About a strange young man called Dylan with a voice like sand and glue
His words of truthful vengeance, they could pin us to the floor
Brought a few more people on and put the fear in a whole lot more"
One of the most influential living songwriters in pop music, and an American cultural icon. Music critics refer to him by last name alone (sometimes even just his first name will suffice), and references to his life and career seem to pop up everywhere. Wikipedia is a great place to learn the particulars, so we'll stick to the tropetacular.
Bob Dylan (born May 24, 1941) was born Robert Allen Zimmerman (no, you can't call him that) in Duluth, Minnesota to an electrical-supplies shopkeeper and a homemaker. Growing up in Northern Minnesota's small, tight-knit Jewish community (the Zimmermans moved from Duluth to Hibbing, an hour's drive away, in 1947), young Bobby was a somewhat shy boy who showed interest in literature, art and music. He dropped out of the University of Minnesota at Minneapolis after completing his freshman year in spring 1960, and, at the age of 19, moved to New York City the following January with a guitar, some flannel shirts, and not much else. Adapting his new surname in homage to Dylan Thomas, he performed folk songs in bohemian Greenwich Village coffee shops and bars with an affected accent, inspired by Woody Guthrie, and became a fixture of the local "folk scene"—which doubled as a leftist political circle deeply interested in the Civil Rights Movement. Dylan wrote songs specifically for this group, the most famous being "Blowin' In The Wind" and "The Times They Are A-Changin'". Although these two protest songs are still his biggest claim to fame today—he's the guy who "brought politics" into music, somehow—this "topical" phase of his career lasted little more than twelve months.
In the summer 1965, he took the stage at the Newport Folk Festival with some rock musician buddies and an electric guitar. They plugged in, played very loud rock music with crazy-ass lyrics to some angry college kids, and thereby "went electric." It was not a popular decision at the time. His image from this period is the most enduring — dark sunglasses indoors, a giant dome of frizzy hair, mod wardrobe, and baked as a Belgian waffle.
His most famous song from this "electric" period is "Like A Rolling Stone". Twice as long or loud as anything else on the radio at the time, with snarling lyrics about chrome horses and cat-loving diplomats, the song somehow rose to number two on the U.S. charts (number one was "Eve of Destruction," now widely seen as a knockoff of Dylan's style whose creator ended up as a One-Hit Wonder). It's worth noting here that he has never had a number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100, the chart of record in the United States,note almost certainly making him the most popular and influential songwriter in the entire English language with that distinction.
After a long world tour, full of combative press conferences and booing crowds, Dylan dropped off the radar in 1966, one year prior to the ''Summer of Love", in part to recover from injuries sustained during a minor motorcycle accident (debate goes on to this day as to whether Dylan faked, or at least greatly exaggerated these injuries, or even conjured the incident out of whole cloth as an excuse to disappear from the limelight for awhile). He did not perform at Woodstock (despite - or perhaps because of - the fact that it took place basically down the road from his house), and he did not protest the Vietnam War. Bob Dylan closed out the Sixties via duet with Johnny Cash. He nonetheless remains synonymous with said decade's "turbulence": Jimi Hendrix's cover of "All Along the Watchtower" plays over about 70% of all Sixties montages.
The other major Bob Dylan reference you might encounter is to his "born again phase", which began with his conversion from Judaism to (Evangelical Protestant) Christianitynote in 1979. Attendant to this were a few nostalgic, audience-baiting tours and some angry, but lyrically intricate, Christian Rock albums. Dylan eventually returned to more secular themes, but has never quite abandoned the doomsaying street preacher point of view. On the other hand, in his personal life, he's been seen celebrating the High Holidays at various Chabad Lubavich Hasidic congregations; make of that what you will.
Dylan still records music, which people still don't really "get", and is once again sacrosanct among music critics and record store employees. As ever, this is mostly on the strength of his lyrics—Dylan won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016, becoming the first songwriter to receive this honor. Nonetheless, his nasal growl of a singing voice remains a point of contention among listeners. The stock Bob Dylan joke is that nobody can understand a word he says, and he is usually depicted as talking exactly as he sings.
