Song Lyric Sunday – Bob Dylan

One of the most influential American singer, songwriter, poets of my generation is Bob Dylan. I have chosen him as my artist for this week’s Song Lyric Sunday post, hosted by Jim Adams, who asked us to concentrate on honoring American artists in honor of Independence Day July 4th.

My song choice, Positively 4th Street, is a personal favorite. I used this song back in July of 2018 when SLS was hosted by Helen Vahdati. She had prompted us with the word ‘Street’. I figured enough time had passed and I could share it again.

Only Dylan could answer what this song is actually about. There are many theories shared online as to who or what is the subject of the song. Some say it was his departure from acoustic to electric guitar which was not regarded as a good decision at that time. Others allude to a business association gone wrong. There is also discussion about which 4th Street he is referring to. Is it New York’s Greenwich Village or is it the one in San Francisco? It was definitely 4th Street in New York! Crazy theories in my opinion. I have always regarded it as the ultimate break-up song with unforgettable last lines that have always stuck with me.

Whatever you may think, it is an iconic song that will always put me in a place and time as music usually does.

The Artist

Bob Dylan (born Robert Allen Zimmerman; May 24, 1941) is an American singer-songwriter, author and visual artist. Often regarded as one of the greatest songwriters of all time, Dylan has been a major figure in popular culture during a career spanning nearly 60 years. Much of his most celebrated work dates from the 1960s, when songs such as “Blowin’ in the Wind” (1963) and “The Times They Are a-Changin'” (1964) became anthems for the civil rights and anti-warmovements. His lyrics during this period incorporated a range of political, social, philosophical, and literary influences, defying pop music conventions and appealing to the burgeoning counter culture.

Following his self-titled debut album in 1962, which mainly comprised traditional folk songs, Dylan made his breakthrough as a songwriter with the release of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan the following year. The album features “Blowin’ in the Wind” and the thematically complex “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall”. Many of his songs adapted the tunes and phraseology of older folk songs. He went on to release the politically charged The Times They Are a-Changin’ and the more lyrically abstract and introspective Another Side of Bob Dylan in 1964. In 1965 and 1966, Dylan drew controversy when he adopted electrically amplifiedrock instrumentation, and in the space of 15 months recorded three of the most important and influential rock albums of the 1960s: Bringing It All Back Home (1965), Highway 61 Revisited (1965) and Blonde on Blonde (1966). Commenting on the six-minute single “Like a Rolling Stone” (1965), Rolling Stone wrote: “No other pop song has so thoroughly challenged and transformed the commercial laws and artistic conventions of its time, for all time”.

In July 1966, a motorcycle accident led to Dylan’s withdrawal from touring. During this period, he recorded a large body of songs with members of the Band, who had previously backed him on tour. These recordings were released as the collaborative album The Basement Tapes in 1975. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Dylan explored country music and rural themes in John Wesley Harding(1967), Nashville Skyline (1969), and New Morning (1970). In 1975, he released Blood on the Tracks, which many saw as a return to form. In the late 1970s, he became a Christian and released a series of albums of contemporary gospel music before returning to his more familiar rock-based idiom in the early 1980s. Dylan’s 1997 album Time Out of Mind marked the beginning of a renaissance for his career. He has released five critically acclaimed albums of original material since then, the most recent being Rough and Rowdy Ways (2020). He also recorded a series of three albums in the 2010s comprising versions of traditional American standards, especially songs recorded by Frank Sinatra. Backed by a changing lineup of musicians, he has toured steadily since the late 1980s on what has been dubbed the Never Ending Tour.

Since 1994, Dylan has published eight books of drawings and paintings, and his work has been exhibited in major art galleries. He has sold more than 125 million records, making him one of the best-selling musicians of all time. He has received numerous awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, ten Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award. Dylan has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. The Pulitzer Prize Board in 2008 awarded him a special citation for “his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power”. In 2016, Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”.

The Song – Positively 4th Street

The song, written and performed by Bob Dylan, was first recorded in New York City on July 29, 1965.  It was released as a single by Columbia Records on September 7, 1965, reaching No. 1 on Canada’s RPM chart, No. 7 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, and No. 8 on the UK Singles Chart. Rolling Stone magazine ranked the song as No. 206 in their 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list.

