Bob Dylan’s Five Worst Lyrics And Why He Shouldn’t Be A Nobel Winner

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By Harry Phibbs | 4:43 am, December 8, 2016

Can you think of a dud line from Shakespeare? Or a feeble chapter in the King James Bible? Or sloppy writing from George Orwell? Or a mundane analogy from PG Wodehouse?  Great writers tend to find it impossible to be bad – or even mediocre.

I’m afraid if we judge Bob Dylan by this criteria he doesn’t really measure up to be worthy of the Nobel Prize for Literature. In his heart he probably agrees – which is why he’s not pitching up on Saturday in Stockholm for the banquet where the award is being presented in his absence.

Let’s take the lyrics to his 1990 song Wiggle Wiggle:

“I got one question
How do you fit all that, in them jeans?
You know what to do with that big fat butt
Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle
Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle
Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle
Just a little bit”

It reads like an extract from a downmarket children’s story.

Another song – Man Gave Names to All Animals – reads like a slightly better
children’s story:

“He saw an animal leavin’ a muddy trail,
Real dirty face and a curly tail.
He wasn’t too small and he wasn’t too big.
Ah, think I’ll call it a pig.”

That’s a better effort, isn’t it? But face it Dylan, you’re no Julia Donaldson.

Meanwhile the verses to Dylan’s “If dogs run free, then why not we” don’t come out well from rigorous textual analysis either.

Then there is “Gotta Serve Somebody”

“You may call me Terry, you may call me Jimmy
You may call me Bobby, you may call me Zimmy
You may call me R.J., you may call me Ray
You may call me anything but no matter what you say.

“You’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”

Utter banal gibberish.

Another dodgy offering is the “Ballad of a Thin Man” –

“When he hears you speak
And says, “How does it feel
To be such a freak?”
And you say, “Impossible”
As he hands you a bone”

From Tombstone Blues comes the insight:

“The sun’s not yellow it’s chicken”.

You see this rhymes with the earlier line:

“Is there a hole
for me to get sick in?”

All this might give the impression that I don’t think much of Dylan.

But it’s more about context. His words should be heard and not seen. Then it might even be possible to believe that the messages are profound.

Rainy Day Woman carries the powerful but repetitive injunction: “Everybody must get stoned”. It doesn’t work listening to it sober. It certainly isn’t worth reading the lyrics – there is a lot out there which is more worthwhile to read.

Perhaps after a few vodkas as they tuck into the rice pudding in Stockholm they will start to belt out some of the old Dylan hits and reflect on what a great joke they have played on the world. They also might remember what wonderful fun it is in musical form. But if any of the judges take themselves seriously then that is the biggest joke of all.