Time Passes Quickly: Bob Dylan and his eternal fight against time


By Javier Fuentes.

Time is our greatest enemy, and deep down is Our True God and Devil.  Something to be feared, for it goes much faster than we do.   So much so that the Greeks had Kronos as the Father of an all-powerful Zeus…

And how could it be otherwise?  Dylan has always been to some degree obsessed by time, that strange ghost that we do not see, but that controls our lives from the moment we are born, and that with the stupidity that characterizes us humans, we call Gold, when we say, “Time is money”.

My question is: is Time money, or is it simply the chains that hold us down?

In Bob’s most well-known songs, the words “time”, “times” and “years”, appear more than 60 times.  For example in “Blowing in the wind”

Yes, ’n’ how many times must the cannonballs fly
Before they’re forever banned?

How many years can a mountain exist
Before it’s washed to the sea?
Yes, ’n’ how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?

How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?

And in Bob Dylan’s Dream, Dylan speaks about a lost, but not forgotten, childhood and early youth, with such nostalgia and homesickness, despite being only 22 years old.  And with the “classic” (and a strange kind of epitaph, being so young as Bob was), verse:  “we never thought we could ever get old.”

While riding on a train goin’ west
I fell asleep for to take my rest
I dreamed a dream that made me sad
Concerning myself and the first few friends I had…

With half-damp eyes I stared to the room
Where my friends and I spent many an afternoon
Where we together weathered many a storm
Laughin’ and singin’ till the early hours of the morn….

With haunted hearts through the heat and cold
We never thought we could ever get old
We thought we could sit forever in fun
But our chances really was a million to one

And again in Restless Farewell we find “a false clock tries to tick out my time, to disgrace, distract, and bother me.”

Then in “My Back Pages” we find the fight against lost time and the recovery of younger years.

Here Dylan feels like a kind of old teacher giving lessons in morals and justice and as he says, falling at risk of being his own enemy by forecasting.

Dylan realized, I guess, that he was only 23 years old. And he would think why not have fun in my private life and at artistic level, especially after Suze Rotolo left him.  So be became younger than before, and less the pessimistic protest singer more the man celebrating the fact that his life had just begun.

He continued with jokes and continuous fun, corrosive humour, irony, wit from sarcasm to Groucho Marx, and above all, he began to worry that his protest against the world, and society had in a way made him grow old before time:

Bringing it all back home, Highway 61 and above all Blonde on Blonde show a much younger, happier Dylan who enjoys as never before, making and recording music in the studios with laughter in most sessions.   Blonde on Blonde rejuvenated him in almost every aspect, although ultimately he lack one aspect: a control over the dizzying speed that his life (and his motorbike) would take.

That old man, mentioned by Bob, who is not being born, but dying, is letting the time of his life pass, in the same way that the one who lives in a vault, and also the same kind of people, who sing with tongue on fire, and gargle in the rat race choir, “deformed” by the pliers of society, is “concerned” not to go higher, but to sink into the hole in which he is.

For them that think death’s honesty won’t fall upon them naturally life sometimes must get lonely, even though all of those people are old while still being just 20 or 30 years of age.

And of course, Dylan loves the freedom, and he will not let their time, their youth, waste on worrying about what the envious people says, nor much less on “living in a vault”, like them, these bitter guys, old aged and letting life pass in front of their doors:

“Meantime life outside goes on all around you”.

It’s time for Bob to enjoy his time, his youth, his life, before it gets too late.

In Pledging my time, (or we can say: Weaving my time?) Bob  already speaks explicitly about time, more specifically about his time: I am offering you my time, which is the most valuable thing I have, I hope you do not defraud me, do not fail me or do not betray me.

Well, early in the mornin’
’Til late at night
I got a poison headache
But I feel all right
I’m pledging my time to you
Hopin’ you’ll come through, too

But time passes, Dylan is away from the outer noise, and while the world and his country is bleeding in external and internal wars, our genius is happy,   At last, there is no rush, the Time passes slowly, and unlike in ’66, there is no danger of crashing against the asphalt.

It has the tranquillity and the family so loved by Bob that time has left, for a time.

But we get to 1973, and his family stability begins to wobble, and the references to time and especially to the past time are no longer comforting, but Bob rather, feels that time is going to pass bill, “he is going to pay some dues.”   Forever Young is thus another example of how Dylan begins to worry about time, or better, for the future

In 1974, already plunged, in the midst of a marriage crisis, Dylan passes from happy and euphoric “One more weekend”, from 1970, to the sad, inpatient and anxious “Seven Days“, of 1974.

Seven days, seven more days she’ll be coming, I’ll be waiting at the station for her to arrive, even more days, all I gotta do is survive.

“You’re a big girl now” is “too concise and too clear”.  The separation is a fact…

Time is a jet plane, it moves too fast
Oh, but what a shame if all we’ve shared can’t last
I can change, I swear, oh, oh
See what you can do
I can make it through
You can make it too

In 1978, Dylan, in the midst of a strong personal crisis, begins to feel strongly the passage of time:

Sixteen years
Sixteen banners united over the field
Where the good shepherd grieves
Desperate men, desperate women divided
Spreading their wings ’neath the falling leaves

And, on the same album, there is “No time to think”.

You fight for the throne and you travel alone
Unknown as you slowly sink
And there’s no time to think,,,,

No time to lose or say goodbye
No time to prepare for the victim that’s there
No time to suffer or blink
And no time to think

The time keeps passing, Dylan begins to grow old slowly … and we arrive at one of his peak works: “Time out of Mind”

And it is curious, but whenever Dylan worries or becomes obsessed over, or about time – great songs and / or masterpieces come out of his brain, which confirms the fact that time is an essential pointer when we analyse the work of Bob Dylan.  We could even imagine a compilation with all the songs of Bob that “deals” with the subject of the time, and we would obtain one of his best albums of Collection, without any doubt.

I see people in the park forgetting their troubles and woes
They’re drinking and dancing, wearing bright-colored clothes
All the young men with their young women looking so good
Well, I’d trade places with any of them
In a minute, if I could

Or from Standing in the doorway.

Yesterday everything was going too fast
Today it’s moving too slow
I got no place left to turn
I got nothing left to burn
Don’t know if I saw you if I would kiss you or kill you
It probably wouldn’t matter to you anyhow

You left me standing in the doorway, crying
I got nothing to go back to now

Dylan is still alive, he is winning the battle to the death and in a certain aspect to the time, its greater enemy, but as we all know, although time is a jet plane, in the end time will win.

Javier Fuentes, 2017, March 8th, Madrid, Spain.


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The Chronology Files

These files put Dylan’s work in the order written.  You can link to the files here

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2 Responses to Time Passes Quickly: Bob Dylan and his eternal fight against time

  1. Larry Fyffe says:

    And indeed there will be time…..There will be time….Time for you and time for me…

    And I have seen the Eternal Footman hold my coat
    …..and snicker.

  2. Scott Olesen says:

    Not to mention eschatological time. He constantly says his favorite book, in the Bible or otherwise so far as I can tell, is the Book of Revelation. He thinks we live in the End-Times. Hard to argue otherwise, depending on your point of view.

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