What does Highway 61 Revisited mean?

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Bob Dylan: Highway 61 Revisited Meaning

Highway 61 Revisited Lyrics

One, two, one two three four

Oh God said to Abraham, "Kill me a son", Abe says, "Man, U must be puttin' me on"
God say, "No." Abe say, "What?", God say, "You can do what you want Abe, but
The next time you see me comin' you better run"
Well Abe...

  1.  

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Sep 16th, 9:14pm report


    The fact that Bob Zimmerman ("Dylan") is familiar with the Bible only worsens the case against him. He perverts Scripture to serve his demonic masters. The song's title and eponymous album probably refer to the location (at the crossroads with Highway 49) where Robert Johnson allegedly sold his soul to the same evil forces years before. The lyrics of this and other songs from the album mock the teachings of the Bible, suggesting that G-d really wanted Abraham to kill his son and even threatened vengeance against Abraham for hesitating! Also suggesting that John the Baptists was evil and his Commander-in-Chief (either G-d or Jesus) was als evil. All this sounds like the type of heresies taught by the ancient Gnostics who viewed the Biblical Creator G-d as a blind, irrational demiurge. I would strongly caution all sincere Jews and Christians to exercise caution with the lyrics and ideas of Bob Zimmerman!



  2.  

    heronsysnj
    click a star to vote
    Jul 29th, 7:45pm report


    US Highway 61, also known as The Blues Highway, starts in New Orleans, heads north up through Mississippi, Memphis and St. Louis, and ends in Minnesota. Prior to 2004, when part of its numbering was changed, it ran up through Duluth to the Canadian border. Near Duluth, it ran through Hibbing, Bob's hometown.

    Highway 61 enjoyed a significant history in the Blues. Several musicians recorded songs about Highway 61. It was the road that they traveled from New Orleans and Mississippi north to musical outposts like Memphis and St. Louis, where their music became electrified and spread to a larger audience. It was the intersection of Memphis Blues, Southern Gospel and Tennessee Country Music, as interpreted by a young truck driver named Elvis Presley, that gave birth to Rock and Roll itself.

    In addition to these happenings, Highway 61 played an important role even in what many consider the greatest Blues song ever. written. Robert Johnson's Crossroads takes place in Clarksdale, Mississippi, at the intersection of Highways 61 and 49. The legend has it that Robert sold his soul to The Devil at this spot one Midnight long ago.

    As if that wasn't enough, Highway 61 has personal meaning to Bob. It was the road he took out of Minnesota on his way to New York, where his career began.

    This brings us to the album at hand. Having gone through many changes along with his country, the traveling minstrel returns to the famous road after several years, and describes what he sees. And it isn't pretty.

    Highway 61 as an image now focuses on Mississippi, the heart of bigotry and hatred in America. Bob uses the road as a symbol for Man's inhumanity to Man. If you're involved in something horrible, and everybody hates you and condemns you, there's always a place for you on Highway 61.

    "Oh God said to Abraham, kill me a son
    Abe says, Man, you must be puttin’ me on
    God say, No. Abe say, What?
    God say, You can do what you want Abe, but
    The next time you see me comin’ you better run
    Well Abe says, Where do you want this killin’ done?
    God says, Out on Highway 61”

    It all starts with The Good Book. Right in Genesis, God Himself orders Abraham to commit a horrible act. Bob, however, creates an interesting contrast, possibly informed by his devotion to protest. While the Biblical Abraham obeys without complaint, his modern counterpart is more resistant, to say the least. So, says Bob, even if we are not inclined to evil acts, we're willing to do them because we believe God is on our side. How much slaughter, pain and misery has Man suffered throughout history in the name of religion? And where does it continue today, with the KKK and other "Christian" groups? Out on Highway 61.

    "Well Georgia Sam he had a bloody nose
    Welfare Department they wouldn’t give him no clothes
    He asked poor Howard where can I go
    Howard said there’s only one place I know
    Sam said tell me quick man I got to run
    Ol’ Howard just pointed with his gun
    And said that way down on Highway 61"

    Georgia Sam was a performing name used by Blind Willie McTell. He was a great Georgia Bluesman who led a very sad life, singing on an Atlanta street corner in his old age. Poor Howard is the name of a song by Leadbelly about another poor traveling musician (read the lyrics here). There was one key difference between the two: Howard was white and Sam was black. So this is a conversation between two poor souls who have everything in common except for their skin color.

    Sam is in bad shape: beaten up, no government help, being chased, probably by a lynch mob. Sam thinks Howard will help him, since they have so much in common. But he's in for a nasty surprise: Howard sides with the angry mob. He may be the same as Sam economically, but ethnically, he has a lot more in common with Sam's enemies. Instead of helping Sam, Old Howard points his gun at him and sends him off to Highway 61.

