Bob Dylan’s “Idiot Wind”: the meaning of the music and the lyrics

There can be few opening chord sequences as distinctive as Dylan’s minor-4th, 5th, Tonic sequence which opens “Idiot Wind”. And there can be few opening lines to a song as distinctive as “Someone’s got it in for me, they’re printing stories in the press.”

Within those six bars – and that is another distinctive factor, for it is only six bars – we have the landscape set out. There is a coldness about that minor fourth, like a cliff face with the wind howling, which tells us this is not going to be an easy ride. There is a coldness about the words – the mere fact that it is “someone” not an identified person who is doing the mischief makes it even more chilling.

And now looking back on it, how well we know that this is not an easy rise, for this is “Like a rolling stone” part 2. Of course there are differences – here in Idiot Wind, the guilt is at least partially shared. In Like a Rolling Stone there is only blame and finger pointing. In Idiot Wind there is uncertainty which was never there in the earlier song – but maybe that’s what getting older brings.

Just compare the openings…

“Someone’s got it in for me, they’re printing stories in the press”

“Once upon a time you dressed so fine, threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn’t you?”

Equally bleak but in different ways.

And when we turn back to the musical structure we find more similarity, because both these great songs are in 2/4 (rather than the conventional 4/4) and both work in six bar phrases. It is rare in Dylan – indeed it is rare in the world of pop and rock – and he reserves it for masterpieces of anguish and annoyance.

Pete Hamill’s notes to the album veer (at least to my eye) between insight and portentous wordiness. He suggests Idiot Wind is personal – I can’t see it myself, but then obviously Mr Hamill has access to Dylan that I can only dream about. If the bit about the shooting and the inheritance is real, then so be it, but it seems more like part of the painting of an imagined landscape – the background like the windmill in the Dutch masterpiece – from where I sit. But where he does strike the mark, I feel, is with the comment that “The idiot wind trivializes lives into gossip.” This is a theme of the sleeve notes essay – for earlier he says, “And through the fog of the plague, most art withered into journalism,” the plague being the descent of America from its high ideals into the politics of the 1970s.

 Perhaps that points us to the biggest difference between Rolling Stone and Idiot Wind. In the latter Dylan says, “you are talking nonsense,” in the former he says, “you are nonsense.”

Much of its history pop and rock has been about love, lost love and dance. The lost love sub-genre has generally been of sadness and wanting the lover back. Dylan singlehandedly invented a completely new sub-genre: despair, disgust and dismay. “Like a rolling stone” was the first high mark of this style of writing, “Idiot Wind” the second. It may be extremely uncomfortable, but it is the ultimate antithesis of relativism. Every approach to life is not equally valid, equally understandable and equally excusable. There are people of whom we must say, “You are utterly wrong.” And that’s what he says here, even where he says, “yes I got it wrong sometimes too.” The latter does not excuse the former.

The Discussion Group

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The Chronology Files

There are reviews of Dylan’s compositions from all parts of his life, up to the most recent writings, but of late I have been trying to put these into chronological order, and fill in the gaps as I work.

All the songs reviewed on this site are also listed on the home page in alphabetical order – just scroll down a bit once you get there

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3 Responses to Bob Dylan’s “Idiot Wind”: the meaning of the music and the lyrics

  1. Thank you for a great piece of interesting and informative writing. This link is included in The Bob Dylan Project at: http://thebobdylanproject.com/Song/id/286/Idiot-Wind (Additional Information)
    Bob Dylan’s Music Box.

  2. Larry Fyffe says:

    Dylan is consistent in his inconsistency: nothing is absolute; times they are achanging even in one’s personal life as one moves from the age of innocence to that of experience, from springtime of life onward to summer, autumn, and winter.
    The Owl of Minerva flies at twilight.
    Though Dylan into the depth of depravity does not enter, from the art of those who have, lessons of life can be learned, and though the help of insight
    comes, it often comes too late:

    ‘I managed to make every trace of human hope vanish/
    ….And Spring brought the frightening laugh of The Idiot’
    (Arthur Rimbaud: A Season In Hell)

    ‘I waited for you on the running boards/
    Near the cypress trees, while the springtime turned slowly into summer/
    …..Idiot wind
    Blowing through the buttons on our coat/
    ….Blowing through the dust upon our shelves/
    We’re idiots babe/
    It’s a wonder we can even feed ourselves”
    (Dylan: Idiot Wind)
    The induvidual struggle is not between goodness and sin, but between love, and human kindness
    verses idiocy and downright stupidy.

