Bob Dylan, Jack Of Diamonds, And Robert Browning

by Larry Fyffe

Ben Carruthers And The Deep perform a jacked-up version of a John Lee Hooker traditional blues tune, but with the following fragmented lyrics:

Jack O' Diamonds
On the move
Jack O'Diamonds
One-eyed knave
On the move
Hit the street
Bumps his head
On the prowl
He's down
You'll only lose
Shouldn't stay
Jack O'Diamonds
Is a hard card to play

(Ben Carruthers And The Deep: Jack O’ Diamonds ~ Carruthers/Bob Dylan)

There are those among us who wonder why Bob Dylan is given vocal credits for the song above. Well, it’s very clear that lines are taken directly from the following Dylan poem which alludes to the traditional Appalachian folk song ‘Jack Of Diamonds’:

Jack O' Diamonds
Jack O'Diamonds
One-eyed knave
On the move
Hits the streets
Sneaks, leaps
Between the pillars of chips
Springs on them like Samson
Thumps, thumps
Strikes
Is on the prowl
You'll only lose
Shouldn't stay
Jack O' Diamonds
Is a hard card to play

(Bob Dylan: Jack O’ Diamonds)

The song performed by Carruthers And The Deep continues:

Jack O' Diamonds
Whew
Jack O' Diamonds
This one-armed prince
Wears a single glove
For sure
He's not that lovin'
Jack O' Diamonds
Break my hand
Leave me here to stand
Jack O' Diamonds
Is a hard card to play

(Jack O’ Diamonds: Carruthers/Dylan)

Dylan’s poem goes:

Jack O' Diamonds
Wrecked my hand
Left me here t' stand ....
Jack O' Diamonds
One-armed prince
Wears but a single glove
As he shoves
Never loves ....
A high card
Jack O' Diamonds
But ain't high enough
Jack O' Diamonds
Is a hard card to play

(Bob Dylan: Jack O’ Diamonds)

The song lyrics closely match those of the poem (printed on the cover of ‘Another Side Of Bob Dylan’ album):

Jack O' Diamonds
Is a hard card
Jack O' Diamonds
Is a high card
Jack O' Diamonds
Is a high card
But it ain't high enough
Jack O' Diamonds
Can open for riches
Jack O' Diamonds
But then it switches
Colour by picture
But it's only the Ten
Jack O' Diamonds

(Jack Of Diamonds: Carruthers/Dylan)

The use of many phrases from Dylan’s long poem can hardly be called ‘sampling’:

Jack O' Diamonds
Can open for riches
Jack O' Diamonds
But then it switches
A colourful picture, but
Beats only the Ten
Jack O' Diamonds
Is a hard card to play

(Bob Dylan: Jack O’ Diamonds)

Dylan revisits the line “Left me here t’ stand” in his ‘Tambourine Man’ – “Left me blindly here to stand, but still not sleeping”.

Dylan mixes up the medicine, and samples a Late Victorian poem that’s a speech given by a personna (he’s won, not a card game, but a duel – ‘I stand here now’); the poem reveals the speaker’s regret at what he has done:

Take the cloak from his face, and at first
Let the corpse do its worst!
How he lies in his rights of man!
Death has done all death can
Ha, what avails death to erase
His offence, my disgrace? ....
I stand here now, he lies in his place!
Cover the face!

(Robert Browning: After)

Regret is expressed from a third-person point of view in the following song lyrics:

William Zanzinger killed poor Hattie Carroll
With a cane that he twirled around his diamond ring finger ....
But you who philosophize disgrace
And criticize all fears
Take the rag away from your face .....
William Zanzinger with a six month sentence
Oh, but you who philosophize disgrace
And criticize all fears
Bury the rag deep in your face

(Bob Dylan: The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll)

Note the the Dylanesque “rhyme twist” ~ ‘disgrace’/’face’.

What else is here?

An index to our latest posts arranged by themes and subjects on the home page.  You can also see details of our main sections on this site at the top of this page under the picture.

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And please do note   The Bob Dylan Project, which lists every Dylan song in alphabetical order, and has links to licensed recordings and performances by Dylan and by other artists, is starting to link back to our reviews.

 

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2 Responses to Bob Dylan, Jack Of Diamonds, And Robert Browning

  1. LarryFyffe says:

    *And you who…

  2. Aaron G says:

    Like it! Great commentary on a “lost” Dylan track.

    Of course the track gained further legitimacy as a Dylan original by being covered by Fairport Convention.

    Would like to hear Larry’s thoughts on the 2 Ginsberg/ Dylan pieces…Vomit Express and Jimmy Berman Rag…as well as the track September On Jessore Road, which is a Ginsberg poem which Dylan and Ginsberg set to music…

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