- 1962 — Bob Dylan
- 1963 — The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan
- 1964 — The Times They Are A-Changin'
- 1964 — Another Side of Bob Dylan
- 1965 — Bringing It All Back Home
- 1965 — Highway 61 Revisited
- 1966 — Blonde on Blonde
- 1967 — John Wesley Harding
- 1969 — Nashville Skyline
- 1970 — Self Portrait
- 1970 — New Morning
- 1973 — Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid
- 1973 — Dylan
- 1974 — Planet Waves note
- 1975 — Blood on the Tracks
- 1975 — The Basement Tapes note
- 1976 — Desire
- 1978 — Street Legal
- 1979 — Slow Train Coming
- 1980 — Saved
- 1981 — Shot of Love
- 1983 — Infidels
- 1985 — Empire Burlesque
- 1986 — Knocked Out Loaded
- 1988 — Down in the Groove
- 1989 — Oh Mercy
- 1990 — Under the Red Sky
- 1992 — Good as I Been to You
- 1993 — World Gone Wrong
- 1997 — Time Out of Mind
- 2001 — Love and Theft
- 2006 — Modern Times
- 2009 — Together Through Life
- 2009 — Christmas in the Heart
- 2012 — Tempest
- 2015 — Shadows in the Night
- 2016 — Fallen Angels
- 2017 — Triplicate
- 1974 — Before The Flood note
- 1976 — Hard Rain
- 1979 — Bob Dylan at Budokan
- 1984 — Real Live
- 1989 — Dylan and the Dead note
- 1993 — The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration note
- 1995 — MTV Unplugged
- 1985 — Biograph
- 1991 — The Bootleg Series Vol. 1–3 - Rare and Unreleased 1961–1991
- 1998 — The Bootleg Series Vol. 4 - Bob Dylan Live 1966, The "Royal Albert Hall" Concert
- 2001 — Live 1961–2000: Thirty-Nine Years of Great Concert Performances
- 2002 — The Bootleg Series Vol. 5 - Bob Dylan Live 1975, The Rolling Thunder Revue
- 2004 — The Bootleg Series Vol. 6 - Bob Dylan Live 1964, Concert At Philharmonic Hall
- 2005 — Live at the Gaslight 1962
- 2005 — Live at Carnegie Hall 1963
- 2005 — The Bootleg Series Vol. 7 - No Direction Home: The Soundtrack
- 2008 — The Bootleg Series Vol. 8 - Tell Tale Signs: Rare and Unreleased 1989–2006
- 2010 — The Bootleg Series Vol. 9 - The Witmark Demos 1962–1964
- 2011 — In Concert - Brandeis University 1963
- 2013 — The Bootleg Series Vol. 10 - Another Self Portrait
- 2014 — The Bootleg Series Vol. 11 - The Basement Tapes Complete
- 2015 — The Bootleg Series Vol. 12 - The Cutting Edge 1965–1966
- 2016 — The 1966 Live Recordings
- 2017 — The Bootleg Series Vol. 13 - Trouble No More 1979–1981
Bob Dylan in film:
- Don't Look Back (1967) (documentary of Dylan's 1965 British tour)
- Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973) (Dylan composed the soundtrack and acted in a supporting role)
- The Last Waltz (1978) (farewell concert of The Band; Dylan makes a memorable appearance near the end)
Subterranean Homesick Tropes
- After the End: "Talkin' World War III Blues" from The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan plays it for Black Comedy.
- Altum Videtur: In the most bizarre moment on Christmas in the Heart (which is saying a lot), he opens "O Come All Ye Faithful" with the original "Adeste Fideles" verse. His pronunciation isn't bad, but it's still Bob Dylan singing Latin.
- Ambiguously Christian: While his "born-again" phase is considered a thing of the past, he has dropped some vague hints in interviews that he is still a practicing Christian. The 2012 album Tempest notably contains the most references to Christianity since Shot of Love, the album that concluded his born-again trilogy.
- Applied Mathematics: "Love Minus Zero/No Limit" from Bringing It All Back Home is an equation. "Love - 0 / ∞"
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: "Shot Of Love" from Shot Of Love.Why would I want to, take your life, you've only murdered my father, raped his wife, tattooed my babies with a poisoned pen, mocked my God, humiliated my friend.
- A Storm Is Coming: So many songs, but most notably "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall", "All Along The Watchtower", "The Times They Are A-Changin'", "Blowin' In The Wind", "Shelter From The Storm", "When The Ship Comes In" and "Subterranean Homesick Blues".
- Awesome Mc Coolname: Judas Priest from "The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest" from John Wesley Harding. So awesome that this one heavy metal band took the name for itself.
- Ballad of X: "Ballad Of A Thin Man", "Ballad Of Hollis Brown", "Ballad Of Frankie Lee And Judas Priest".
- The Band Minus the Face: Dylan's mid-60's touring band would go on to considerable success in their own right as, well, The Band.
- The Beat Generation: Dylan has listed Kerouac among his influences and actually became close friends with Allen Ginsberg.
- Big "NO!": Played for Laughs (probably) in "In Search Of Little Sadie"
- Blackface: He never donned it directly, but rather wore ironic white-face make-up during the Rolling Thunder Revue. He has also been open about the influence of minstrelsy on his music, including naming his album Love and Theft after Eric Lott's academic book Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class. A minstrel named Oscar Vogel appears in Masked and Anonymous.
- Blasé Boast: Played for Laughs (probably) by the introduction he used for years, starting in 2002. It's originally from an article about him, which Dylan apparently either found flattering or so hilarious he had to turn it into a Running Gag.Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome: the poet laureate of rock 'n' roll. The voice of the promise of The '60s counterculture. The guy who forced folk into bed with rock. Who donned make-up in The '70s and disappeared into a haze of substance abuse. Who emerged to find Jesus. Who was written off as a has-been by the end of The '80s, and who suddenly shifted gears releasing some of the strongest music of his career beginning in the late Nineties. Ladies and gentlemen - Columbia recording artist Bob Dylan!
- Break the Haughty: "Like A Rolling Stone".
