Shot Of Love (1981)

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

Brownsville Girl

Album: Knocked Out Loaded (1986)

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

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."

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."

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."

Lay, Lady, Lay

Album:Nashville Skyline (1969)

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

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."

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."

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."

Like A Rolling Stone

Album:Highway 61 Revisited (1965)

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

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."

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."

Absolutely Sweet Marie

Album:Blonde On Blonde (1966)

" live outside the law you must be honest."

Dear Landlord

Album:John Wesley Harding (1967)

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

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."


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."

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."

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."

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."

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."

Not Dark Yet

Album:Time Out Of Mind (1997)

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

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.”

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."

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."


Album: "Love And Theft" (2001)

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

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."

Open The Door, Homer

Album:The Basement Tapes (1975)

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

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."

One Too Many Mornings

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

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

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."


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.

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."

Subterranean Homesick Blues

Album: Bringing It All Back Home (1965)

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

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."


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."

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."

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."

Workingman's Blues #2

Album: Modern Times (2006)

"Sleep is like a temporary death."

Talkin' New York

Album: Bob Dylan (1962)

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

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."

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..."

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."

It's All Over Now, Baby Blue

Album:Bringing It All Back Home (1965)

"The highway is for gamblers, better use your sense."

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."

Floater (Too Much To Ask)

Album:"Love And Theft" (2001)

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