The series so far…
- Stuck inside of Halifax with the Tombstone Blues Again
- Bob Dylan: The Titanic Tombstone Blues (Part II)
- Bob Dylan And The Tombstone Blues (Part III)
- Bob Dylan And The Tombstone Blues (Part IV)
- Bob Dylan And The Tombstone Blues (Part V)
By Larry Fyffe
In his song lyrics, generally speaking, singer/songwriter Bob Dylan avoids making direct comments about specific politicians – most of the time.
Concerning a Jewish American senator who’d run for US president (and lose) against Lyndon Johnson, Bob Dylan writes the humorous lines quoted below:
Now I'm liberal, but to a degree I want everybody to be free But if you think that I'll let Barry Goldwater Move in next door, and marry my daughter You must think I'm crazy (Bob Dylan: I Shall Be Free No. 10)
Nixon is not mentioned by name in any of Bob Dylan’s song lyrics, but it’s not much of a stretch to consider that he’s the President who stands naked.
President Bill Clinton is not directly mentioned either in any of his song lyrics, but Dylan performs “Chimes Of Freedom” at Clinton’s inauguration concert so it’s reasonable to assume that the newly-elected President’s political position is not anathema to the singer/songwriter:
Tolling for the rebel, tolling for the rake Tolling for the luckless, the abandoned, and forsaked Tolling for outcast, burning constantly at stake And we gazed upon the the chimes of freedom flashing (Bob Dylan: Chimes Of Freedom)
A song that pays tribute to hymn below:
Tolling for the outcast, tolling for the gay Tolling for the millionaire, and friends long passed away But my heart is light and gay as I stroll down old Broadway And listen to the chimes of Trinity (Peerless Quartet: Chimes Of Trinity ~ MJ Fitzpatrick)
Keeping with the political agenda, First Lady Hillary Clinton gives an address at Ulster University in Belfast, Northern Ireland; at the time my first cousin Trevor Smith (son of my mother’s brother), is Vice-Chancellor there; he makes the introductory remarks (see:11/O2/97 video at C~Span, ‘Northern Ireland Peace Process’). The Clinton sex scandal is yet to break; Dylan’s constant concert touring stopped because of a medical problem.
In the lyrics below, it might be suggested the ‘Uncle Bill’ refers to Clinton, and that ‘Uncle Tom’ is Obama in the White House who slavishly carries on a Clinton’s political agenda beneath Capitol Hill in Washington:
Uncle Tom still working for Uncle Bill Scarlet Town is under the hill (Bob Dylan: Scarlet Town)
Seems a nasty stretch, however, in that Dylan and Obama have a personal connection – Dylan performs “The Times They Are A-Changing” at Obama’s celebration of the civil rights movement in the White House (later receives the Medal of Freedom there from the same President):
Come senators, congressman Please heed the call Don't stand in the doorway Don't block up the hall (Bob Dylan: The Times They Are A-Changing)
In his so-called “Christian phase”, Dylan writes some lyrics that can certainly be construed as ‘right wing’, but he returns to the idealism engendered by the presidency of John Kennedy – a mythical paradise that is lost with his assassination:
Your brothers are coming, there'll be hell to pay Brothers? What brothers? What's this about hell? Tell them, "We're waiting, keep coming" We'll get them as well (Bob Dylan: Murder Most Foul)
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. If you have an idea, or a finished piece send it as a Word file to Tony@schools.co.uk with a note saying that it is for publication on Untold Dylan.
We also have a very lively discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook with around 8000 active members. Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link And because we don’t do political debates on our Facebook group there is a separate group for debating Bob Dylan’s politics – Icicles Hanging Down