- Breather Song: On The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, the comical "Bob Dylan's Blues" and "I Shall Be Free" are there to help offset the album's heavier songs. While not quite as comical, the lyrically wry and up-tempo "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go" serves a similar role on Blood on the Tracks.
- Brick Joke: Responsible for possibly the longest brick joke ever. In 1964, when asked by a reporter what what product might entice him to sell out, Dylan replied, "Ladies' undergarments." Forty years later in 2004, he appeared in a Victoria's Secret ad.
- Butt-Monkey: The narrator of "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues".
I told you "The Times They Are A-Changing" and they did! I said the answer was "Blowin’ In The Wind" and it was! And I'm saying to you now, Jesus is coming back.
- He quotes the opening line of "Positively 4th Street" ("You've got a lot of nerve to say you are my friend") at the end of its follow-up single, "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?"
- "Stayin' up for days in the Chelsea Hotel/Writing 'Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands' for you" ("Sara")
- The first track on Street Legal (1978), "Changing Of The Guards", opens with the lines "Sixteen years/Sixteen banners united over the field". The album was his sixteenth studio albumnote , released sixteen years after his 1962 debut.
- During a 1979 concert on his first "Christian" tour:
- "Po' Boy" from 2001 may be one to "Motorpsycho Nitemare":
- Canon Discontinuity: For a while after his conversion to Christianity, he refused to play any of his pre-Gospel songs.
- Chekhov's Gunman: "Brownsville Girl". The narrator and his girlfriend stop at the house of someone named Henry Porter, only to find out he's gone out for a while. Later in the song this trope gets thoroughly averted and Lampshaded: "The only thing we knew for sure about Henry Porter was that his name wasn't Henry Porter", and Porter is never mentioned again.
- Chekhov's Volcano: "Black Diamond Bay".
- Christmas Songs: Dylan's 2009 release, Christmas in the Heart, consists of various Christmas songs from Dylan's formative years, played straight.
- Cloudcuckoolander: In interviews he can come off as this, but how much of that is genuine and how much is an elaborate put-on is one of the eternal debates in his career.
- Cool Hat: The feathered white fedora he dons in The Last Waltz certainly qualifies.
- Cool Shades: Was rarely seen without his shades as part of his new rock star image in the mid-60's.
- Also featured in the cover photo for Infidels in 1983.
- Corpsing: At the start of "Bob Dylan's 115th Dream" because the rest of the band missed their cue.
- Cover Album: A bunch. Good as I Been to You and World Gone Wrong consist of solo acoustic performances of old folk standards. Dylan is an album of cover version out-takes. Christmas in the Heart has him covering Christmas Songs. His three most recent albums, Shadows In The Night, Fallen Angels and Triplicate, are covers of Tin Pan Alley standards (many of which are associated with Frank Sinatra). Also, Bob Dylan, Self Portrait and Down In The Groove have more covers than original material.
- The Cover Changes the Gender: He famously averted this in his take on "The House Of The Rising Sun". He also retained the female perspective of the original when he covered the British folk song "Young But Daily Growing" during The Basement Tapes sessions.
- The Cover Changes the Meaning: Ray Price's 1968 country hit "Take Me As I Am (Or Let Me Go)" is addressed to a lover who the narrator thinks is trying to make him "a stand-in for an old love." When he covered it on Self Portrait two years later, the subtext of Dylan sending a message to listeners who believed that He Changed, Now He Sucks was glaring almost to the point of Anviliciousness:Why must you always try to make me over?Take me as I am or let me go...You're trying to reshape me in a mold...In the image of someone you used to know
- Cover Version: For an artist often praised more for his song-writing than his performances, Dylan loves doing other people's material - ranging from folk and blues songs to Frank Sinatra and The Clash. After Warren Zevon announced he had cancer, Dylan started playing 2-3 Warren Zevon covers at every show for an entire tour.
- Crapsack World: Many of his songs, especially from the early 80's onwards. For instance, "Blind Willie McTell" from "The Bootleg Series".Well, God is in his heavenAnd we all want what's HisBut power and greedAnd corruptible seedSeems to be all that there is
- Pretty much the entirety of 1997's Time Out of Mind might be counted under this trope: Dylan sounds so depressed and sick of life on the album that some people expressed mild surprise that after recording it he didn't just go and jump off a bridge somewhere.
- Deadpan Snarker: Often in interviews, especially in his younger days.Reporter: How many, would you say, could be classified as protest singers today?Bob Dylan: Uh... how many?Reporter: Yes. Are there many?Bob Dylan: I think there's about... 136?
- Distinct Double Album: Biograph was a 5-LP set in its original release, and each side seemed to have a rough theme: 1—Silly Love Songs; 2—Protest Songs; 3—Rock 'n' Roll; 4—Poetic Songs; 5—Genre Roulette; 6—Torch Songs; 7—Author Filibuster; 8—Intercourse with You; 9—"I Want" Songs; 10—Christian Rock / Not Christian Rock.note
- Do Not Call Me "Paul": You apparently have to get special permission to mention the name "Zimmerman" in his presence. Some people (including, if Rolling Stone is to be believed, Barack Obama) do get permission.
