The Trial of the century: Bob Dylan versus Tony Attwood


by Larry Fyffe


On behalf of their client (to wit, singer/songwriter Bob Dylan), the law firm of Einstein, Hood, Monk And Associates bring before the Court Of The Untold Inquisition the charge of blasphemy against one Tony Attwood, a self-proclaimed Dylanologist, in that on Friday, June 1, 2018, he did write and assert that:

“On the issue of punctuation, if you look at such Bob Dylan’s manuscripts that have been made available, they are not always that complete nor indeed accurate when it comes to the use of apostrophes.”

Einstein, Hood, And Monk respond in court that this may indeed be the case, but that it is a scurrilous accusation by the defendant Attwood that their client, Bob Dylan, carelessly uses an apostrophe when it comes to the importance of correctly spelling a proper name, to wit: “God’s River” vs “Gods River”.

Under the rules of the Court Of The Untold Inquisition, it is given to the readers of the ‘Untold Dylan’ website to decide the guilt or innocence of the defendant. They may also stand for him as the ‘Devil’s Advocate’ if they so wish.

Einstein, Hood, And Monk point out that the function of punctuation marks has always been taken very seriously by writers, and the courts; the following example they present:

And Jesus said unto him
‘Verily I say unto thee,
Today shalt thou be with me in paradise’

In contrast with –

And Jesus said unto him
‘Verily I say unto thee today,
Shalt thou be with me in paradise’

(Luke 23: 43)

Contend the lawyers: The first biblical version has no time for a stint in Purgatory; the second does. And it’s all due to the placement of the comma.

The lawyers on behalf of their client point out that Dylan writes:

Standing on God’s River, my soul is beginning to shake 
I’m countin’ on you love to give me a break ….
Well I’m drivin’ in the flats in a Cadillac car

(Bob Dylan: Summer Days)

They note the clear placement of the apostrophe in reference to the river.

Also pointed out is that the defendant writes the following in his analysis of the song:

“Certainly it’s possible to tie in the issue about ‘the flats’. Gods River flows
into the Hayes River and the result is rapids, lakes, and, as it nears Hudson

Bay, tidal flats” (Attwood – Summer Days: Bob Dylan)

Einstein, Hood, And Monk present a map of Manitoba to the court which demonstrates that the defendant is correct in that the name of the Canadian River has  no apostrophe. The lawyers also point out that you’d need an All-Terrain-Vehicle, not a Cadillac, on the shores of Hudson Bay.

Addressing the Grand Inquistor, Mr. Hood inquires as to why Dylan would either write, since Elizabeth II is the Queen of Canada:

Everybody get ready to lift up your glasses and sing
Well I’m standin’ on the table, I’m proposing a toast to the King

(Bob Dylan: Summer Days)

Mr. Monk rises and approaches the Bench and proclaims that the defendant practically confesses himself when in his analysis of ‘Summer Days’, he writes, “Suddenly the lines from ‘Mississippi’ come to my head” in reference to the following verse:

She’s looking into my eyes and she’s holding my hand
She  says, ‘You can’t repeat the past’. I say, ‘You can’t?’
What do you mean, you can’t – sure you can’

(Bob Dylan: Summer Days)

In the summation, Mr. Einstein states: “It’s not all relative, and clearly Bob Dylan is referring to Elvis Presley as the King, and to the Mississippi as God’s river.”

The jurors, the readers of ‘Untold’, are given their instructions by the judge: “Take this case very seriously before you cast your ballots as this trial could well be considered ‘The Trial Of The Century; as for Mr. Attwood – Will he or will he not be hanged by an apostrophe?”

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  1. Just in case anyone is the slightest bit interested (but I suspect no one is) I hate the word “Dylanologist” as it seems to de-personalise Bob Dylan turning him into an object of study, rather that a living poet / songwriter.

    We don’t have Shakespeareologists or Genesisologists and yet the writings under the name Shakespeare and within the Book of Genesis can require far more decoding than Bob Dylan’s work.

    I do however hold the view that the commentator should explain his/her position on a topic (as for example I try to declare my atheism when writing about Bob’s religious songs) simply so that the reader knows the prejudice that will be within. In my view, all writers are prejudiced – especially the ones who claim not to be.

    Now can I get on with reviewing the last 25 songs from the Basement Tapes that we haven’t covered?

  2. * It’s supposed to be ‘would ever write’ not ‘would either write’ …… it’s difficult to find good secretaries these days!

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