Duncan and Jimmy – Bob Dylan’s poetic fragment turned into such enormous fun

By Tony Attwood

By any analysis, Bob Dylan’s lyrics “Duncan and Jimmy” is best described as a fragment, an idea, a little something he dashed off while having a coffee and waiting for the next big song to pop along into his head.

Yet despite being a fragment it is, for me at least (in my little world sitting here in the English countryside) abolutely enormous fun, captured completely by the musicians who have brought it back to life.

It is the classic hobo story – but with a smile and a laugh – these guys might not have a cent between them, but they are the classic pair of hobos having nothing, having everything and most of all having a great time.

And that is what comes across in the music created as a old time banjo Appalachian style song that just belts out the fun 100%.

For there is something incredibly attractive of the notion of the pair of buddies who cannot be separated.  So much of the blues is the one man alone, taking on the world, but here we have something else: these two guys have the world in their hands, because they are the best buddies who can always be trusted by each other.  The ultimate friends.

Fill up the glasses and take your stand
Tip your hat to the world
Button up the bowtie and dance around
Once again with the fat Hawaiian girl

Duncan and Jimmy walk side by side
Nobody walks between them
Duncan and Jimmy walk side by side
Has anybody seen them?

Freighter man, freighter man
Which way’s that freighter gonna run tonight
Will it take me down to Jacksonville
Or just leave me be wherever it seems right

Duncan and Jimmy walk side by side
Nobody walks between them
Duncan and Jimmy walk side by side
Has anybody seen them?

So fill up the glasses and take your stand
Tip your hat to the world
Button up the bowtie and dance all around
Once again with the fat Hawaiian girl

Duncan and Jimmy walk side by side
Nobody walks between them
Duncan and Jimmy walk side by side
Has anybody seen them?

This is my favourite version – the instrumental breakdown near the end symbolising the chaos of life lived in the world of pure chance, but it all comes out right in the end.

There is a pair of lines in the middle of the song that symbolises the whole situation…

Will it take me down to Jacksonville
Or just leave me be wherever it seems right

The world as a world of chance – just take whatever comes along and it will all be ok, you don’t have to plan, you don’t have to think, you are in fact completely carefree, completely sure that the world will be fine, because the friendship at the heart of life can never be betrayed.

If you can get 10% of the enjoyment out of this simple song that I get, you’ll be having a happy day.

Just go and enjoy it.

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.

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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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