- Dying Town: "North Country Blues" from The Times Thet Are A Changin
- Emergency Broadcast: He mentions CONELRAD in "Talkin' World War III Blues".
- Epic Rocking: He's basically the guy who invented the notion that rock songs could be really long. "Desolation Row", "Highlands", "Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands", "Joey", "Brownsville Girl" and "Tempest" are all longer than ten minutes!
- And "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts" isn't far off at just under nine.
- Every Scar Has a Story: "Where Are You Tonight (Journey Through Dark Heat)" from Street Legal.If you don't believe there's a price for this sweet paradiseJust remind me to show you the scars
- Everybody Must Get Stoned: Trope Namer, from the chorus of "Rainy Day Woman # 12 & 35"
- Which is a non-sexual Double Entendre. In the verses, "they'll stone you" refers to the kind of persecution symbolized by Biblical stoning. The chorus plays up the drug associations of the word.
- "Stoned" was originally a slang term for being drunk on alcohol, only later was it reserved for marijuana intoxication.
- Fading into the Next Song: On Desire, "Romance In Durango" cross-fades into "Black Diamond Bay".
- On The Bootleg Series: Vol. 3, "When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky" cross-fades into "Series Of Dreams".
- Le Film Artistique: Renaldo And Clara.
- And Masked And Anonymous.
- Eat The Document.
- Forever Young Song: The Trope Codifier, featured in two different versions on Planet Waves.
- Full-Name Ultimatum: At least two other artistsnote have used the name "Zimmerman" to express their disillusionment with him. The Byrds, on the other hand, used it as a joking retort to Dylan's joking Take That! in "You Ain't Going Nowhere" ("Zimmerman" fit the melody and rhyme better than "Dylan").
- Gay Paree: Mentioned in "Not Dark Yet".
- The Grateful Dead: Dylan toured with them in 1987, resulting in the live album Dylan And The Dead...which fans of both acts would just as soon pretend never happened.
- Greatest Hits Album: Several, with many of them helping to codify different approaches to this trope. 1967's Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits is still many listeners' gateway into his work and also gave "Positively 4th Street" its first album appearance. The double album Greatest Hits Volume II (1971) was probably the Trope Maker for the now-almost universal practice of including newly-recorded bonus songs on a Greatest Hits Album. It's also notable because Dylan chose the songs and did the track sequence. 1985's Biograph was a 5-record (and 3-CD) mix of hits, studio out-takes and live cuts that helped lay the groundwork for the CD box set boom. For a while those were it, but starting in the mid-90s there have been numerous career-spanning sets released.
- Hanging Judge: In "Seven Curses" and "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts".
- Have a Gay Old Time: "Standing In The Doorway"—"I'm strumming on my gay guitar." But since it was written and recorded in 1997 it's a case of Dylan purposely using the old meaning to convey anachronism.
- A deliberate Double Entendre in "Caribbean Wind", where the line "as the gay night wore on" is immediately followed by "where men bathed in perfume."
- "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35", noted for its "Everybody must get stoned" chorus, where he decided to write the song about being physically stoned to death, rather than getting high, with such lyrics as "They’ll stone you and then say you are brave, They’ll stone you when you are set down in your grave" and "They'll stone ya when you’re tryin’ to keep your seat". He announced, when performing at the Royal Albert Hall, London: "I never have and never will write a drug song." Nevertheless, some commentators labeled it a drug song due to its "Everybody must get stoned" line.
- Harsh Vocals: A trademark, though his voice didn't get really guttural until around Under the Red Sky in 1990, and it wasn't until Time Out of Mind that he went full-Tom Waits with it.
- He Also Did: Dabbled in acting, most notably a supporting part in 1973 film Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, for which Dylan also composed the soundtrack. (This included Breakaway Pop Hit "Knockin' on Heaven's Door".)
- Heel Realization: "What Good Am I?" from Oh Mercy
- Hilarious Outtakes:
- The false start to "Bob Dylan's 115th Dream", complete with producer Tom Wilson's helpless laughter.
- "Suze (The Cough Song)", an instrumental that ends abruptly when Dylan starts coughing into his harmonica and claims it's supposed to fade out right there.
- Hyperlink Story: "Lily, Rosemary & The Jack of Hearts", "Black Diamond Bay".
- I Know You Know I Know: "Tell Me, Momma".
- Intercourse with You: "Lay Lady Lay".
It ain't that I'm askin' anything you never gave beforeIt's just that I'll be sleepin' soon, it'll be too dark for you to find the door
- Actually, most of Nashville Skyline is made of this. And even before, there was "I'll Be your Baby Tonight" from John Wesley Harding.
- Subverted in the unreleased "If You Gotta Go, Go Now (Or Else You've Got to Stay All Night)".
- "On a Night Like This" and "One More Weekend" are about Marital Intercourse With You.
