A deep dive into the lyrics of Bob Dylan’s new album ‘Rough And Rowdy Ways’
The great Bob Dylan made a sensational return to form with the release of his 39th studio album Rough and Rowdy Ways.
The record, which debuted at number two in the charts, once again delivered yet more records as for the iconic singer-songwriter as he became one of the first artists in history to have a charting album across six different decades.
Of course, when Dylan first arrived in the music industry he quickly made a name for himself with his quick wit and clever lyrics, it saw eight of his records make the top 40. In the seventies, 14 more followed, in the eighties it was another seven, then four in the 1990s and seven more in the noughties. After nine more charting albums in the 2010s, Dylan completed his feat with the release of Rough and Rowdy Ways this year. The singer may be the first to score the impressive stat but he may not be the last.
In what arrived as Dylan’s first studio album of original songs since his 2012 album Tempest, the new record comes complete with one of the finest songs of his entire career, the meandering and marauding masterpiece ‘Murder Most Foul’, which clocks in at 17 minutes and was a clear indication that Dylan was back to his best.
The song, which slowly but feverishly remembers 60 years of popular history, references everybody from The Beatles to Etta James while centring around the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It is a poignant moment of the entire record, a collection of lyrics which sees a legend of music history reflect on his contemporaries with the utmost sincerity.
Here, to break down his brilliance, we’re exploring the vast and poignant lyricism of the great Bob Dylan.
Bob Dylan album ‘Rough And Rowdy Ways’ lyrics in full:
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‘I Contain Multitudes’ Lyrics:
Today, and tomorrow, and yesterday, too The flowers are dyin’ like all things do Follow me close, I’m going to Bally-na-Lee I’ll lose my mind if you don’t come with me I fuss with my hair, and I fight blood feuds I contain multitudes
Got a tell-tale heart like Mr. Poe Got skeletons in the walls of people you know I’ll drink to the truth and the things we said I’ll drink to the man that shares your bed I paint landscapes, and I paint nudes I contain multitudes
A red Cadillac and a black mustache Rings on my fingers that sparkle and flash Tell me, what’s next? What shall we do? Half my soul, baby, belongs to you I rollick and I frolic with all the young dudes I contain multitudes
I’m just like Anne Frank, like Indiana Jones And them British bad boys, The Rolling Stones I go right to the edge, I go right to the end I go right where all things lost are made good again I sing the songs of experience like William Blake I have no apologies to make Everything’s flowing all at the same time I live on a boulevard of crime I drive fast cars, and I eat fast foods I contain multitudes
Pink pedal-pushers, red blue jeans All the pretty maids, and all the old queens All the old queens from all my past lives I carry four pistols and two large knives I’m a man of contradictions, I’m a man of many moods I contain multitudes
You greedy old wolf, I’ll show you my heart But not all of it, only the hateful part I’ll sell you down the river, I’ll put a price on your head What more can I tell you? I sleep with life and death in the same bed Get lost, madame, get up off my knee Keep your mouth away from me I’ll keep the path open, the path in my mind I’ll see to it that there’s no love left behind I’ll play Beethoven’s sonatas, and Chopin’s preludes I contain multitudes.
