Bob Dylan: Maybe Someday You’ll Understand


By Larry Fyffe

In the song ‘Maybe Someday’, Bob Dylan takes a somewhat Gnostic point of view – physical human bodies are bound up in a physical world from which there is no happy escape – alas, imagined spiritual paths leading to some fanciful utopia, sensual or otherwise, are strewn with broken hopes. Into the mix, Dylan adds sprinklings of Existentialist angst, and black comedy – due to the music industry’s profiting from overly sentimental songs:

When I ridin’ ’round the world
And I’m doin’ this and signing that
And I’m tryin’ to make some girl
Who tells me, ‘Baby, better come back, maybe next week
‘Cause you see, I’m on a losing streak’ ….
I can’t get no satisfaction, no satisfaction
(Jagger and Richards: Satisfaction)

The above Rolling Stones sentiment – perhaps you’ll find satisfaction, but more likely you won’t – is expressed by Bob Dylan in a number of his own songs:

Maybe someday you’ll be satisfied
When you’ve lost everything
You’ll have nothing left to hide
When you’re running over things
Like you’re walking ‘cross the tracks
Maybe you’ll beg me to take you back
(Bob Dylan: Maybe Someday)

In the lyrics above, Dylan alludes to one of his songs:

You used to be so amused
At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used
Go to him, he calls you, you can’t refuse
When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose
You’re invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal
(Bob Dylan: Like A Rolling Stone)

Below is another song by Dylan from whence he gets the title for ‘Maybe Someday’:

Every thing passes, everything changes
Just do what you think you must do
And someday maybe, who knows baby
I’ll come and be cryin’ to you
(Bob Dylan: To Ramona)

‘Romana’ is also an old movie of tragic love between an American ‘Indian’, and a ‘half-breed’ maiden that features the following song:

Ramona, when the day is done you’ll hear my call
Ramona, we’ll meet beside the waterfall
I dread the dawn when I awake and find you gone
Ramona I need you my own
(Gilbert et al: Ramona)

(Ramona Davies (March 11, 1909 − December 14, 1972) usually performed as Ramona and her Grand Piano, was a cabaret singer and pianist, most popular in the 1930s.  She became a vocalist and pianist for Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra in the 1930s as well as in Whiteman’s jazz group.)

It’s not a ‘maybe’ that Dylan often leaves clues to where the sources of his love songs lie:

Someday you’ll find someone you really care for
And if her love should prove to be untrue
You’ll know how much this heart of mine is broken
You’ll cry for her the way I cried for you
Everybody’s somebody’s fool
Everybody’s somebody’s plaything
And there are no exceptions to the rule
Yes, everybody’s somebody’s fool
(Greenfield, Keller: Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool)

Dylan chuckles to himself that the love he expresses in many of his song lyrics is never his own, i.e., life imitates art as far as Oscar Wilde, for one, is concerned:

Maybe someday you’ll find out
Everybody’s somebody’s fool
Maybe then you’ll remember what it would
have taken to keep me cool
Maybe someday when you’re by yourself alone
You know the love that I had for you was never my own
(Bob Dylan: Maybe Someday)

There’s this song too:

Found some letters you wrote this letter
They told of a love we once knew
Now they’re gone, I burned them to ashes
Don’t want nothing to remind me of you
Burning bridges behind me
It’s too late to turn back now
(Walter Scott: Burning Bridges)

Alluded to by Bob Dylan in the lines below:

Maybe someday you’ll have nowhere to turn
You’ll look back and wonder about the bridges you have burned
(Bob Dylan: Maybe Someday)

Dylan is well-read, and that he’s been through all the verses of the Holy Bible, is well-known:

The sun shall be turned into darkness
And the moon into blood
Before the great and the terrible day
Of the Lord to come
(Joel 2:31)

Burlesque, mock-seriousness, quite often shows up in Dylan’s song lyrics:

Maybe someday you’ll remember what you felt
When there was blood on the moon in the cotton belt
When both of us, baby, were goin’ through some kind of test
Neither one of us could do what we do best
(Bob Dylan: Maybe Someday)

Another biblical reference alluded to is the following:

For we which are always delivered unto
death for Jesus’ sake
That the life also of Jesus might be manifest
in our mortal flesh
(II Corinthians 4:11)

The above critical attack by spiritualist St. Paul, a partisan follower of Jesus, against the Gnostic’s dualistic juxtaposition of spirit and flesh, of light and dark forces, Dylan has hyperbolic fun with:

Maybe someday you’ll hear a voice on high
Saying, ‘For whose sake did you live, for whose life did you die?
(Bob Dylan: Maybe Someday)

From off a movie sound track, Dylan picks up pieces of irony:

John Malcolm: “He didn’t break any bedroom door down to get to you”
(Burt Lancaster: ‘Separate Tables’: movie)

Heard as the singer/songwriter Bob Dylan drops pieces of metal in a jar by the door:

Forgive me baby for what I didn’t do
For not breakin’ down no bedroom door
to get to you
(Bob Dylan: Maybe Someday)

Another movie is sourced in the song:

Whit Sterling: “Do you know San Francisco?”
Jeff Bailey: ”I’ve been there to a party once”
(Kirk Dougles, Robert Mitchum: ‘Out Of The Past’)

From which comes these ironic lyrics:

You said you were goin’ to Frisco, stay a couple of months
I always liked San Francisco. I was there for a party once
(Bob Dylan: Maybe Someday)

Finally, a quote from a famous Modernist poet:

And the cities hostile and the town’s unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices
A hard time we had of it
(TS Eliot: Journey Of The Magi)

Dylan knocks out hilarious burlesque:

You’ll look back sometime when the lights grow dim
And you’ll see you look much better
With me than you do with him
Through hostile cities and unfriendly towns
(Bob Dylan: Maybe Someday)

‘Maybe Someday’ is misunderstood by some analysts, critics, and listeners who are not familiar with the allusions therein. But maybe – just maybe – someday they will fully appreciate the song for what it is.

Bob has never played it on stage, so try this.

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  1. Thanks for throwing this bright light on a song that I always liked very much on an album that is not one of his best but has a lot more to offer than most critics think (the way he sings on it is powerful, and the atmosphere, even if tainted by the eighties sound, has the alluring vibe of a border town near Mexico; it might have gotten more love if only the playing would have been a little more in the vein of Together through Life, which in terms of lyrics has less to offer than Knocked out Loaded in my humble opinion, as is proven also by what you write about this strong song).

  2. There’s also the western movie ‘Blood On The Moon’ starring Robert Mitchum,
    based on a story by Luke Short – bad guy goes good.

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