- Is Nothing Sacred?: "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" from Bringing It All Back HomeDisillusioned words like bullets barkAs human gods aim for their markMake everything from toy guns that sparkTo flesh-coloured Christs that glow in the darkIt’s easy to see without looking too farThat not much is really sacred
- It Will Never Catch On:
- After Columbia Records executive John Hammond signed Dylan and produced his debut album, the album only sold 5,000 copies in its initial release. Other Columbia executives started calling Dylan "Hammond's Folly".
- On October 6, 2016, Alex Shephard wrote in The New Republic "Bob Dylan 100 percent is not going to win. Stop saying Bob Dylan should win the Nobel Prize." October 13: he's awarded the Nobel Prize. To his credit, Shephard thinks it's Actually Pretty Funny.
- Jerkass: He comes across as a major one in Don't Look Back, as Roger Ebert notes in his review of the film's 20th anniversary reissue:What a jerk Bob Dylan was in 1965. What an immature, self-important, inflated, cruel, shallow little creature, lacking in empathy and contemptuous of anyone who was not himself or his lackey. Did we actually once take this twirp as our folk god?
- Just Like Robin Hood: The title character in "John Wesley Harding", though the real life John Wesley Hardin didn't fit the role at all.
- Karma Houdini: "The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll" tells the story of an upper-class white man who kills a poor black woman. This being Baltimore in the 60's, he receives only a six-month sentence.
- Very much inverted in "Percy's Song" from "Biograph", in which the singer relates the story of a friend who was in a car accident that killed four people, and got a 99-year prison sentence for manslaughter.
- The Knights Who Say "Squee!": How a lot of fans, and apparently a lot of other artists tend to react to meeting him in person.
- "Knock Knock" Joke: He somehow manages to slip one into "Po' Boy".Knockin' on the door, I say "Who is it, where you from?"Man says "Freddie", I say "Freddie who?" He says "Freddie or not, here I come!"
- Large Ham: On some of his 60's and 70's tours his stage persona leaned in this direction. Even now, he'll ham it up a bit on some songs ("Ballad of a Thin Man" in particular).
- Long Title: "(Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The) Memphis Blues Again" and "Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine)". Incidentally, both of these are off of Blonde on Blonde.
- Loveable Rogue: The Jack of Hearts in "Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts" from Blood on the Tracks.
- Lyrical Cold Open: "Mixed-Up Confusion" from "Biograph", "Winterlude" from "New Morning", "Idiot Wind" from Blood on the Tracks.
- Lyrical Dissonance: "Positively 4th Street" and "Like A Rolling Stone" (bright, happy music accompanied by bitter words).
- "Oxford Town" from The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan is a jolly-sounding up-tempo song (in the liner notes Dylan calls it "a banjo tune I play on the guitar") about the riots at the University of Mississippi when James Meredith enrolled there.
- The Basement Tapes-era tune "Get Your Rocks Off" pairs slow, bluesy music with silly, slightly off-colour lyrics. The absurdity of that pairing leads Dylan to start corpsing midway through the song
- Madonna–Whore Complex: "The Groom's Still Waiting at the Altar".What can I say about Claudette?
Ain't seen her since January
She could be respectably married
Or running a whorehouse in Buenos Aires
- Magnificent Bastard: In the story told in "Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts", the Jack of Hearts comes off as one of these.
- Messy Hair: Especially during the late 60's. He's the page picture.
- Mind Screw: "Desolation Row" from Highway 61 Revisited
- Just "Desolation Row"? The same album also has "Tombstone Blues" which averages three mind screws per verse, and "Ballad of a Thin Man" which might as well be the trope namer.
- The second verse of "Bob Dylan's 115th Dream" from Bringing It All Back Home especially, where what is believed to be a newly discovered America is revealed to be already populated by its crazier twentieth century inhabitants.
- His "experimental prose poetry collection" Tarantula.
- Miscarriage of Justice: "Percy's Song" from Biograph, "The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll" from The Times They Are A-Changin', "Hurricane" from Desire.
- Morality Ballad: Too many to list. Most notable are probably "Like A Rolling Stone" from Highway 61 Revisited and "Hurricane" from Desire
- The Movie Buff: He's a considerable cinephile, especially of the movies from The '50s and is surprisingly articulate about cinema about that time. His song "The Mighty Quinn" was based on the little-known Nicholas Ray film The Savage Innocents and in Chronicles he discusses the influences films by Federico Fellini and others had on him, as well as The Girl Can't Help It (aka every rock musician's favorite film).
- Multilingual Song: "Romance in Durango" on Desire has several untranslated Spanish lines in its chorus.No Ilores, mi querida (don't cry, my dear)Dios nos vigila (God watches over us)Soon the horse will take us to DurangoAgarrame, mi vida (grab hold of me, my life)Soon the desert will be goneSoon you will be dancing the fandango
- Murder Ballad: "The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll" from The Times They Are A-Changin'
- Music of Note: Dylan is one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, especially to singer-songwriters.