  3. BOB DYLAN IN HIS OWN MIND?
    Alternative analysis of a Spanish dylanologist.

    After more than 30 years studying lyrics of this contemporary genius, I am currently translating for all the fans (and not fans) of his Spanish speaking the conclusions, theories, hypotheses and diverse ideas, expressed by experts from other countries (especially Tony Attwood) among many others), who have thoroughly analyzed many, if not all, the letters of the Nobel Dylan. It is my wish to carry the message more clearly to the thousands of Spanish-speaking fans in Spain as well as in the rest of the world of this genius of contemporary popular music.
    But also, using the imagery of Bob and “getting a little in your mind”, I’m going to give a “twist” to certain songs that I’ve been meditating for years ..

    In this way, I will begin by making a prosaic explanation of what I have discussed on complex issues.
    Started by “IDIOT WIND”) album Bood on the tracks, 1974/75

    From my subjective vision, and knowing the art of double and triple meanings of Dylan, WIND IDIOTA is not only left to attack the press with disdain, his wife at that time, Sara, and neither does it remain in addition to it, in A self-attack for all his mistakes, and in a certain way for his idealism, in the sense of believing, according to him in error, that his message would be understood and intercepted by most people, and of course, By the woman with whom he copied until that moment almost 10 years of his life. I think that each stanza of the four that compose WIND IDIOTA each refers to the sadness and anger it felt, but it does so in four very different parts.

    Let’s analyze the stanza, 1 by 1:

    1st) First stanza or strophe:

    My free interpretation:

    Attack on the media (as Attwood rightly points out), then attention names Gray, and not by chance, let’s remember that one of his main biographers was / is Michael Gray:
    “So, prosaically, and in the midst of Dylan we can make a narration of what Dylan had in his head, but he expresses in a cryptic way:
    Dylan (it´s a hypothesis):”<<" My biographs, Michael Gray ("for example"), people who see me, or tose who analyze me, do not know how to act (does not remember how to act when they are talking about me, critizicing me, they do not know how to handle the situation …, they don´t t know my reality, what I I have suffered, what I have sacrificed (implicitly says this at the end of the fourth and last stanza …) – as Dylan said many times of them … (they have "great" ideas about me and DISTORTIONED FACTS, but they are false And they do not know how to interpret my songs, even my wife, who was not 10 years old, does not know what they are, they do not understand my art or my changes, or anything at all. Me, you and … you either … Sweet lady …. "" "

    2nd.) Second stanza,o r second strophe: :

    My free interpretation:

    (("” “” “:”))
    Dylan (it´s a hypothesis) : “I was so sad, nervous and confused that I went to take my letters, and the fortuneteller warned me of the disaster that was coming to me. I feel alone, as if I were a soldier whose” Severely wounded (hence the reference to the cross, which is to say the burden that leads to slopes, and mentioned in 1997 in Not Dark Yet). You tried to tame the wild horse that was inside me – all of you and even my wife – that reiterates in the third stanza, and thus, I have no peace or tranquility because you have snatched my freedom, and my yearning to live a Tranquil life in nature. And in peace with myself, and for this reason I curse you and you will end up unsuccessful, ruined, with blood in the support you have on (… that mare …), because in the fine you can not domesticate it, And it will hurt you deeply (it will make you blood … -> beacause that, the metaphor )

