Bob Dylan And The Jitterbug

Bob Dylan And The Jitterbug 
By Larry Fyffe
Many of Bob Dylan song lyrics comment on the human social predicaments that have existed from time out of mind; for example – sexual, racial, class, and generational antagonisms:
They walk among stately trees
They know the secrets of the breeze ....
One is a lowdown, sorry old man
The other'll stab you where you stand

(Bob Dylan: Tweedle Dee And Tweedle Dum)
The singer/songwriter examines America’s present state in the context of its past history, but does so in the manner of an artist in that it leaves songs open, though not wide open, to interpretations on the part of the reader/listener. Based on the music of a John Wright/Jack Anglin song, and the lyrics of an English nursery rhyme of yore, the Dylan piece above could  be construed to feature two Romantic Transcendentalist poets – Walt Whitman and Henry Timod. On opposite sides of the American Civil War, both poets believe that they have God, whose Spirit is blowing in the breeze, on their side:
And high and hushed arose the stately trees
Yet shut within themselves, like dungeons, where
Lay fettered the secrets of the breeze
A childish dream is a sacred creed ...
A childish dream is now a deathless need
Which drives him to far hills, and distant wilds
The solemn faith and fervour of his creed
(Henry Timrod: A Vision Of Posey)
Timrod supports the Confederate States during the American Civil War:
Well, a childish dream is a deathless need
And a noble truth is a sacred creed
(Bob Dylan: Tweedle Dee And Tweedle Dee)
In more orthodox religious terms:
How do we stand
Move by faith
By faith, by faith, oh Lord
(Bob Dylan: Stand By Faith)
Mocked, in the following lyrics, are the ‘old bats’ who condemn the ‘voodoo’ dancing and music of the freed descendants of black slaves: 
Who's that hiding in the tree tops?
It's that rascal, the Jitterbug
Should you catch him buzzing 'round you
Keep away from the Jitterbug
Oh, the birds in the breeze
And the bats in the trees
Have a terrible, horrible buzz
But the birds in the breeze
And the bats in the trees
Couldn't do what the Jitterbug does
So just be careful of that rascal
Keep away from the Jitterbug, the Jitterbug

(Judy Garland: The Jitterbug ~ Arlen/Hardburg)

Dylan makes fun of the rigid Puritans guarding the gates of American towns:
This place ain't doing me any good
I'm in the wrong town, I should be in Hollywood
Just for a second there, I thought I saw something move
Gonna take dancing lessons, do the Jitterbug rag
(Bob Dylan: Things Have Changed)
Bob’s grabs a taxi named ‘Desire’, and heads to the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem:
Now here's old Father, a wicked old man
Drinks more sauce than other bugs can
He drinks jitter sauce every morn
That's why jitter sauce was born

(Cab Calloway: The Call Of The Jitterbug)

There’s trouble in River City – ’emergency’ rhymes  with ‘brain salad surgery’ (and that stands for fellatio); the rock goup ‘Emerson, Lake, And Palmer’ borrows the term:
I been running, trying to get hung up in my mind
Got to give myself a good talking to this time
Just need a little brain salad surgery
To cure my insecurity

(Dr. John: Right Place, Wrong Time)

Times are a-changing so fast that things get all mixed up – it’s hard to keep up:
You're gonna make me wonder what I'm doin'
Stayin far behind without you
You're gonna make me wonder what I'm sayin'
You're gonna make me give myself a good talkin' to

(Bob Dylan: You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go)

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Bob Dylan And The Jitterbug

  1. Larry Fyffe says:

    * correction – (Bob Dylan: Tweedle Dee And Tweedle Dum) In more ……

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *