Take What You Have Gathered From Coincidence: Bob Dylan (Part 1) (And more Duncan and Jimmy)


by Larry Fyffe

In some of his song lyrics, Bob Dylan tosses in a koan, or paradoxical riddle for listeners to solve:

Duncan And Jimmy walk side by side
Nobody walks between them
Duncan And Jimmy walk side by side
Has anybody seen them?
(Bob Dylan: Duncan And Jimmy)  (see also below)

The answer is ‘no’ because they are one and the same person – Jimmy Duncan
is the composer of the following song:

A smile from your lips brings the summer sunshine
Tears from your eyes bring the rain
I feel your touch, your warm embrace
And I’m in Heaven again
You are my special angel
Through eternity
I’ll have my special angel
Here to watch over me
(Bobby Helms: My Special Angel ~Jimmy Duncan)

Dylan alludes to ‘My Special Angel’ in the song below:

When the rain is blowing in your face
And the whole world is on your case
I could offer you a warm embrace
To make you feel my love
When the evening shadows and the stars appear
And there is no one to dry your tears
I could hold you for a million years
To make you feel my love
(Bob Dylan: Make You Feel My Love)

That the lyrics to ‘Make Me Feel Your Love’ contain the same words – ‘rain’, ‘feel’, ‘your’, ‘tears”, ‘warm embrace’ – as are heard or read in Jimmy Duncan’s song is bound to be dismissed as mere coincidence by many readers of this article.

Nevertheless, there’s the Dylanesque ‘”Rhyme Twist”, imperfect ‘start rhymes’, and ‘end rhymes’ though they may be: in Duncan’s song -‘here’/’tears’; in Dylan’s – ‘appear’/’tears’. Dylan gives the listener (or reader) ‘face’ to rhyme with ’embrace’ while Duncan leaves it a widow.

Coincidences, perhaps. However, as Dylan often does in other song lyrics of his, the theme is inverted by having the male involved be the ‘special angel’.

No leaf-eater is he like farmer Cain, but a red-blooded, meat-eating sheep herder; he’s ready, willing, and Abel – forget about the feeling of her loving ‘touch’, there’s the feeling of his ready-for-action ‘love’ machine!

The Romantic theme of Abel’s wild and wide open range world, where men are men, and women are women, displaced by Cain’s enclosed agriculture-based society that’s more appealing to women, appears in a number of song lyrics by Bob Dylan. Figuratively speaking, Frederich Nietzsche’s ‘over-man’ is gone, and it’s you and I who have killed him.

In the song following, the narrator dumps his adventurous Romantic side and returns to his loving wife who’s got a sunshine smile on her lips: she’s his ‘special angel’; the Dylanesque rhyme twist – ‘rain’/’again’; ‘rain’/’insane’.

I picked up his body, and dragged him inside
Threw him down in the hole, and put back the cover
I said a quick prayer, and I felt satisfied
Then I went back to Isis just to tell her I loved her ….
Isis, oh Isis, you mystical child
What drives me to you is what drives me insane
I still can remember the way that you smiled
On the fifth day of May in the drivin’ rain
(Bob Dylan, et al: Isis)

In the lyrics of his songs – much of the time, but not all of the time -, Bob Dylan
rejects the noir neoRomanticism of Nietzsche:

You angel you
You got me under your wing
The way you walk and the way you talk
I feel I could almost sing
(Bob Dylan: You Angel You)


Footnote from Tony: I really wish I had spotted the link between Duncan and Jimmy and the composer of My Special Angel (written in 1957), but I didn’t and Larry did.  Top marks to you Larry.  But at least it has given me an excuse to put the link into Duncan and Jimmy once again.

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  1. Frank Sinatra sings:

    I never knew the charms of spring
    Never met it face to face
    I never knew my heart could sing
    Never missed a warm embrace
    (April In Paris)

    Reminds of a Dylan song:

    If not for you
    Winter would have no spring
    Couldn’t hear a robin sing
    (If Not For You)

  2. And of course Make You Feel My Love could be a murder ballad wherein the angel of death plans to deal with the matter :

    I could hold you a million years

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