Bob Dylan and Philosophy: It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Thinking)

By Peter Vernezze; Carl J. Porter | Go to book overview

5
Just Like a Woman: Dylan,
Authenticity, and the
Second Sex

KEVIN KREIN and ABIGAIL LEVIN

From early in his career as an anti-war protest singer onwards, many of Bob Dylan's best-known lyrics tackle difficult political themes. Songs such as “Blowing in the Wind,” “The Times They Are A-Changin',” “Hurricane,” and “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” explicitly address issues of war, racism, and social injustice. Dylan's voice has served as a conscience to the collective soul of America—pointing out injustices we have committed and flaws in our worldview.

But any fan of Dylan will know that he has more to offer his listener than a nagging, critical, moral voice. Many of his best lyrics fall into a second category: personal songs of love and loss. “You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go,” “Don't Think Twice, It's All Right,” and “Lay, Lady, Lay” address universal themes, but of a personal, rather than political, nature. In these songs, Dylan is not acting as a moral conscience, but capturing experiences and expressing emotions that we are all (too?) familiar with. These songs present certain perspectives from which to view the realm of romantic relationships. They ring true for us and influence our understanding of our relationships and ourselves either by validating our feelings and experiences or by providing new ways to understand these aspects of our lives.

There is also a third category of Dylan song. Here, in some of Dylan's most famous songs, the political and the personal intersect. In songs such as “Queen Jane Approximately,” “Like a Rolling Stone,” “Just Like a Woman,” and “To Ramona,” Dylan offers critiques of individual attitudes toward materialism and

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