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Verse Chorus Verse: Bob Dylan – “Ain’t Talkin'”

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The world's fascination with Bob Dylan, and Dylan's ability to confound the world in return, makes for interesting observation. Throughout his career, people have tried to pin him down and he's wiggled away every time (cackling all the way, at least in my imagination).  They've tried to pin him down on matters of religion, to which Dylan has said, "The songs are my lexicon. I believe the songs."  So do I.

I haven't memorized the lyrics to nearly as many songs as I should.  The ones I have committed to memory have provided me with more wisdom, knowledge, and insight than I can ever describe.  I've seen people I know and understood them better.  I've learned about people I've never encountered and may never meet.  The songs have filled the gaps in my experience and I'm better for it.  I've seen myself as I am, and the people I'd like to be, in them.  Today, I've found the truth in the closing chapter of Dylan's Modern Times, "Ain't Talkin.'"

I'm not going to tell you what the song means.  You make an ass of yourself most of the time when you try to translate Dylan.  I was in a headspace in search of something and I found it. 

The protagonist is a modern-day pilgrim, feeling increasingly detached from the world around him.  Why is he feeling detached?  Is it because he knows his time is just about up?  Is it because he no longer sees a place for himself in the world around him?  Is it both?  It's not immediately clear, but either way he's heading for the door.  It's hard to hit a moving target so the pilgrim wanders on, not lingering to talk to those he meets.  He knows no one will follow him because no one can follow him, and he doesn't want them to anyway.  He's heading for the door, tipping his cap, and hoping to escape unnoticed with what he's held onto for this long.  

The world is playing checkers.  Bob Dylan is playing chess. 

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About Josh Hathaway

  • http://marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    cool. was song of the day on npr. they came to nearly identical conclusions.

    of course, i was not aware of the words until today. ;-)

  • MIKE

    PEOPLE SAYTHEY BEEN FOLLOWING UNCLE BOBBIE FOR 40 YEARS AND MORE AND STILL DON’T THE MEANINGS BEHIND HIS EARLY SONGS. PUT 50 PEOPLE IN A ROOM AND ASK WHAT VISIONS OF JOHANNA MEAN AND THEY’LL COME OUT WITH THE SAME 50 DIFFERANT MEANINGS THE SAME AS THEY WENT IN WITH. BOB WILL STILL BE THE CENTER OF POETRY, LITERATURE AND THE PERIODS OF CHANGE HE LEAD US TO. BUT HE WILL STILL BE REMEMBERED LONG AFTER ALL OF US ARE LONG DEAD

  • Bill Sykes

    A good article but having read the book of Joshua, I find your name distasteful. The only comment I did not like was “I haven’t memorized the lyrics to nearly as many songs as I should. ” A real Dylan freak is a bit embarrassed he knows so many Dylan lyrics… like a guilty pleasure. But then I was around when we felt we had to defend him and before he had become such an established figure. Do you know that Samuel Beckett loved Bob Dylan’s work? Now that really is being established. There is no “should” about it Josh. Should? Should? I am embarrassed to know so much of it off by heart. I never felt there was any “should” about it. Dylan is a guilty pleasure with me that I do not own up to. There never has been any should other than I should not be so obsessed/ conversant with Dylan. However nowadays he is accepted like Keats and Shelley and nobody would feel embarrassed about knowing a lot about Keats. Josh I guess I am a lot older than you- I know I am by tour photo. C’mon Josh change your name like Dylan did. Read the Book of Joshua. You really don’t want to remind people of the genocide therein. Seriously though I loved your article fellow Dylan freak. “Dylan freak” was what us older people were called back in the 60s. It was a bit embarrassing then to be too familiar with Bob’s work because we tended to be obsessive.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    if you think his name is bad you should see some of his behaviors if distasteful is what you are after

  • Bill Sykes

    You saying that anonymously where a man (I don’t know him) cannot really defend himself is in itself pretty distasteful. If you have a problem with him deal with him. Otherwise give your name and be out there as his name is. Yours is a personal attack which should not be allowed. Perhaps your pen name is appropriate.
    I don’t want to get involved in your personal issues. There are appropriate mechanisms to pursue whatever issues you have with him.

  • Michael Hart

    What is the siginificance of the gardener who is not there in the last verse? Could this be a reference to Christ in the garden appearing as a gardener (Book of John) but now is not there? It’s a stark and lonely song, a man standing alone still appealing for heavenly aid, on the road (no altars) of an old faith not practiced much, but about the only thing that has some cohence in the midst of his travails, excepting the gardener who seems to have momentartily disappeared on him?
    Your thoughts?
    Michael Hart