Bob Dylan’s Little Log Cabin In The Rain


by Larry Fyffe

Often on one level in his lyrics, Bob Dylan explains how he comes up with a song:

Well, I’m a stranger here in a strange land
But I know this is where I belong
I ramble and gamble for the one I love
And the hills give me a song
(Bob Dylan: Red River Shore)

The song can be interpreted as presenting a Transcendentalist Romantic theme as articulated by poet William Wordsworth – there’s a Spirit that pervades Nature that can be tapped into, and its light inspires a songwriter to consummate a piece of art. In short, the hills provide Dylan with a song. 

Practical down-to-earth advice is given in the song as well – good art doesn’t come easy; it’s hard and lonely work, but a traditional folksong from the hills of yore is a time-proven foundation upon which a composer might construct a worthy song. 

Alluded to in the lyrics above is the song below:

I’m a rambler, I’m a gambler
I’m a long way from home
If people don’t like me
They can leave me alone

(Bob Dylan: Rambler Gambler – traditional)

Clinton Heylin who writes books about the songs of Bob Dylan finds it’s ‘incongruous’ that Dylan records a number of his songs in a ‘log cabin’ located in the CBC-TV studios of Toronto, Canada. However, it’s not so strange at all when you consider that Dylan is influenced mightily by the music that flows from the past out of log cabins, lumber camps, and tarpapered shacks of America:

But the only friend that’s left there
Is that good old dog of mine
And the little old log cabin in the lane
The chimney’s fallen down
And the roof’s all caved in
Lets in the sunshine and the rain

(Fiddlin’ John Carson: Little Old Log Cabin In The Lane ~ by W.S. Hay)

The effect of the passage of time on the individual, on man-made structures, and on his objects of art is expressed symbolically, and somewhat humourously, in the song lyrics below:

Now the chimney is rotten
And the wallpaper’s torn
The garden in the back 
Won’t grow no more corn
The windows are boarded
With paper mache
And even the dog
Just ran away

(Was Brothers: Alice Don’t Live Here Anymore ~ by Bob Dylan et al)

To jump from themes expressed in his lyrics to what Dylan actually values in his personal life, in other words  to go outside of art-for-art’s-sake, is better left to those who associate with him. Many of his lyrics are easy to interpret as presenting a rather Gnostic-like viewpoint concerning human existence –  trapped in a dark and desolate world from which it’s difficult to escape into the light for any length of time:

In the still of the night, in the world’s ancient light
Where wisdom grows up in strife
My bewildered brain, tolls in vain
Through the darkness on the pathways of life
(Bob Dylan: When The Deal Goes Down)

Alluded to by Dylan is a song written between the two World Wars:

Do you love me, as I love you
Are you my life to be, my dream come true
Or will this dream of mine fade out of sight
Like the moon growin’ dim, on the rim of the hill
In the chill, still, of the night?

(Frank Sinatra: Still Of The Night~by Cole Porter)

   Alluded to also is the rather dark Wordsworthian poet of the American South where it’s said that ‘wisdom grows up in strife’. But the poet points out there is wisdom too found by examining the works of great thinkers and writers:

My gentle friend! I would hold no creed so false 
As that which dares to teach that we are born
For battle only, and that in this life
The soul, if it would burn with starlike power
Must needs forsooth be kindled by the sparks
Struck from the shock of clashing human hearts
There is wisdom that grows up in strife

(Henry Timrod: Retirement)

There be the biblical message of love and light:

And Abram said unto Lot

Let there be no strife, I prey thee, between me and thee

And between my herdsmen and thy herdsmen
For we be brethen
(Genesis 13:8)

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+ Dylan compositions reviewed is now on a new page of its own.  You will find it here.  It contains reviews of every Dylan composition that we can find a recording of – if you know of anything we have missed please do write in.

We also 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

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