Dylan Wins the Nobel & Bands Tell Us Their Favorite Lyrics

Nicholas Ward of The Furniture and Hallelujah the Hills put it best: Bob Dylan’s recent Nobel Prize in Literature scores new legitimacy for popular music. Sure there’s already shelves of critical writing on Dylan’s life and work, and yes he’s already been decorated with the Congressional Medal of Freedom, but it’s the capital-L Literature part of this that shows popular music has finally and indisputably elbowed its way into the canon.

We asked a number of our favorite bands what their favorite Dylan lyrics were. Dirty Bangs’ Evan Kenney protested that the assignment was like “picking a favorite family member.” But they got it done. We did it for Bobby. Check out these choice musicians’ choice Dylan lyrics below & our spotify mixtape of the songs they quoted. Click the bands’ pics to hear their music.

Jenny Dee & The Deelinquents (Boston)

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“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”

— “Positively 4th Street,” picked by Jen

“ In this room the heat pipes just cough.”

— “Visions Of Johanna,” picked by Eric

"It's like rocknroll just won a nobel prize."

The Electric Mess (NYC)

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“It’s a shadowy world, skies are slippery gray,
A woman just gave birth to a prince today and dressed him in scarlet
He’ll put the priest in his pocket, put the blade to the heat,
Take the motherless children off the street
And place them at the feet of a harlot
Oh, Jokerman, you know what he wants,
Oh, Jokerman, you don’t show any response”
— “Jokerman,” picked by Derek

Badfellows (Manchester, NH)

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“And if my thought dreams could be seen
They’d probably put my head in a guillotine
But it’s alright, Ma, it’s life, and life only”

— It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding), picked by Evan

The Furniture (Boston)

furn

“. . . some
people say that i am a poet
(end of pause)
an’ so i answer my recording engineer
”yes. well i could use some help in getting
this wall in the plane””

— Liners notes to Bringing It All Back Home

Ghost of Electricity (Connecticut)

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“The Ghost of Electricity howls in the bones of her face.”

— Visions of Johanna

“Money doesn’t talk it swears”

— It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)

Dirty Bangs (Boston)

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“In a soldier’s stance, I aimed my hand at the mongrel dogs who teach
Fearing not that I’d become my enemy in the instant that I preach
My existence led by confusion boats, mutiny from stern to bow
Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now”

“In a soldier’s stance, I aimed my hand at the mongrel dogs who teach
Fearing not that I’d become my enemy in the instant that I preach
My existence led by confusion boats, mutiny from stern to bow
Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now”

— “My Back Pages,” picked by Ev

Pile (Boston)

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“All of ‘It’s Alright Ma.” I tried to pick only one verse from that song but one wasn’t enough.”

— Rick

Rough Francis (Burlington, VT)

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bobby

“To the white folks who watched he was a revolutionary bum
And to the black folks he was just a crazy nigger
No one doubted that he pulled the trigger
And though they could not produce the gun
The D.A. said he was the one who did the deed
And the all-white jury agreed”

— Hurricane

Eamon Fogarty (NYC)

eamon

“I live in another world where life and death are memorized
Where the earth is strung with lover’s pearls and all I see are dark eyes.”

— Dark Eyes

Babydriver (Boston)

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“Johny’s in the basement mixing up the medicine / I’m on the pavement thinkin’ about the government.

You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

Don’t follow leaders
Watch the parkin’ meters.”

— Subterranean Homesick Blues

I tend to err on the side of Dylan love songs (Anything from Nashville Skyline) or the more playful nonsense kind of stuff from The Basement Tapes… but I’m not gonna list off pies as my fav Dylan lyrics (“Country Pie” mmmm). 

When talking about JUST the words themselves (throwing out any perfectly brilliant phrasing or delivery), I can’t really think of any song containing better Dylan one-liners than “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” from Bringing It All Back Home.  — Tommy

The Ferdy Mayne (NYC)

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“Othello told Desdemona, “I’m cold, cover me with a blanket
By the way, what happened to that poison wine?”
She says, “I gave it to you, you drank it”
Poor boy, layin’ ’em straight—pickin’ up the cherries fallin’ off the plate

Time and love has branded me with its claws
Had to go to Florida, dodgin’ them Georgia laws
Poor boy, in the hotel called the Palace of Gloom
Calls down to room service, says send up a room”

— Po’ Boy, picked by Shane

The Dazies (Boston)

dazies

“Sundown yellow moon
I replay the past
I know every scene by heart
They all went by so fast”

— If You See Her, Say Hello

I love this song so much. The tone and the heartbreak of this song has hit me a few times in my life pretty hard. As he nears the end he says those lyrics and I’ve always felt it painted such a vibrant and longing picture.  –Mikey

Soft Fangs (Boston)

soft-fangs

“With your mercury mouth in the missionary times
And your eyes like smoke and your prayers like rhymes
And your silver cross, and your voice like chimes
Oh, who do they think could bury you?”

— Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands

Vincent Rivera (Boston)

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“It take a women like your kind to find the man in me.

The man in me will hide sometimes to keep from being seen,
but that’s just because he doesn’t wanna turn into some machine.”

— The Man in Me

Doug Tuttle (Boston)

doug-tuttle

“So don’t fear, if you hear,
a foreign sound, to your ear.
It’s alright, Ma, I’m only sighing.”

— It’s Alright Ma (I’m only bleeding)

Jonee Earthquake (Manchester, NH)

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“When you ain’t got nothing….you’ve got nothing to lose.”

— Like a Rolling Stone

I think his best lyric is this play on words from LIKE A ROLLING STONE (did you ever notice that A TEAM (another excellent song) by Ed Sheran is a re-write of the same scenario? –Jonee

Dirty Fences (NYC)

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“Now, pull that drummer out from behind that bottle
Bring me my pipe, we’re gonna shake it
Slap that drummer with a pie that smells
Take me down to California, baby”

— Yea! Heavy & A Bottle Of Bread

bat-house

“They say every man must need protection
They say every man must fall
Yet I swear I see my reflection
Some place so high above this wall”

— “I Shall Be Released,” picked by Emmet

The Dead Trains (Boston)

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“But Mona Lisa must have had the highway blues, you can tell by the way she smiles”

— “Visions of Johanna,” picked by Matt

wussy

“Far between sundown’s finish an’ midnight’s broken toll
We ducked inside the doorway, thunder crashing
As majestic bells of bolts struck shadows in the sounds
Seeming to be the chimes of freedom flashing
Flashing for the warriors whose strength is not to fight
Flashing for the refugees on the unarmed road of flight
An’ for each an’ ev’ry underdog soldier in the night
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

In the city’s melted furnace, unexpectedly we watched
With faces hidden while the walls were tightening
As the echo of the wedding bells before the blowin’ rain
Dissolved into the bells of the lightning
Tolling for the rebel, tolling for the rake
Tolling for the luckless, the abandoned an’ forsaked
Tolling for the outcast, burnin’ constantly at stake
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Through the mad mystic hammering of the wild ripping hail
The sky cracked its poems in naked wonder
That the clinging of the church bells blew far into the breeze
Leaving only bells of lightning and its thunder
Striking for the gentle, striking for the kind
Striking for the guardians and protectors of the mind
An’ the unpawned painter behind beyond his rightful time
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Through the wild cathedral evening the rain unraveled tales
For the disrobed faceless forms of no position
Tolling for the tongues with no place to bring their thoughts
All down in taken-for-granted situations
Tolling for the deaf an’ blind, tolling for the mute
Tolling for the mistreated, mateless mother, the mistitled prostitute
For the misdemeanor outlaw, chased an’ cheated by pursuit
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Even though a cloud’s white curtain in a far-off corner flashed
An’ the hypnotic splattered mist was slowly lifting
Electric light still struck like arrows, fired but for the ones
Condemned to drift or else be kept from drifting
Tolling for the searching ones, on their speechless, seeking trail
For the lonesome-hearted lovers with too personal a tale
An’ for each unharmful, gentle soul misplaced inside a jail
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Starry-eyed an’ laughing as I recall when we were caught
Trapped by no track of hours for they hanged suspended
As we listened one last time an’ we watched with one last look
Spellbound an’ swallowed ’til the tolling ended
Tolling for the aching ones whose wounds cannot be nursed
For the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones an’ worse
An’ for every hung-up person in the whole wide universe
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing”

— Chimes of Freedom

Bob Dylan shakes President Barack Obama's hand following his performance at the "In Performance At The White House: A Celebration Of Music From The Civil Rights Movement" concert in the East Room of the White House, Feb. 9, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.
Bob Dylan shakes President Barack Obama’s hand following his performance at the “In Performance At The White House: A Celebration Of Music From The Civil Rights Movement” concert in the East Room of the White House, Feb. 9, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)