‘False Prophet‘ Lyrics:
Another day that don’t end Another ship goin’ out Another day of anger, bitterness, and doubt I know how it happened I saw it begin I opened my heart to the world and the world came in
Hello Mary Lou Hello Miss Pearl My fleet-footed guides from the underworld No stars in the sky shine brighter than you You girls mean business and I do too
Well I’m the enemy of treason Enemy of strife Enemy of the unlived meaningless life I ain’t no false prophet I just know what I know I go where only the lonely can go
I’m first among equals Second to none Last of the best You can bury the rest Bury ’em naked with their silver and gold Put them six feet under and pray for their souls
What are you lookin’ at There’s nothing to see Just a cool breeze that’s encircling me Let’s go for a walk in the garden So far and so wide We can sit in the shade by the fountain-side
I search the world over For the Holy Grail I sing songs of love I sing songs of betrayal Don’t care what I drink Don’t care what I eat I climbed the mountains of swords on my bare feet
You don’t know me darlin’ You never would guess I’m nothing like my ghostly appearance would suggest I ain’t no false prophet I just said what I said I’m just here to bring vengeance on somebody’s head
Put out your hand There’s nothing to hold Open your mouth I’ll stuff it with gold Oh you poor devil look up if you will The city of God is there on the hill
Hello stranger A long goodbye You ruled the land But so do I You lost your mule You got a poison brain I’ll marry you to a ball and chain
You know darlin’ The kind of life that I live When your smile meets my smile something’s got to give I ain’t no false prophet No I’m nobody’s bride Can’t remember when I was born And I forgot when I died
‘My Own Version Of You‘ Lyrics
All through the summers, into January I’ve been visiting mosques and monasteries Looking for the necessary body parts Limbs and livers and brains and hearts I’ll bring someone to life, is what I wanna do I’m gonna create my own version of you
Well, it must be the winter of my discontent I wish you’d’ve taken me with you wherever you went They talk all night and they talk all day But not for a minute, do I believe anything they say I’m gon’ bring someone to life, someone I’ve never seen You know what I mean, you know exactly what I mean
I’ll take the scar-faced Pacino and the Godfather vandal Mix it up and attack, and get a robot commander If I do it all right and put the head on straight I’ll be saved by the creature that I create I’ll get blood from a cactus, gunpowder from ice I don’t gamble with cards and I don’t shoot no dice Can you look in my face with your sightless eyes? Can you cross your heart and hope to die? I’ll bring someone to life, someone for real Someone who feels the way that I feel
I study Sanskrit and Arabic to improve my mind I wanna do things for the benefit of all my my kind I say to the willow tree, “Don’t wait for me” I’m saying the hell with all things that used to be Well, I’m get into trouble, then I hit the wall No place to turn, no place at all I’ll pick a number between a-one and two And I ask myself, “What would Julius Caesar do?” I’ll bring someone to life in more ways than one Don’t matter how long it takes, it’ll be done when it’s done
I’m gon’ make you play the piano like Leon Russell Like Liberace, like St. John the Apostle I’ll play every number that I can play I’ll see you maybe on Judgment Day After midnight, if you still wanna meet I’ll be in Black Horse Tavern on Armageddon Street Two doors down, not that far a walk I’ll hear your footsteps, you won’t have to knock I’ll bring someone to life, balance the scales I’m not gonna get involved in any insignificant details
You can bring it to St. Peter You can bring it to Jerome You can bring it all the way over Bring it all the way home Bring it to the corner where the children play You can bring it to me on a silver tray I’ll bring someone to life, spare no expense Do it with decency and common sense
Can you tell me what it means, to be or not to be? You won’t get away with fooling me Can you help me walk that good land mile? Can you give me the blessings of your smile? I’ll bring someone to life, use all of my powers Do it in the dark in the wee, small hours
I can see the history of the whole human race It’s all right there, it’s carved into your face Should I break it all down? Should I fall on my knees? Is there light at the end of the tunnel, can you tell me please? Stand over there by the cypress tree Where the Trojan women and children were sold into slavery Long before the first Crusade Way back before England or America were made Step right into the burning hell Where some of the best-known enemies of mankind dwell Mr. Freud with his dreams, Mr. Marx with his ax See the raw hide lash rip the skin from their backs Got the right spirit, you can feel it you can hear it You’ve got what they call the immortal spirit You can feel it all night, you can feel it in the morn It creeps in your body, the day you were born One strike of lightning is all that I need And a blast of electricity that runs at top speed Shimmy your ribs, I’ll stick in the knife Gonna jump-start my creation to life I wanna bring someone to life, turn back the years Do it with laughter and do it with tears