    "Well Mack the Finger said to Louie the King
    I got forty red, white and blue shoestrings
    And a thousand telephones that don’t ring
    Do you know where I can get rid of these things
    And Louie the King said let me think for a minute son
    And he said yes I think it can be easily done
    Just take everything down to Highway 61"

    Now the scene moves to Europe. Mack the Finger is British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan, and Louie the King is French President Charles DeGaulle. Mack has problems in his country, which is in the midst of Beatlemania and Swinging London. It's the conflict between parents and children. The ties that used to bind families (the shoestrings -- Britain, France and the United States all have the same national colors) are now useless. The telephones, which represent communication, don't ring -- the two generations can't speak to each other.

    While all this is going on in England, things are quiet in France. Mack wants to know how Louie can have such peace in his country. Louie doesn't answer Mack directly, but instead sends him to Highway 61. In this case, the inhumanity is the refusal of parents and children to talk to each other.

    "The rovin' gambler could be a lot of different characters up to no good. Knowing that Bob was fond of using card-playing imagery to represent sacred figures, I think he's Satan. Being bored is a reference to the book of Job, where God and Satan make a bet out of boredom. Their bet ends up destroying poor Job, who's done nothing to deserve such treatment. In fact he's in this mess precisely because he was such a good man. Highway 61, anybody?

    But the verse is about something different, the Cold War. The Devil is trying to find a way to get World War III going. He needs to deceive the public so they'll be convinced to start another war. He finds a promoter to do the job. I'm going to go out on a limb here -- I think it's P. T. Barnum, risen from the dead (fell off the floor -- get it?). Barnum admits that this is a new challenge, having been dead for the last 75 years or so, but rises to the occasion. He will take the war and make it an entertainment event. This is an idea repeated through history, from throwing Christians to the lions on down. I don't think at this point we need to explain why it's taking place on Highway 61.

    Thus ends our return visit to The Blues Highway. There were very few figures in Rock and Roll who could truly be called poets. Jim Morrison, maybe John Lennon, but Dylan was in a league all his own. I doubt we will ever see his equal.
    The Set List
    The Lyric Box
    Highway 61 Revisited
    Bob Dylan, 1965
    Oh God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son”
    Abe says, “Man, you must be puttin’ me on”
    God say, “No.” Abe say, “What?”
    God say, “You can do what you want Abe, but
    The next time you see me comin’ you better run”
    Well Abe says, “Where do you want this killin’ done?”
    God says, “Out on Highway 61”

    Well Georgia Sam he had a bloody nose
    Welfare Department they wouldn’t give him no clothes
    He asked poor Howard where can I go
    Howard said there’s only one place I know
    Sam said tell me quick man I got to run
    Ol’ Howard just pointed with his gun
    And said that way down on Highway 61

    Well Mack the Finger said to Louie the King
    I got forty red, white and blue shoestrings
    And a thousand telephones that don’t ring
    Do you know where I can get rid of these things
    And Louie the King said let me think for a minute son
    And he said yes I think it can be easily done
    Just take everything down to Highway 61
    Having made his way through All Along the Watchtower in one piece, and conquering The Doors and King Crimson, your friendly author thinks he can analyze anything. Not really, but I figured I'd give Dylan another shot.

    Some say Blonde on Blonde was Dylan's greatest album, but for me, Highway 61 is the zenith. The amount of magic poured onto that single disc is just mind-boggling.

    This is the title track, so it probably says something about the whole album. Let's start there.

    US Highway 61, also known as The Blues Highway, starts in New Orleans, heads north up through Mississippi, Memphis and St. Louis, and ends in Minnesota. Prior to 2004, when part of its numbering was changed, it ran up through Duluth to the Canadian border. Near Duluth, it ran through Hibbing, Bob's hometown.

    Highway 61 enjoyed a significant history in the Blues. Several musicians recorded songs about Highway 61. It was the road that they traveled from New Orleans and Mississippi north to musical outposts like Memphis and St. Louis, where their music became electrified and spread to a larger audience. It was the intersection of Memphis Blues, Southern Gospel and Tennessee Country Music, as interpreted by a young truck driver named Elvis Presley, that gave birth to Rock and Roll itself.

    In addition to these happenings, Highway 61 played an important role even in what many consider the greatest Blues song ever. written. Robert Johnson's Crossroads takes place in Clarksdale, Mississippi, at the intersection of Highways 61 and 49. The legend has it that Robert sold his soul to The Devil at this spot one Midnight long ago.

    As if that wasn't enough, Highway 61 has personal meaning to Bob. It was the road he took out of Minnesota on his way to New York, where his career began.

    This brings us to the album at hand. Having gone through many changes along with his country, the traveling minstrel returns to the famous road after several years, and describes what he sees. And it isn't pretty.

