The Bob Dylan Showcase: Listen Robert Moses: Chris Sheriden

By Aaron Galbraith and Tony Attwood

Last year, we were fascinated when a lyric sheet for “Listen, Robert Moses,” credited to Bob Dylan, popped up on the internet.

And yes it seems “Listen Robert Moses” is another Bob Dylan song – in this case it seems it was originally sung to the tune of Listen Mr Bilbo.

So we typed out the words to make them easier to follow and asked for anyone who felt like it to put some music to the song.  And we’ve had one, so it is provided below.

First, the lyrics…

Listen Robert Moses, listen if you can,
It's all about our neighbourhood that you're trying to condemn
We aren't going to sit back and see our homes torn down
So take your superhighway and keep it out of town.

We won't be moved Buddy we won't be moved
We're fighting for our rights and we won't be moved
We're fighting for our rights from our heads to our shoes
We're fighting for our homes and we aren't going to lose

For twenty long years there's been a shadow hanging round
That anyday the bulldozers will throw our houses down
We're going to lift the shadow once and all for good
We don't want a superhighway we want a neighbourhood

Some of us are young and some of us are old
But none of us like to be thrown out in the cold
Are we squatters in the city that we are living in?
Will we stand up for our rights or be scattering the wind?

Up and down Mulberry, Delancy Street and Spring
Chrystie and Canal Streets, you hear our voices ring
From Elizabeth to Thompson, to Varrick Street and Broome
We're trying to save our streets from that superhighway doom

Too many other people have been driven from their doors
To make room for some highway or else some fancy stores
They've been forced to leave their homes and all their roots behind
And dwell in housing projects, the reservation kind

It's time to make a stand, it's time to try and save
This ere neighbourhood of 'curs for it lands down in the grave
So hold up your banners and raise tem to the wind
We'll stand here and fight, and fight until we win.

And now the music…

Now in case you missed our original background notes, we’re presenting them again below (“The background”)

And I would stress there is no limit to the number of different sets of music that we’ll put up in relation to any of these unknown Dylan lyrics.  With some of the other songs we have had three of four different versions.

Below is the information about the song that we have and then after that there are details of other songs from this series in which readers of Untold add music to Bob Dylan’s lyrics.

The background

In this case it seems it was originally sung to the tune of Listen Mr Bilbo.

Robert Moses was an impresario who resisted the changes that were happening in America during the early days of Dylan’s career, and many websites contain suggestions that there was a certain racism behind his bookings policy, as well as a dislike of modern trends in music, with him famously refusing to book The Beatles.

In an article in gothamist.com there is confirmation that Dylan may have written these lyrics in protest against his activities.   They admit The New York Public Library has no record of any recording of the song but it’s entirely possible Dylan wrote the lyrics and never actually sang it—he was writing a hell of a lot of songs during that time period, many of which were getting sent around to other songwriters.

But the website Mental Floss suggests that Bob wrote the song with activist Jane Jacobs, so it is a possibility and that is good enough for us to say, if you fancy writing some music to this piece, we will count it as a possible Dylan song, and add it to our files.

Bob Dylan Showcase: previous rounds

Untold Dylan: who we are what we do

Untold Dylan is written by people who want to write for Untold Dylan.  It is simply a forum for those interested in the work of the most famous, influential and recognised popular musician and poet of our era, to read about, listen to and express their thoughts on, his lyrics and music.

We welcome articles, contributions and ideas from all our readers.  Sadly no one gets paid, but if you are published here, your work will be read by a fairly large number of people across the world, ranging from fans to academics who teach English literature.  If you have an idea, or a finished piece send it as a Word file to Tony@schools.co.uk with a subject line saying that it is for publication on Untold Dylan.

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You’ll find some notes about our latest posts arranged by themes and subjects on the home page of this site.  You can also see details of our main sections on this site at the top of this page under the picture.  Not every index is complete but I do my best.

But what is complete is our index to all the 604 Dylan compositions and co-compositions that we have found, on the A to Z page.  I’m proud of that; no one else has found that many songs with that much information.  Elsewhere the songs are indexed by theme and by the date of composition. See for example Bob Dylan year by year.

 

 

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2 Responses to The Bob Dylan Showcase: Listen Robert Moses: Chris Sheriden

  1. Baba Ganoosh says:

    Fantastic job, Chris. Loved it.

  2. Morten Jonnson says:

    There’s a misunderstanding here of who Robert Moses was. The sources that call him an impresario (“impresario of public works”) don’t mean that he was someone who staged concerts. They mean that he was in control of urban planning in New York for decades, throwing up highways and parks and bridges like someone putting on a massive show. His refusal to book the Beatles refers to his role as president of the New York World’s Fair in 1964; he didn’t normally have anything to do with music. And the song isn’t about his resistance to social change or modern trends in music. It’s about his power, in the name of “urban renewal,” to destroy neighborhoods and displace populations.

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