‘I’ve Made Up My Mind To Give Myself To You‘ Lyrics:
I’m sittin’ on my terrace, lost in the stars Listening to the sounds of the sad guitars Been thinking it all over and I’ve thought it all through I’ve made up my mind to give myself to you
I saw the first fall of snow I saw the flowers come and go I don’t think that anyone ever has ever knew I’ve made up my mind to give myself to you
I’m giving myself to you, I am From Salt Lake City to Birmingham From East L.A. to San Antone I don’t think I can bear to live my life alone
My eye’s like a shooting star It looks at nothin’ here or there, looks at nothin’ near of far No one ever told me, it’s just something I knew I’ve made up my mind to give myself to you
If I had the wings of a snow-white dove I’d preach the gospel, the gospel of love A love so real, a love so true I’ve made up my mind to give myself to you
Take me on travelling, you’re a travelling man Show me something I don’t understand I’m not what I was, things aren’t what they were I’ll go far away from home with her
I’ve travelled a long road of despair I’ve met no other traveller there Lot of people gone, a lot of people I knew I’ve made up my mind to give myself to you
Well, my heart’s like a river, a river that sings Just takes me a while to realize things I’ve seen the sunrise, I’ve seen the dawn I’ll lay down beside you when everyone’s gone
I’ve travelled from the mountains to the sea I hope that the gods go easy with me I knew you’d say yes, I’m saying it too I’ve made up my mind to give myself to you
‘Black Rider‘ Lyrics
Black rider, black rider, you’ve been living too hard Been up all night, have to stay on your guard The path that you’re walking, too narrow to walk Every step of the way, another stumbling block The road that you’re on, same road that you know Just not the same as it was a minute ago
Black rider, black rider, you’ve seen it all You’ve seen the great world and you’ve seen the small You fell into the fire and you’re eating the flame Better seal up your lips if you wanna stay in the game Be reasonable, mister, be honest, be fair Let all of your earthly thoughts be a prayer
Black rider, black rider, all dressed in black I’m walking away, you try to make me look back My heart is at rest, I’d like to keep it that way I don’t wanna fight, at least not today Go home to your wife, stop visiting mine One of these days I’ll forget to be kind
Black rider, black rider, tell me when, tell me how If there ever was a time, then let it be now Let me go through, open the door My soul is distressed, my mind is at war Don’t hug me, don’t flatter me, don’t turn on the charm I’ll take a sword and hack off your arm
Black rider, black rider, hold it right there The size of your cock will get you nowhere I’ll suffer in silence, I’ll not make a sound Maybe I’ll take the high moral ground Some enchanted evening I’ll sing you a song Black rider, black rider, you’ve been on the job too long
‘Goodbye Jimmy Reed‘ Lyrics:
I live on a street named after a Saint Women in the churches wear powder and paint Where the Jews, and Catholics, and the Muslims all pray I can tell they’re Proddie from a mile away Goodbye Jimmy Reed, Jimmy Reed indeed Give me that old time religion, it’s just what I need
For thine is kingdom, the power, the glory Go tell it on the mountain, go tell the real story Tell it in that straightforward, puritanical tone In the mystic hours when a person’s alone Goodbye Jimmy Reed, godspeed Thump on the Bible, proclaim a creed
You won’t amount to much, the people all said ‘Cause I didn’t play guitar behind my head Never pandered, never acted proud Never took off my shoes, throw ’em in the crowd Goodbye Jimmy Reed, goodbye, goodnight Put a jewel in your crown and I put out the lights
They threw everything at me, everything in the book I had nothing to fight with but a butcher’s hook They had no pity, they never lend a hand I can’t sing a song that I don’t understand Goodbye Jimmy Reed, goodbye, good luck I can’t play the record ’cause my needle got stuck
Transparent woman in a transparent dress Suits you well, I must confess I’ll break open your grapes, I’ll suck out the juice I need you like my head needs a noose Goodbye Jimmy Reed, goodbye and so long I thought I could resist her but I was so wrong
God be with you, brother dear If you don’t mind me asking what brings you here? Oh, nothing much, I’m just looking for the man Need to see where he’s lying in this lost land Goodbye Jimmy Reed, and everything within ya Can’t you hear me calling from down in Virginia?