- My Friends... and Zoidberg: "Bob Dylan's 115th Dream" from Bringing It All Back HomeWell, by this time I was fed upAt tryin’ to make a stabAt bringin’ back any helpFor my friends and Captain Arab
- Never Accepted in His Hometown: Hibbing, Minnesota, where he spent most of his youth, has had a complicated relationship with him. Locals barely even acknowledged him during his meteoric rise to fame in The '60s. The attitude softened considerably once the Baby Boom generation rose to leadership positions in the town. They starting holding a Dylan Days festival around his birthday, and renamed the street he grew up on as Bob Dylan Drive. But as the economy in Hibbing started failing, the much larger city of Duluth, where he was born, has taken on a bigger role in honoring him. The Nobel Prize no doubt adds a new twist to the situation.
- New Sound Album: Several. Bringing It All Back Home definitely qualifies, marking his transition to electric (which, as noted above, pissed off a substantial portion of his fan base). Prior to that, Another Side of Bob Dylan marked his transition from protest songs to impressionistic, expressive lyrics (which, as noted above, also pissed off a substantial portion of his fan base). Then there was the late 60's John Wesley Harding, which took a step back from the heavy pop instrumentation of the previous three albums and went for a much more sparse and acoustic country vibe - followed by Nashville Skyline, which was pretty much full-on country with very straight-forward, unambiguous lyrics (which didn't as much piss off as mystify a substantial portion of his fan base: the albums were part of Dylan's plan to rid himself of said gigantic fan base, as he was getting quite annoyed with it). Significantly, the late 70's Slow Train Coming marked Dylan's short-lived venture into gospel and Christian rock (which both pissed off and mystified a substantial portion of his fan base). 1997's Time Out of Mind saw Dylan shift towards a more blues folk style that has to some extent characterized all his output for the past 15 years.
- No Time to Think: "No Time To Think". from Street Legal
- Non-Actor Vehicle: His attempts at acting in Hearts Of Fire, Flashback and Masked And Anonymous.
- Not Christian Rock: Although Dylan frequently incorporates religious imagery in his work.
- Not Staying for Breakfast: "Simple Twist Of Fate" from Blood on the Tracks
- Notable Music Videos: The video for "Subterranean Homesick Blues" from Don't Look Back is often considered to be the Ur-Example of non-diagetic videos (i.e. music videos that aren't just the artist playing the song or an audience as the artist plays).
- One-Man Song: "Blind Willie McTell", "Don't Ya Tell Henry", "George Jackson", "Joey", "John Wesley Harding", "Lenny Bruce", "Silvio", "Song To Woody", "Temporary Like Achilles", "Mr. Tambourine Man".
- One-Woman Song: "Absolutely Sweet Marie", "Angelina", "Farewell Angelina", "Hazel", "Isis", "Jolene", "Maggie's Farm", "Nettie Moore", "Peggy Day", "Queen Jane Approximately", "Rita May", "Sara", "To Ramona", "Visions of Johanna", "Winterlude" (yes, that's the name of the woman in the song).
- Ontological Mystery: Experienced by the title character in "Drifter's Escape".
- Pater Familicide: "Ballad Of Hollis Brown" from The Times They Are A-Changin'
- Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure: He was at the receiving end of this once, as he was almost arrested in 2009 for loitering in New Jersey. At the time he wasn't carrying ID and the officers that accosted him had never heard his name before.
- Precision F-Strike: "Hurricane" from Desire
- Also from the live version of "Like A Rolling Stone" in Manchester, 1966. Don't call Dylan "Judas"."I don't believe you... You're a liar! PLAY IT FUCKING LOUD!"
- Also from the live version of "Like A Rolling Stone" in Manchester, 1966. Don't call Dylan "Judas".
- Pretender Diss: The Rockumentary Don't Look Back of Dylan making more-or-less friendly fun of Donovan.
- Pride Before a Fall: "Foot Of Pride" from "The Bootleg Series".
- Princess in Rags: "Like A Rolling Stone" from Highway 61 Revisited. The trope could have almost been named "Napoleon In Rags", this song is one of the most iconic portrayals of that trope.
- Production Foreshadowing:
- In 1963, two years before switching from folk to rock, he released two songs where he was backed by a band: "Corrina Corrina" and "Mixed-Up Confusion".
- Parts of the Daniel Lanois-produced Oh Mercy sound like an early preview of the Daniel Lanois-produced Time Out of Mind.
- His cover of "Blue Moon" on Self Portrait can now be seen as an early precursor to his current standards albums.
- Professional Gambler: The title character of "Ramblin' Gamblin' Willie", who gets killed after he gets the Dead Man's Hand in a poker game.
- Protest Song: Again, too many to list. Though the most famous would have to be "Hurricane," "The Times They Are A-Changin," and "Masters Of War." Many critics believe "Only a Pawn in Their Game" to be this trope's stand-out example. Dylan eventually became disillusioned with protest songs, and distanced himself from them in "My Back Pages":Half-wracked prejudice leaped forth
“Rip down all hate,” I screamed
Lies that life is black and white
Spoke from my skull. I dreamed
Romantic facts of musketeers
Foundationed deep, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: His band for the Rolling Thunder Revue in 1975-76 had this flavour. There was David Bowie's ex-guitarist (Mick Ronson), a guitarist who had previously written a couple songs for The Monkees (Steve Soles), a tall skinny guy from Texas (T-Bone Burnett), the guy who played bass on Don McLean's "American Pie" (Rob Stoner), a boyish-looking guy who'd previously been in a band called Quacky Duck & His Barnyard Friends (David Mansfield), a Latin violinist who Dylan had hired after he saw her walking down the street (Scarlet Rivera), and Andrew Wyeth's nephew (Howie Wyeth) on drums, among others.
