Bob Dylan: Thank You Very Much


by Larry Fyffe

The theme of sacrificing one’s body to the God of Love – in stories that have lots of flashing knives and swords – pops up quite a bit in the lyrics of singer/songwriter Bob Dylan:

Romeo, he said to Juliet, ‘You got a poor complexion
It doesn’t give you an appearance of a youthful touch’
Juliet said back to Romeo, ‘Why don’t you just shove off
If it bothers you so much’
(Bob Dylan: Floater)

There be black humour and irony in many of Bob Dylan’s song lyrics; the above lyrics flow back to:

Now, the fifth daughter on the twelfth night
Told the first father that things weren’t right
‘My complexion’, she says, ‘is much too white”
(Bob Dylan: Highway 61 Revisited)

In Shakespeare’s “Romeo And Juliet”, Romeo comes upon Juliet who looks pale enough to be dead, and Romeo thinks that she is; he kills himself out of love for her – shoves off for good. Juliet wakes up, sees dead Romeo, kisses him, and stabs herself to death with his dagger.

Ol’ Bill Shakespeare, the uncontested King Of Plagiarism, bases the play about a family feud on the ancient mythological story of “Paramus And Thisbe”. Two lovers decide to secretly meet under a mulberry tree, but when Paramus discovers Thisbe’s blood-soaked cloak, he mistakenly believes that she has been killed and dragged off by a lioness. ‘It is I who have killed you’, he says, and he stabs himself with his sword. On discovering his about-to-be lifeless body, Thisbe kisses Paramus good-bye. Then she does herself in.

In the song below, Dylan keeps with the theme – ‘the Boss’, a man with no name, saddles up his horse and rides off in search of his wife. The cheeky narrative centres on a chief of a Scottish clan to whose wired-off home the Boss travels ‘through the woods’, ‘Eastward long down the broad highway’ to where ‘glasses clinked’:

She touched his lips and kissed his cheeks
He tried to speak, but his breath was weak
‘You died for me, now I’ll die for you’
She put the blade to her heart, and she ran it through
(Bob Dylan: Tin Angel)

In a novel about darkness and light, Charles Dickens employs the theme of sacrificing oneself to Love – ” there is a man who would give his life to keep a life you love beside you” (A Tale Of Two Cities). A hard-drinker, who loves Lucie, takes the place of her aristocratic husband, Charles Darnay, who awaits execution in prison during the ‘Reign Of Terror’. The husband has ‘C.D.’ for initials, like those of the author.

So too, in the following song, Rosemary sacrifices herself for the benefit of Lily and the Jack Of Hearts, the leader of a gang of Jewish outlaws in the Old West. She goes to the gallows for a crime that she didn’t commit:

The next day was hanging day, the sky was
overcast and black
Big Jim lay covered up, killed by a penknife
in the back
And Rosemary on the gallows, she didn’t even blink
(Bob Dyan: Lily, Rosemary, And The Jack Of Hearts)

Likewise, Mary’s son Jesus, alias ‘the Lamb’, sacrifices Himself on the cross for a crime committed by one of the members of his gang of rebels – known as the Twelve Disciples:

Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it
And smote the High Priest’s servant
And cut off his right ear
(John 18: 10)

In the following song, Dylan takes the sword-swingers place, and as Simon, he says that he really appreciates the sacrifice:

I’ve been saved
By the blood of the Lamb
By the blood of the Lamb
And I’m so glad
Yes, I’m so glad
I’m so glad
I want to thank You, Lord
I just want to thank You, Lord
Thank you, Lord
(Bob Dylan: Saved)

Romeo wants to thank you, Paramus wants to thank you, Darnay wants to thank you, Lucie wants to thank you, Lily wants to thank you, the Jack Of Hearts wants to thank you, Simon Peter wants to thank you, the Boss wants to thank you …. but most of all, Bob Dylan wants to thank you … He wants to thank you very much.

What else is on the site

You’ll find an index to 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 the 500+ songs reviewed is now on a new page of its own.  You will find it here.

We also now have a discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook.  Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link 

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


  1. O mother, mother, make my bed
    O make it soft and narrow
    Since my love died for me today
    I’ll die for him tomorrow
    (Barbara Allan)

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