‘Mother Of Muses‘ Lyrics:
Mother of Muses sing for me Sing of the mountains and the deep dark sea Sing of the lakes and the nymphs of the forest Sing your hearts out, all your women of the chorus Sing of honour and fate and glory be Mother of Muses sing for me
Mother of Muses sing for my heart Sing of a love too soon to depart Sing of the heroes who stood alone Whose names are engraved on tablets of stone Who struggled with pain so the world could go free Mother of Muses sing for me
Sing of Sherman, Montgomery and Scott And of Zhukov, and Patton, and the battles they fought Who cleared the path for Presley to sing Who carved the path for Martin Luther King Who did what they did and they went on their way Man, I could tell their stories all day
I’m falling in love with Calliope She don’t belong to anyone, why not give her to me? She’s speaking to me, speaking with her eyes I’ve grown so tired of chasing lies Mother of Muses, wherever you are I’ve already outlived my life by far
Mother of Muses, unleash your wrath Things I can’t see, they’re blocking my path Show me your wisdom, tell me my fate Put me upright, make me walk straight Forge my identity from the inside out You know what I’m talking about
Take me to the river, release your charms Let me lay down a while in your sweet, loving arms Wake me, shake me, free me from sin Make me invisible, like the wind Got a mind that ramble, got a mind that roam I’m travellin’ light and I’m a-slow coming home.
‘Crossing The Rubicon‘ Lyrics
I crossed the Rubicon on the 14th day Of the most dangerous month of the year At the worst time, at the worst place That’s all I seem to hear I got up early So I can greet the Goddess of the dawn I’ve painted my wagon, abandoned all hope And I crossed the Rubicon
Well, the Rubicon is a red river Goin’ gently as she flows Redder than your ruby lips And the blood that flows from the rose Three miles north of purgatory One step from the great beyond I prayed to the cross, I kissed the girls And I crossed the Rubicon
What are these dark days I see? In this world so badly bent I cannot redeem the time The time so idly spent How much longer can it last? How long can it go on? I embrace my love Put down my hair And I crossed the Rubicon
I can feel the bones beneath my skin And they’re tremblin’ with rage I’ll make your wife a widow You’ll never see old age Show me one good man in sight That the sun shines down upon I pawned my watch, I paid my debts And I crossed the Rubicon
Put my hide up on a hill Where some happiness I’ll find If I survive, then let me love Let the hour be mine Take the high road, take the low Take anyone you’re on I poured a cup, I passed it along And I crossed the Rubicon
Well, you defiled the most lovely flowers In all her womanhood Others can be tolerant Others can be good I’ll cut you up with the crooked knife Lord, I’ll miss you when you’re gone I stood between heaven and earth And I crossed the Rubicon
You won’t find any happiness here No happiness or joy Go back to the gutter, try your luck Find you some nice pretty boy Tell me how many men I need And who can I count upon I strapped my belt, I buttoned my coat And I crossed the Rubicon
I feel the holy spirit inside See the light that freedom gives I believe it’s in the reach of Every man who lives Keep as far away as possible It’s darkest ‘fore the dawn (Oh Lord) I turned the key, I broke it off And I crossed the Rubicon
Mornin’ baby, I used to look my mind I truly believe that you are Couldn’t be anybody else but you Who’s come with me this far The killing frost is on the ground And the autumn leaves are gone I lit the torch, looked to the east And I crossed the Rubicon.
‘Key West (Philosopher Pirate)‘ Lyrics
McKinley hollered, McKinley squalled Doctor said, “McKinley, death is on the wall Say it to me, if you got something to confess” I heard all about it, he was going down slow I heard it all, the wireless radio From down in the boondocks way down in Key West I’m searching for love, for inspiration On that pirate radio station Coming out of Luxembourg and Budapest Radio signal, clear as can be I’m so deep in love that I can hardly see Down on the flatlands, way down in Key West
Key West is the place to be If you’re looking for immortality Stay on the road, follow the highway sign Key West is fine and fair If you lost your mind, you will find it there Key West is on the horizon line
I was born on the wrong side of the railroad track Like Ginsberg, Corso and Kerouac Like Louis and Jimmy and Buddy and all the rest Well, it might not be the thing to do But I’m sticking with you through and through Down in the flatlands, way down in Key West I got both my feet planted square on the ground Got my right hand high with the thumb down Such is life, such is happiness Hibiscus flowers, they grow everywhere here If you wear one, put it behind your ear Down in the bottom, way down in Key West