    Explanation of why he refers it to the subject Chestnut Mare, by Roger McGuinn (and Levy),
    Chestnut Mare “is a song by American rock band The Byrds, written by Roger McGuinn and Jacques Levy (co-author of 7 songs by Dylan’s DESIRE. Throughout most of 1969, the leader and Guitarist for The Byrds, Roger McGuinn, had been writing songs with Broadway psychologist and Broadway impresario Jacques Levy for a Henrik Ibsen Peer Gynt country rock production that the duo was developing. (And here’s why Dylan uses the phrases: ) “The” chestnut mare “was intended to be used during a scene in Which the eponymous hero of the play tries to catch and tame a wild horse, a scene that had offered a deer in Ibsen’s original.Lessentially, the spoken verses of the song tell the story of the search for a man to tame a horse Wild and echoing Byrds’s familiar themes of nature and freedom (which are precisely Bob’s yearnings, freedom, and living freely in nature, in the woods …) The narration of the song can also be To see to deal in mythical archetypes: The wild mare is an incarnation of wild nature, which the narrator wants to control, and as such, an analogy of the attempts of humanity to dominate and subjugate the natural environment. [10] (Accessory note:
    “Chestnut Mare” was initially released as part of The Byrds album (Untitled) on September 14, 1970)

    . 3) Third stanza or third strophe:

    “you tamed the lion in my cage but that wasn´t enough to change my heart **** (1) now everything is a little upside down….what´s good is bad, and bad is good, you ll find when you reach the top´, you´re on the bottom. ****
    I noticed t the ceremony your corrupti ways … I can´t remember you face anymore , your mouth has changed, and your eyes don´t look into mine ***2
    the priest wore black on the seventh day and sat stoned-faced while the building burned ***3
    I waited for you on the running boards, near the cypress tree, while springtime turned slowly into autumn

    ***1) Again, Dyan insists on the theme of “Chestnut Mare: Intested to tame the wild horse that was inside me – all of you (and even my wife)

    ** (2): it could be considered a reference to the estrangement and the incomprehension of his wife Sara, and at the same time, to the self-estrangement of the two personalities of Dylan, that is to say, it is possible if he said: “I no longer recognize myself, already I am not the one before, you have tried to manipulate me so much, that I can not even recognize myself. ”

    *** (3): possible allusion that even the things that united them (air and his fans, him with his alter ego, and him with his wife, is an imagination of mine of course) no longer exist, and “” And while he waited for the mare to take off, “” and he was released and his freedom came, his happiness (spring, metaphorically) turned into sadness, disappointment and despair. (Subjective opinion of mine, of course)

    4) 4th stanza or 4th strophe:
    The Cherry of the Pie: the conclusion and all the anger and rage that ultimately wants to express BOB in this great subject.
    (Attention: this might be an unreasonable theory, but knowing the art of Dylan, to unfold (or triple in this case) in him, in his character (the artist) and even, in his followers, could be had

    First line of 4th strophe: The fan “speaks” to Bob: “I no longer recognize you, you are not the one from the past, you do not understand your lyrics anymore (based on Books that I can not play, because I do not understand them, every time I followed your steps, your strange changes, your rare turns (unto J. Wharding, Country, Self Portrait, Pat Garret…, etc),

    But this argument, at the same time, could be interpreted as if Bob (the person) were speaking to himself, he reproaches “Bob Dylan” (the famous artist, the myth, beloved and vilified at the same time, for his extreme changes, from one place to another) .. . And because that, his anger and rage against himself miso, for not having obtained peace, nor quiet and freedom, that he longed.

    Probable explanation to the next final points: :
    Now it is Dylan who speaks clearly of himself: : I´ve double crossed now….and now I´m finally free… (shows again self-pity, he shows to himselfas as a victim (which probably happened throughout his career … – (subjective opinion of J. Fuentes-)), but it will be the last time, I will be free, or at last I am free – maybe a little bit of sarcasm and irony in this last ine), … and I said goodbye, I stopped being that rebel, vociferous, raging-voce young man, who attacked the system, right or wrongly, (for saying anyhow, anyway), and I separated from all of you, who wanted to see me as a rebel youth icon, (or idol or leader), while I burned and suffered (again self-pity, but surely justified, for he wanted his freedom first and foremost, and it was never his goal to be the ICON OF ANY YOUTH REVOLUTION, AND MUCH LESS POLITICS, and he said it In “Wedding Song”, and in “Dirge”:

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