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Verse Chorus Verse: Bob Dylan – “Things Have Changed”

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Praising Bob Dylan's greatness has almost become cliche.  Heaping hosannas on the man feels unnecessary because it's accepted that he's the best there is.  Ask any artist or critic who the best songwriter is and their answer is going to be Dylan.  The sky is blue.  Water is wet.  Dylan is gold standard.  You almost want to roll your eyes when you hear someone do it.  It's so obvious, though, it's easy to take him for granted until you dust off the records and listen to the songs.  It's not just herd mentality.  He really is that good.

Dylan's discography can be impenetrable and cumbersome.  There really isn't a good starting point.  The point is just to start.  Somewhere.  Because Dylan is such a confounding and contradictory artist, we're all pretty much on our own when it comes to interpreting what it is he's saying.  We're probably all wrong and we're not going to get any help from him.

"Things Have Changed" is a newer song to longtime Dylan observers, but it feels old to me because it's one of the first I remember really making an impression on me from the moment I first heard it.  I can't tell you what the song is about but there are verses and lines that made an impact on me, so we'll just take a look at a couple of those and I'll leave the rest up to you.

I've been walking forty miles of bad road
If the bible is right, the world will explode
I've been trying to get as far away from myself as I can
Some things are too hot to touch
The human mind can only stand so much
You can't win with a losing hand

I know I'm gushing but every one of those lines feels like a verse from a book of wisdom, imbued with an undistilled truth.  Taken as a whole, it adds up to something even more.  Feeling like you're trying to win against stacked odds can wear a man out to the point you experience physical pain from the mental stress.  It exhausting and you want to flee but wherever you go, there you still are.  You're stuck with yourself.  Try as you might, you can't escape yourself.

This next line is one that doesn't need much in the way of interpretation, but it has so many layers to it and there are so many logical conclusions to draw from it. 

All the truth in the world adds up to one big lie

I could fill a great many notebooks ruminating on the possibilities of that one line.  What if it all means nothing?  What if all the truth in the world is outweighed by its lies?  Do all the truths in the world lead us to the wrong conclusion?  What are the truths?  What is the one big lie?  Despite all the questions and the fact I don't know what might have gone through Dylan's mind when he wrote it, I know exactly what that line means to me.

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About Josh Hathaway

  • C B

    Interesting bit of trivia regarding that song. When Bob sings “the next sixty seconds could be like an eternity”, there’s exactly one minute left in the song

  • Finger45

    Intersting article but way too brief. Also, the Dylan lines are not written in the correct form. They should have appeared like this:

    I’ve been walking forty miles of bad road If the bible is right, the world will explode
    I’ve been trying to get as far away from myself as I can
    Some things are too hot to touch
    The human mind can only stand so much
    You can’t win with a losing hand

    This way, the reader can see the AABCCB rhyme scheme. This is just one of the things that make Dylan so good. How many other popular songs take on such a non-ordinary rhyme scheme?

    I would have thought an “award winning journalist” would have been a little more thorough with the one stanza you choose to write about.

  • Finger45

    Sorry, like this

    I’ve been walking forty miles of bad road
    If the bible is right, the world will explode
    I’ve been trying to get as far away from myself as I can
    Some things are too hot to touch
    The human mind can only stand so much
    You can’t win with a losing hand

  • Josh Hathaway

    Finger 45, the rhyme scheme was of no interest to me whatsoever.

    As for the brevity, you can spend a lifetime digging through just one of Dylan’s songs. I may come back to this one again. This was a sketch, with a few thoughts about a few lines from a great song. I wasn’t attempting a master’s thesis with this.

  • Finger45

    It’s no big deal, JH. I didn’t check out your article in VCV expecting to read a “master’s thesis” and I don’t think paying attention to simple detail (like lyrical format) in that realm either. It was just a suggestion to enhance the reader’s experience.

  • Dylanfan49

    Loved the article and you are so right about the personal, revelatory conclusions that can be drawn from this man’s music. I would love to read what you think about “Everything is Broken”.

  • disqus_wic2mv9Y86

    A lot of people wonder about the meaning of Mr. Jinx and Ms. Lucy, or even who may they be. Bob often uses references from the music world. Mr Jinx could refer to Jinx Jones, a rockabilly/blues singer and guitarist with a style reminiscent of Chuck Berry and Elvis. Ms. Lucy could be a song such as “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” or the folk song “Ms. Lucy”.