Key West is the place to go Down by the Gulf of Mexico Beyond the sea, beyond the shifting sand Key West is the gateway key To innocence and purity Key West, Key West is the enchanted land
I’ve never lived in the land of Oz Or wasted my time with an unworthy cause It’s hot down here, and you can’t be overdressed China blossoms of a toxic plant They can make you dizzy, I’d like to help you but I can’t Down in the flatlands, way down in Key West Well, the fishtail ponds, and the orchid trees They can give you that bleeding heart disease People tell me I ought to try a little tenderness On Newton Street, Bayview Park Walking in the shadows after dark Down under, way down in Key West I played Gumbo Limbo spirituals I know all the Hindu rituals People tell me that I’m truly blessed Bougainvillaea blooming in the summer, in the spring Winter here is an unknown thing Down in the flatlands, way down in Key West
Key West is under the sun, under the radar, under the gun You stay to the left, and then you lean to the right Feel the sunlight on your skin, and the healing virtues of the wind Key West, Key West is the land of light
Wherever I travel, wherever I roam I’m not that far before I come back home I do what I think is right, what I think is best History Street off of Mallory Square Truman had his White House there Eastbound, Westbound, way down in Key West Twelve years old, they put me in a suit Forced me to marry a prostitute There were gold fringes on her wedding dress That’s my story, but not where it ends She’s still cute, and we’re still friends Down on the bottom, way down in Key West I play both sides against the middle Trying to pick up that pirate radio signal I heard the news, I heard your last request Fly around, my pretty little Miss I don’t love nobody, give me a kiss Down on the bottom, way down in Key West
Key West is the place to be If you’re looking for immortality Key West is paradise divine Key West is fine and fair If you lost your mind, you’ll find it there Key West is on the horizon line.
‘Murder Most Foul’ lyrics:
Twas a dark day in Dallas, November ’63 A day that will live on in infamy President Kennedy was a-ridin’ high Good day to be livin’ and a good day to die Being led to the slaughter like a sacrificial lamb He said, “Wait a minute, boys, you know who I am?” “Of course we do. We know who you are.” Then they blew off his head while he was still in the car Shot down like a dog in broad daylight Was a matter of timing and the timing was right You got unpaid debts; we’ve come to collect We’re gonna kill you with hatred; without any respect We’ll mock you and shock you and we’ll put it in your face We’ve already got someone here to take your place
The day they blew out the brains of the king Thousands were watching; no one saw a thing It happened so quickly, so quick, by surprise Right there in front of everyone’s eyes Greatest magic trick ever under the sun Perfectly executed, skillfully done Wolfman, oh wolfman, oh wolfman howl Rub-a-dub-dub, it’s a murder most foul
Hush, little children. You’ll understand The Beatles are comin’; they’re gonna hold your hand Slide down the banister, go get your coat Ferry ‘cross the Mersey and go for the throat There’s three bums comin’ all dressed in rags Pick up the pieces and lower the flags I’m going to Woodstock; it’s the Aquarian Age Then I’ll go to Altamont and sit near the stage Put your head out the window; let the good times roll There’s a party going on behind the Grassy Knoll
Stack up the bricks, pour the cement Don’t say Dallas don’t love you, Mr. President Put your foot in the tank and step on the gas Try to make it to the triple underpass Blackface singer, whiteface clown Better not show your faces after the sun goes down Up in the red light district, they’ve got cop on the beat Living in a nightmare on Elm Street
When you’re down in Deep Ellum, put your money in your shoe Don’t ask what your country can do for you Cash on the ballot, money to burn Dealey Plaza, make left-hand turn I’m going down to the crossroads; gonna flag a ride The place where faith, hope, and charity died Shoot him while he runs, boy. Shoot him while you can See if you can shoot the invisible man Goodbye, Charlie. Goodbye, Uncle Sam Frankly, Miss Scarlett, I don’t give a damn
What is the truth, and where did it go? Ask Oswald and Ruby; they oughta know “Shut your mouth,” said the wise old owl Business is business, and it’s a murder most foul