    Highway 61 as an image now focuses on Mississippi, the heart of bigotry and hatred in America. Bob uses the road as a symbol for Man's inhumanity to Man. If you're involved in something horrible, and everybody hates you and condemns you, there's always a place for you on Highway 61.
    Oh God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son”
    Abe says, “Man, you must be puttin’ me on”
    God say, “No.” Abe say, “What?”
    God say, “You can do what you want Abe, but
    The next time you see me comin’ you better run”
    Well Abe says, “Where do you want this killin’ done?”
    God says, “Out on Highway 61”
    It all starts with The Good Book. Right in Genesis, God Himself orders Abraham to commit a horrible act. Bob, however, creates an interesting contrast, possibly informed by his devotion to protest. While the Biblical Abraham obeys without complaint, his modern counterpart is more resistant, to say the least. So, says Bob, even if we are not inclined to evil acts, we're willing to do them because we believe God is on our side. How much slaughter, pain and misery has Man suffered throughout history in the name of religion? And where does it continue today, with the KKK and other "Christian" groups? Out on Highway 61.



















    Well Georgia Sam he had a bloody nose
    Welfare Department they wouldn’t give him no clothes
    He asked poor Howard where can I go
    Howard said there’s only one place I know
    Sam said tell me quick man I got to run
    Ol’ Howard just pointed with his gun
    And said that way down on Highway 61
    Georgia Sam was a performing name used by Blind Willie McTell. He was a great Georgia Bluesman who led a very sad life, singing on an Atlanta street corner in his old age. Poor Howard is the name of a song by Leadbelly about another poor traveling musician (read the lyrics here). There was one key difference between the two: Howard was white and Sam was black. So this is a conversation between two poor souls who have everything in common except for their skin color.

    Sam is in bad shape: beaten up, no government help, being chased, probably by a lynch mob. Sam thinks Howard will help him, since they have so much in common. But he's in for a nasty surprise: Howard sides with the angry mob. He may be the same as Sam economically, but ethnically, he has a lot more in common with Sam's enemies. Instead of helping Sam, Old Howard points his gun at him and sends him off to Highway 61.
    Well Mack the Finger said to Louie the King
    I got forty red, white and blue shoestrings
    And a thousand telephones that don’t ring
    Do you know where I can get rid of these things
    And Louie the King said let me think for a minute son
    And he said yes I think it can be easily done
    Just take everything down to Highway 61
    Now the fifth daughter on the twelfth night
    Told the first father that things weren’t right
    My complexion she said is much too white
    He said come here and step into the light,
    he says hmm you’re right
    Let me tell the second mother this has been done
    But the second mother was with the seventh son
    And they were both out on Highway 61"


    The rovin' gambler could be a lot of different characters up to no good. Knowing that Bob was fond of using card-playing imagery to represent sacred figures, I think he's Satan. Being bored is a reference to the book of Job, where God and Satan make a bet out of boredom. Their bet ends up destroying poor Job, who's done nothing to deserve such treatment. In fact he's in this mess precisely because he was such a good man. Highway 61, anybody?

    But the verse is about something different, the Cold War. The Devil is trying to find a way to get World War III going. He needs to deceive the public so they'll be convinced to start another war. He finds a promoter to do the job. I'm going to go out on a limb here -- I think it's P. T. Barnum, risen from the dead (fell off the floor -- get it?). Barnum admits that this is a new challenge, having been dead for the last 75 years or so, but rises to the occasion. He will take the war and make it an entertainment event. This is an idea repeated through history, from throwing Christians to the lions on down. I don't think at this point we need to explain why it's taking place on Highway 61.

    Thus ends our return visit to The Blues Highway. There were very few figures in Rock and Roll who could truly be called poets. Jim Morrison, maybe John Lennon, but Dylan was in a league all his own. I doubt we will ever see his equal.
    The Set List
    The Lyric Box
    Highway 61 Revisited
    Bob Dylan, 1965
    Oh God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son”
    Abe says, “Man, you must be puttin’ me on”
    God say, “No.” Abe say, “What?”
    God say, “You can do what you want Abe, but
    The next time you see me comin’ you better run”
    Well Abe says, “Where do you want this killin’ done?”
    God says, “Out on Highway 61”

    Well Georgia Sam he had a bloody nose
    Welfare Department they wouldn’t give him no clothes
    He asked poor Howard where can I go
    Howard said there’s only one place I know
    Sam said tell me quick man I got to run
    Ol’ Howard just pointed with his gun
    And said that way down on Highway 61

    Well Mack the Finger said to Louie the King
    I got forty red, white and blue shoestrings
    And a thousand telephones that don’t ring
    Do you know where I can get rid of these things
    And Louie the King said let me think for a minute son
    And he said yes I think it can be easily done
    Just take everything down to Highway 61
    Having made his way through All Along the Watchtower in one piece, and conquering The Doors and King Crimson, your friendly author thinks he can analyze anything. Not really, but I figured I'd give Dylan another shot.