The song was released between Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde, as the follow-up to Dylan’s hit single”Like a Rolling Stone”, but was not included on either album.[7] The song’s title does not appear anywhere in the lyrics and there has been much debate over the years as to the significance or which individual the song concerns.

An unreleased promo spot of the song can be found on the No Direction Home DVD special features.

Courtesy of Wiki

The Lyrics

You've got a lotta nerve to say you are my friend
When I was down you just stood there grinnin'
You've got a lotta nerve to say you got a helping hand to lend
You just want to be on the side that's winnin'

You say I let you down, ya know its not like that
If you're so hurt, why then don't you show it?
You say you've lost your faith, but that's not where its at
You have no faith to lose, and ya know it

I know the reason, that you talked behind my back
I used to be among the crowd you're in with
Do you take me for such a fool, to think I'd make contact
With the one who tries to hide what he don't know to begin with?

You see me on the street, you always act surprised
You say "how are you?", "good luck", but ya don't mean it
When you know as well as me, you'd rather see me paralyzed
Why don't you just come out once and scream it

No, I do not feel that good when I see the heartbreaks you embrace
If I was a master thief perhaps I'd rob them
And tho I know you're dissatisfied with your position and your place
Don't you understand, its not my problem?

I wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes
And just for that one moment I could be you
Yes, I wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes
You'd know what a drag it is to see you

Writer/s: Bob Dylan 
Publisher: Universal Music Publishing Group
Lyrics licensed and provided by LyricFind

  15 comments for “Song Lyric Sunday – Bob Dylan

  1. Christine Bolton
    July 5, 2021 at 1:27 pm

    I seem to remember that Jen. I used a Dylan song for another prompt and we chatted about that. I think my husband has the same one 🤣

  2. July 4, 2021 at 8:30 am

    Oh! Christine what a great song I agree it’s the ultimate break up song. I am not a fan of Dylan , a blastphomas thing for someone if my age to admit! But it true but this song I could listen to all day.💜

    • Christine Bolton
      July 4, 2021 at 8:59 am

      Oh you’re so sweet Willow. His music and lyrics were so influential to me when I was a young teen. ☺️💕

      • July 4, 2021 at 9:02 am

        Yes I like his lyrics….just not his voice 🥺💜💜

  3. July 4, 2021 at 8:30 am

    Great song Christine and I never realized how perfect this goes with the 4th of July or Independence holiday till reading your post. The first time I really got into this song was when I heard the Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders covered of Positively 4th Street and I have been hooked on it ever since.

    • Christine Bolton
      July 4, 2021 at 9:08 am

      Thanks Jim. I didn’t choose the song as a July 4th connection but yes, I can see that now. I just love the song and lyrics . It’s so Dylan. Happy July 4th ☺️💕. Let’s hope the hurricane doesn’t do too much damage for Florida.

      • July 4, 2021 at 10:22 am

        Elsa is approaching the Keys and then it looks like it is heading toward Tampa, but July hurricanes usually don’t cause that much damage, it is the ones that get here in August that we have to worry more about.

      • Christine Bolton
        July 4, 2021 at 3:40 pm

        Yes! After Irma, a few years ago, I had tree and yard waste piled up to nearly 6’ high and 25’ long outside my house for weeks and weeks before the county could get to everybody’s home and remove their hurricane waste. It was horrible. Here in the Suncoast we have been fairly fortunate over the years.

  4. July 4, 2021 at 2:05 am

    Yeah ..Bob Dylan .. perfect …
    “This land is your land and this land is my land, sure, but the world is run by those that never listen to music anyway.”
    .. Bob Dylan

    • Christine Bolton
      July 4, 2021 at 7:27 am

      Yes a perfect quote Ivor! ☺️

  5. July 4, 2021 at 12:59 am

    EXCELLENT SONG!!! Happy 4th 🙂

    • Christine Bolton
      July 4, 2021 at 7:27 am

      Thanks Paula! Happy 4th to you too ☺️

  6. July 4, 2021 at 12:35 am

    Great song!
    The last line is perfect!!!

    • Christine Bolton
      July 4, 2021 at 7:29 am

      Thanks Jen. I love Dylan and this song is the best ☺️🌺

      • July 4, 2021 at 10:13 am

        In UNI I had a six foot poster of him on my dorm room door lol 😊🦋

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