Tommy, can you hear me? I’m the Acid Queen I’m riding in a long, black limousine Riding in the backseat next to my wife Heading straight on in to the afterlife I’m leaning to the left; got my head in her lap Hold on, I’ve been led into some kind of a trap Where we ask no quarter, and no quarter do we give We’re right down the street from the street where you live They mutilated his body, and they took out his brain What more could they do? They piled on the pain But his soul’s not there where it was supposed to be at For the last fifty years they’ve been searchin’ for that
Freedom, oh freedom. Freedom cover me I hate to tell you, mister, but only dead men are free Send me some lovin’; tell me no lies Throw the gun in the gutter and walk on by Wake up, little Susie; let’s go for a drive Cross the Trinity River; let’s keep hope alive Turn the radio on; don’t touch the dials Parkland hospital, only six more miles
You got me dizzy, Miss Lizzy. You filled me with lead That magic bullet of yours has gone to my head I’m just a patsy like Patsy Cline Never shot anyone from in front or behind I’ve blood in my eye, got blood in my ear I’m never gonna make it to the new frontier Zapruder’s film I seen night before Seen it 33 times, maybe more It’s vile and deceitful. It’s cruel and it’s mean Ugliest thing that you ever have seen They killed him once and they killed him twice Killed him like a human sacrifice
The day that they killed him, someone said to me, “Son The age of the Antichrist has only begun.” Air Force One coming in through the gate Johnson sworn in at 2:38 Let me know when you decide to thrown in the towel It is what it is, and it’s murder most foul
What’s new, pussycat? What’d I say? I said the soul of a nation been torn away And it’s beginning to go into a slow decay And that it’s 36 hours past Judgment Day
Wolfman Jack, speaking in tongues He’s going on and on at the top of his lungs Play me a song, Mr. Wolfman Jack Play it for me in my long Cadillac Play me that ‘Only the Good Die Young’ Take me to the place Tom Dooley was hung Play St. James Infirmary and the Court of King James If you want to remember, you better write down the names Play Etta James, too. Play ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’ Play it for the man with the telepathic mind Play John Lee Hooker. Play ‘Scratch My Back’. Play it for that strip club owner named Jack Guitar Slim going down slow Play it for me and for Marilyn Monroe
Play ‘Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ Play it for the First Lady, she ain’t feeling any good Play Don Henley, play Glenn Frey Take it to the limit and let it go by Play it for Karl Wirsum, too Looking far, far away at Down Gallow Avenue Play tragedy, play “Twilight Time” Take me back to Tulsa to the scene of the crime Play another one and “Another One Bites the Dust” Play “The Old Rugged Cross” and “In God We Trust” Ride the pink horse down the long, lonesome road Stand there and wait for his head to explode Play “Mystery Train” for Mr. Mystery The man who fell down dead like a rootless tree Play it for the Reverend; play it for the Pastor Play it for the dog that got no master Play Oscar Peterson. Play Stan Getz Play “Blue Sky”; play Dickey Betts Play Art Pepper, Thelonious Monk Charlie Parker and all that junk All that junk and “All That Jazz” Play something for the Birdman of Alcatraz Play Buster Keaton, play Harold Lloyd Play Bugsy Siegel, play Pretty Boy Floyd Play the numbers, play the odds Play “Cry Me A River” for the Lord of the gods Play number 9, play number 6 Play it for Lindsey and Stevie Nicks Play Nat King Cole, play “Nature Boy” Play “Down In The Boondocks” for Terry Malloy Play “It Happened One Night” and “One Night of Sin” There’s 12 Million souls that are listening in Play “Merchant of Venice”, play “Merchants of Death” Play “Stella by Starlight” for Lady Macbeth
Don’t worry, Mr. President. Help’s on the way Your brothers are coming; there’ll be hell to pay Brothers? What brothers? What’s this about hell? Tell them, “We’re waiting. Keep coming.” We’ll get them as well
Love Field is where his plane touched down But it never did get back up off the ground Was a hard act to follow, second to none They killed him on the altar of the rising sun Play “Misty” for me and “That Old Devil Moon” Play “Anything Goes” and “Memphis in June” Play “Lonely At the Top” and “Lonely Are the Brave” Play it for Houdini spinning around his grave Play Jelly Roll Morton, play “Lucille” Play “Deep In a Dream”, and play “Driving Wheel” Play “Moonlight Sonata” in F-sharp And “A Key to the Highway” for the king on the harp Play “Marching Through Georgia” and “Dumbarton’s Drums” Play darkness and death will come when it comes Play “Love Me Or Leave Me” by the great Bud Powell Play “The Blood-stained Banner”, play “Murder Most Foul”.