By Larry Fyffe
A consistent theme expressed by singer/songwriter Bob Dylan through his lyrics is the loss of a Paradise that might have been – lost because of greed.
Humorously expressed in the following song:
"I think I'll call it America", I said as we hit land I took a deep breath, I fell down, I could not stand Captain Arab he started writing up some deeds He said, "Let's set up a fort, and start buying the place with beads" (Bob Dylan: Bob Dylan's 115th Dream)
More darkly in the ‘Romantic’ lyrics below – native American Chief Shenandoah converts to Christianity, supports the American colonialists first against French-Canadian ‘voyageurs’, and then against the British in the War of Independence- only to have ‘Indian Territory’ more and more occupied:
Well, the white man loved an Indian maiden Look away, you rolling river With notions his canoe was laden Look away, we're bound away Across the wide MissourI Shenandoah, I love your daughter (Bob Dylan: Shenandoah ~ Vandall/traditional)
Later the song becomes a lament for the southern belle left behind, personified by the Shenandoah River of Virginia:
Oh Shenandoah, I love your daughter Away, I'm bound away 'Cross the wide Missouri Oh, who will tie your shoe Oh, ,who will glove your hand And who will kiss your ruby lips When I am gone? (Harve Persnell: Shenandoah ~ Persnell/traditional)
The ‘Paradise’ of the Southern Confederacy is lost due to the American Civil War, but, in this case, four million black slaves are freed:
"Virgil, quick come see, there goes the Robert E. Lee" Now I don't mind chopping wood And I don't mind if the money's no good You take what you need, and you leave the rest But they should never have taken the very best (The Band: The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down ~ Robbie Robinson)
A theme picked up in the song lyrics quoted below:
I'm going to spare the defeated, I'm going to speak to the crowd I am going to teach peace to the conquered Well, I'm gonna tame the proud (Bob Dylan: Lonesome Day Blues)
Roman, remember by your strength to rule the Earth's peoples For your arts are to be these: To pacify, to impose the rule of law To spare the conquered Battle down the proud (Virgil: Aeneid, Book VI)
A theme akin to that expressed in the following lyrics:
I went out in Virginia, honey, where the green grass grow I went out in Virginia, honey, where the green grass grow I tried to tell myself I didn't want you no more My baby told me, honey, stop doing me wrong My baby told me, honey, stop doing me wrong Well, I'm telling you, baby, 'cause I'm tired of living alone (Jimmy Reed: Down In Virginia)
Now, with a little dirty humour thrown in:
Transparent woman in a transparent dress Suits you well, I must confess I'll break open your grapes, I'll suck out that juice I need you like my head needs a noose Goodbye, Jimmy Reed, goodbye and so long I thought I could resist her, but I was so wrong .... Can't you hear me calling from down in Virginia? (Bob Dylan: Goodbye Jimmy Reed)
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