- Raised Lighter Tribute: The cover of his 1974 live album Before the Flood depicts an early example. Dylan later claimed that he didn't understand the significance of it at first and thought the fans were mad at him and were going to set the arena on fire.
- Rearrange the Song / Evolving Music: Constantly, throughout his entire career. Being a folk musician at heart, Dylan sees every new performance of a song as a new interpretation of it. It's been said that he never plays a song the same way twice; that's a slight exaggeration, but not by much.This is called "I Don't Believe You." It used to be like that, now it goes like this.
- The same applies to lyrics, especially to songs that (presumably) carry a lot of personal meaning for him. For instance, compare "If You See Her, Say Hello" before and after his divorce. And "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" has at least a few dozen verses by now.
- As illustrated here, "Tangled Up In Blue" is probably his most tinkered-with song lyrically.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: "Positively 4th Street", "Idiot Wind", though it is important to note that the latter of these turns into a "The Reason We Suck" Speech by the end.
- Red Scare: Satirized in "Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues".I discovered - RED STRIPES ON THE AMERICAN FLAG!
- Refrain from Assuming: The song is not "Everybody Must Get Stoned," it's "Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35".
- Religion Rant Song:
- "With God On Our Side" condemns the manipulation of religious belief to support warfare.
- One of the several interpretations of "Jokerman" is that it's a Deconstructive Parody of The Bible. However, given that the song is coming right off the coattails of Dylan's "born again" phase, there are many who believe that the true meaning of the lyrics is more subtle and nuanced.
- Ripped from the Headlines: "Hurricane" and "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll", most prominently.
- Rock-Star Song: "Like A Rolling Stone" from Highway 61 Revisited.
- Rockumentary: D A Pennebaker's Don't Look Back [sic] from Dylan's 1965 tour of the UK is one of the earliest examples. Dylan followed it up with the slightly less coherent Eat The Document, filmed during the 1966 tour, which remains unreleased (though bootleg copies circulate). There's also Martin Scorsese's 2005 documentary No Direction Home.
- Sarcastic Title: "With God On Our Side" from The Times They Are A-Changin'.
- Scare Quotes: The title of his 2001 album is shown as "Love And Theft" on the cover, which has led to some confusion over whether the quotes are officially part of the title and, if so, why they're there. (Not exactly Word of God, but bobdylan.com includes the quote marks in its listing for the album).
- Second-Person Narration: "Like A Rolling Stone", "Ballad Of A Thin Man", and "Queen Jane Approximately", all of them from one album (Highway 61 Revisited).
- Done to disturbing effect in "Ballad Of Hollis Brown" from The Times They Are A-Changin'.
- Self-Backing Vocalist: His cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "The Boxer" (from the Self Portrait album) employs this.
- Self-Parody: His early song "Talkin' Hava Negeilah Blues" from "The Bootleg Series" was a parody of his Woody Guthrie-influenced style during that phase of his career and his Jewish background (which he was still covering up). He introduces "Hava Nagila" as "a foreign song I learned in Utah."
- Self-Titled Album: His debut release. The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan and Another Side of Bob Dylan are semi-examples.
- Shout-Out: Hundreds, ranging from biblical figures to Alicia Keys. No, she doesn't know why either.
- Dylan himself has received various shout-outs by other artists too. We've got an entire page for that: Referenced By: Bob Dylan
- Shout-Out: To Shakespeare: Frequently.Othello told Desdemona,By the way, what happened to that poisoned wine?"She said, "I gave it to you, you drank it...?"
Now Ophelia, she's 'neath the windowFor her I feel so afraidOn her twenty-second birthdayShe already is an old maidTo her, death is quite romanticShe wears an iron vestHer profession's her religionHer sin is her lifelessnessAnd though her eyes are fixed uponShe spends her time peekingInto Desolation Row.
- There's also the one from "Desolation Row":
- Silly Love Songs: A few scattered here and there throughout his career, especially on Nashville Skyline, New Morning and Planet Waves.
- Singing Voice Dissonance: He's suprisingly soft-spoken when he talks. His speaking voice is also less throaty.
- Smoking Is Cool: Exhibit A.
- Something Blues: "Subterranean Homesick Blues", "Workingman's Blues # 2", "Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues", "North Country Blues", "Black Crow Blues", "Outlaw Blues", "Tombstone Blues", "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues"...
- Spiders Are Scary: Probably the effect he was going for in naming his experimental novel Tarantula.
- The Stars Are Going Out: "Brownsville Girl"Seems like a long time ago, long before the stars were torn down
- Stay in the Kitchen: Hinted rather unsubtly in "Sweetheart Like You."
