by Larry Fyffe
As previously noted, Bob Dylan is familiar with the poetry of Hart Crane:
Oh, lean from the window, if the train slows down As though you touched hands with some ancient clown A little while gaze absently down And hum 'Deep River' with them while they go (Hart Crane: The River)
‘Deep River’ is a Negro spiritual of yore, a version thereof that’s sung in the musical play/movie ‘Showboat’:
Deep River my home is over Jordon Deep River, Lord I want to cross into the campground Oh, don't you want to go To that gospel feast? That Promised Land Where all is peace (Marian Anderson: Deep River ~ Burleigh/ traditional)
The biblical reference: And it came to pass, when the priests That bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord Were come up out of the midst of Jordan And the soles of the priests' feet were lifted up unto the dry land That the waters of Jordan returned unto their place And flowed over all his banks, as they did before And the people came up out of Jordan on the tenth day of the month And encamped in Gilgal, in the east border of Jericho (Joshua 4: 18,19)
Never one to resist a burlesque, Bob Dylan depicts himself as Joshua, leader of the Jews:
I'm standin' by God's River, my soul is beginnin' to shake I'm countin' on you love to give me a break (Bob Dylan: Summer Days)
The singer/songwriter even claims to be a time traveller …. well, at least that he goes over roads travelled by creative artists (whether they be musicians, singers, play-writes, poets, novelists, or what have you) who have gone before him:
Over the road, I'm bound to go Where I stop nobody knows I am one of them rambling men Travellin' since I don't know when Here I come, and then gone again (Bob Dylan: Over The Road)
He’s only a hobo who carries a bundle over his shoulder in which is stuffed a Nobel statue presented to him for his contributions to Literature.
‘Showboat’ is about the love between Magnolia Hawks, a daughter of a Mississippi riverboat captain, and Gaylord Ravenal, a gambling man – in the days of Jim Crow laws after the American Civil War.
Following is a rendition of a song performed in ‘Showboat’:
Look down, look down That lonesome road Before you travel on Look up, look up And seek your Maker 'Fore Gabriel blows his horn (Paul Robeson: The Lonesome Road ~ Shilkret/Austin)
The lovers marry, move to Chicago, but eventually break up due to Gaylord’s gambling habit; Magnolia gets a job singing in a club, and becomes famous. In the end, she re-unites with her lover.
Bob Dylan alludes to 'Showboat', sex roles reversed, in the song below: Your charms have broken many a heart And mine is surely one You got a way of tearin' a world apart Lover, see what you've done Just as sure as you're livin' Just as sure as you're born Look up, look up, seek your Maker 'Fore Gabriel blows his horn (Bob Dylan: Sugar Baby)
What else is on the site
You’ll find some notes about 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.
The index to all the 590 Dylan compositions and co-compositions that we have found on the A to Z page.
We also have a very lively discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook with over 2000 active members. (Try imagining a place where it is always safe and warm). Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link
If you are interested in Dylan’s work from a particular year or era, your best place to start is Bob Dylan year by year.
On the other hand if you would like to write for this website, please do drop me a line with details of your idea, or if you prefer, a whole article. Email Tony@schools.co.uk
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