Thursday, September 14, 2006

Wretched Bob Dylan Lyrics: A Contender

My daughter Katie and I are huge Dylan fans, whether he's great, great, or awful. In fact, awful is kind of fun, because when Dylan writes badly, there's no one worse.

This afternoon I was listening to Street-Legal and a few lines of such wretched awfulness leaped out at me that I had to call Kate and tell her. I repeated them to her, she repeated them to her room-mate, the three of us all laughed so hard you could hear us from Columbia to Charlotte and back.

Here they are:

Can you cook and sew,
Make flowers grow,
Do you understand my pain?

This at least holds its weight with our two other reigning examples of Bob at his most lame.

From Joey, Dylan's paean to Joey Gallo, who despite being a two-bit thug in real life was unafraid privately to take a bold stance that surely must have alienated his Mafia brethren:

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."

Number One, though, the absolute nadir of Dylan on a bad night, is found in another hymn to a fallen saint, Lenny Bruce, who among his many other virtues, refused to decapitate children:

Never robbed any churches nor cut off any babies' heads,
He just took the folks in high places and he shined a light in their beds.

these are all moments, I suspect, when a little dose of Henry Timrod might have saved the day.


Juan said...

Hi, Rodney. I've always found the chorus to "Lay Lady Lay" awful, but I've had people with perfectly good taste disagree with me. All the same, and much as I love Nashville Skyline, I do my best to avoid these lines:

Lay, lady, lay,
lay across my big brass bed

cp, a reader said...

Well, Rodney, with diffidence and trepidation I post on your blog. I think if we examined all of Dylan's lyrics we would find borrowings and echoes of Shakespeare and Wordsworth and a dozen or three other poets. Because those tags are familiar to us, we recognize the nod, the reference, and probably groove to it (if people still groove, that is). Any turmoil about his borrowing from Timrod means only that the breathless are less literate than the musician.