- Stealth Insult: "Like A Rolling Stone". Don't believe us? Just look here.
- Supergroup: The Traveling Wilburys, with George Harrison, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne and Roy Orbison.
- Sudden Downer Ending: Planet Waves and Empire Burlesque are musically bright albums that are heavy on love songs, but they both end with Dylan, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar and harmonica, performing a personal, serious song ("Wedding Song", "Dark Eyes").
- Take That!: "Maggie's Farm" (written long before the Iron Lady's time, although the later covers by The Specials and Rage Against the Machine did not overlook the coincidence)
- "Positively 4th Street"
- "Ballad of a Thin Man"
- "Just Like a Woman"
- A more light-hearted one occurs in "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere": The Byrds released their cover of the song in 1968, during which Roger McGuinn accidentally switched one of the original lines around and sang "Pack up your money, pick up your tent". Dylan re-recorded the song in 1971 for a greatest hits compilation, rendering the lyric as "Pack up your money, put up your tent, McGuinn, you ain't goin' nowhere". McGuinn in turn responded on a 1989 cover of the song with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, singing "Pack up your money, pick up your tent, Zimmerman".
- Take That, Critics!: From a 2012 interview, when asked about accusations that he's borrowed lines from others.Wussies and pussies complain about that stuff. It's an old thing – it's part of the tradition. It goes way back. These are the same people that tried to pin the name Judas on me. Judas, the most hated name in human history! If you think you've been called a bad name, try to work your way out from under that. Yeah, and for what? For playing an electric guitar? As if that is in some kind of way equitable to betraying our Lord and delivering him up to be crucified. All those evil motherfuckers can rot in hell.
- Tarot Motifs: The card for The Empress is on the back cover of Desire, and Street-Legal is loaded with tarot references (especially "Changing of The Guards").
- Textless Album Cover: Blonde on Blonde, Nashville Skyline, Self Portrait, New Morning.
- Three Chords and the Truth: His older songs, especially.
- Title-Only Chorus: "Angelina"
- "I Want You" comes close. The only other words besides the title phrase are "so bad" and "honey".
- Too Many Cooks Spoil the Soup: His reason for the failure of the album "Under the Red Sky."
- 12-Bar Blues: One of the basic ingredients of his song-writing. Many of his songs can be classified as having tweaked blues structures. Probably the straightest examples of Twelve Bar Blues in his work are "Down The Highway", "Outlaw Blues" and "Meet Me In The Morning".
- The Unintelligible: Not the songs themselves, for the most part, but guaranteed that any parody of him will be this.
- Somewhat subverted with "Weird Al" Yankovic's parody "Bob", which features lyrics composed entirely of well-enunciated (if twangy) palindromes.
- This trope is the reason he was so often Covered — other artists' versions were just more marketable because they were easier to understand.
- Vocal Evolution: While he has more-or-less always had the famous nasal gruffness, there have been some subtle changes over the years. On his first two albums he has a Woody Guthrie-influenced drawl. On his other pre-electric albums he almost shouts a lot of the lyrics. On his first two electric albums he went with a plain but forceful way of singing, emphasizing certain syllables. On Blonde on Blonde (1966) he exaggerates that style almost to the point of Self-Parody. On John Wesley Harding (recorded late 1967) his timbre begins to sound like that which pervaded his 70's work: a sharpness in his louder sections, a hoarseness in quieter ones. A major departure from that was his crooning voice on Nashville Skyline from 1969. Bootleg tapes confirm that this was very similar to the voice he used when he first started playing folk clubs in his Minnesota college days, so it was a deliberate change on Dylan's part. Dylan went so far as to hang a Lampshade on this with his version of "The Boxer" on Self Portrait, done as a duet between Classic Dylan and Skyline Dylan. The close of the 70's gave us a wavering, sneering quality to his singing voice, raspy as ever. Starting in the late 80s he developed a strange slurring style that led to all the jokes about him needing a translator. Since Time Out of Mind in 1997 his voice is more noticeably hoarse, so he's adopted a softer style of singing to compensate.
- We Used to Be Friends: He's a notoriously fickle guy, so numerous friendships have waxed and waned over the years, but the major example of this is his manager Albert Grossman. They had a close mentor-protégé relationship up until his 1966 motorcycle crash, when Dylan concluded that Grossman was using him as a Cash Cow and letting him almost kill himself in the process. Within a couple years they weren't even speaking to each other.
- What's an X Like You Doing in a Y Like This?: The refrain of "Sweetheart Like You": "What's a sweetheart like you doing in a dump like this?"
- Word Salad Lyrics: "Desolation Row" is about a lynching. All of it. Really.
- "World of Cardboard" Speech: "Changing Of The Guards", beginning with a Call-Back to his debut album 16 years earlier, and ending with"Gentlemen!" he said, "I don't need your organizationI've shined your shoes, I've moved your mountains and I've marked your cardsBut Eden is burning! Either get ready for eliminationOr else your hearts must have the courage for the changing of the guards"
- "When I'm Gone" Song: Knockin' on Heaven's Door is a Type 3.