Bob Dylan: A Shot Of Love. The weaponry in Dylan’s songs


By Larry Fyffe

Quintessential to Americana be the issue of gun ownership. Of this fact, singer/songwriter Bob Dylan is well aware:

I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

(Bob Dylan: It’s A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall)

Guns have their good points –  they come in handy when seeking revenge in a fictional narrative involving a love triangle:

No one knew the circumstances but they say it
happened pretty quick
The door to the dressing room burst open and
a cold revolver clicked

(Bob Dylan: Lily, Rosemary,  And The Jack Of Hearts)

Likewise, guns are rumoured to be a useful tool with which to make money:

They say I shot a man named Gray
And took his wife to Italy
She inherited a million bucks
And when she died it came to me

(Bob Dylan: Idiot Wind)

And the truth of the matter is that most outlaws of the old West were misunderstood rebels who were forced to carry guns for their own protection:

John Wesley Harding was a friend to the poor
He travelled with a gun in every hand
All along the countryside, he opened many a door
But he was never known to hurt an honest man

(Bob Dylan: John Wesley Harding)

Be warned, however, that  killing people with guns may bring on feelings of remorse when the gunman gets older:

Mama, put my guns in the ground
I can’t shoot them anymore
That cold black cloud is comin’ down
Feel like I’m knockin’ on Heaven’s door

(Bob Dylan: Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door)

Remember that it’s always wise to carry an extra gun when you’re on the run with your sweetheart in a tale of romance:

Quick, Magdalena, take my gun
Look up in the hills, that flash of light
Aim well, my little one
We may not make it through the night

(Bob Dylan: Romance In Durango)

To express their anti-authoritarianism in modern times, gangsters carry guns and use them, though they too may later show remorse:

It was true that in his later years, he would
not carry a gun
‘I’m around too many children’, he’d say
‘They should never know of one’

(Bob Dylan: Joey)

Most important of all, without guns there’d still be slavery in America:

And the Civil War, too
Was soon laid away
And the names of the heroes
I was made to memorize
With guns in their hands
And God on their side

(Bob Dylan: With God On Our Side)

Worry not – if there’s any racial injustice today when someone gets blasted away by a gun – the truth will out:

No one doubted he pulled the trigger
And though they could not produce the gun
The D.A. said he was the one who did the deed
And the all-white jury agreed

(Bob Dylan: Hurricane)

Funny though it may be, owning a gun is important for self-defence in America regardless of whether or not there is any reasonable apprehension of danger:

Well out comes a farmer
He must have thought that I was nuts
He immediately looked at me
And stuck a gun into my guts

(Bob Dylan: Motor Psycho Nightmare)

Finally, a gun makes a good simile in reference to a lovers’ quarrel; whether the quarrel be real or imagined, a shot of love will settle things quite nicely:

Do you think I still got what you still got, baby?
My voice is really warm
It’s just that it ain’t got any form
It’s like a dead man’s last pistol shot, baby

(Bob Dylan: She’s Your Lover Now)

Next time around, we’ll take a look at the bad side of owning a gun.

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