    Some say Blonde on Blonde was Dylan's greatest album, but for me, Highway 61 is the zenith. The amount of magic poured onto that single disc is just mind-boggling.

    This is the title track, so it probably says something about the whole album. Let's start there.

    US Highway 61, also known as The Blues Highway, starts in New Orleans, heads north up through Mississippi, Memphis and St. Louis, and ends in Minnesota. Prior to 2004, when part of its numbering was changed, it ran up through Duluth to the Canadian border. Near Duluth, it ran through Hibbing, Bob's hometown.

    Highway 61 enjoyed a significant history in the Blues. Several musicians recorded songs about Highway 61. It was the road that they traveled from New Orleans and Mississippi north to musical outposts like Memphis and St. Louis, where their music became electrified and spread to a larger audience. It was the intersection of Memphis Blues, Southern Gospel and Tennessee Country Music, as interpreted by a young truck driver named Elvis Presley, that gave birth to Rock and Roll itself.

    In addition to these happenings, Highway 61 played an important role even in what many consider the greatest Blues song ever. written. Robert Johnson's Crossroads takes place in Clarksdale, Mississippi, at the intersection of Highways 61 and 49. The legend has it that Robert sold his soul to The Devil at this spot one Midnight long ago.

    As if that wasn't enough, Highway 61 has personal meaning to Bob. It was the road he took out of Minnesota on his way to New York, where his career began.

    This brings us to the album at hand. Having gone through many changes along with his country, the traveling minstrel returns to the famous road after several years, and describes what he sees. And it isn't pretty.

    Highway 61 as an image now focuses on Mississippi, the heart of bigotry and hatred in America. Bob uses the road as a symbol for Man's inhumanity to Man. If you're involved in something horrible, and everybody hates you and condemns you, there's always a place for you on Highway 61.
    Oh God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son”
    Abe says, “Man, you must be puttin’ me on”
    God say, “No.” Abe say, “What?”
    God say, “You can do what you want Abe, but
    The next time you see me comin’ you better run”
    Well Abe says, “Where do you want this killin’ done?”
    God says, “Out on Highway 61”
    It all starts with The Good Book. Right in Genesis, God Himself orders Abraham to commit a horrible act. Bob, however, creates an interesting contrast, possibly informed by his devotion to protest. While the Biblical Abraham obeys without complaint, his modern counterpart is more resistant, to say the least. So, says Bob, even if we are not inclined to evil acts, we're willing to do them because we believe God is on our side. How much slaughter, pain and misery has Man suffered throughout history in the name of religion? And where does it continue today, with the KKK and other "Christian" groups? Out on Highway 61.



















    Well Georgia Sam he had a bloody nose
    Welfare Department they wouldn’t give him no clothes
    He asked poor Howard where can I go
    Howard said there’s only one place I know
    Sam said tell me quick man I got to run
    Ol’ Howard just pointed with his gun
    And said that way down on Highway 61
    Georgia Sam was a performing name used by Blind Willie McTell. He was a great Georgia Bluesman who led a very sad life, singing on an Atlanta street corner in his old age. Poor Howard is the name of a song by Leadbelly about another poor traveling musician (read the lyrics here). There was one key difference between the two: Howard was white and Sam was black. So this is a conversation between two poor souls who have everything in common except for their skin color.

    Sam is in bad shape: beaten up, no government help, being chased, probably by a lynch mob. Sam thinks Howard will help him, since they have so much in common. But he's in for a nasty surprise: Howard sides with the angry mob. He may be the same as Sam economically, but ethnically, he has a lot more in common with Sam's enemies. Instead of helping Sam, Old Howard points his gun at him and sends him off to Highway 61.
    Well Mack the Finger said to Louie the King
    I got forty red, white and blue shoestrings
    And a thousand telephones that don’t ring
    Do you know where I can get rid of these things
    And Louie the King said let me think for a minute son
    And he said yes I think it can be easily done
    Just take everything down to Highway 61
    Now the fifth daughter on the twelfth night
    Told the first father that things weren’t right
    My complexion she said is much too white
    He said come here and step into the light,
    he says hmm you’re right
    Let me tell the second mother this has been done
    But the second mother was with the seventh son
    And they were both out on Highway 61
    Suzanna Catharina de Graaff was a Dutch woman who claimed to be the fifth daughter of Czar Nicholas and Czarina Alexandra Romanov of Russia. Like the better known Anastasia, there were a number of people in Europe who made claims to the Romanov descent, and therefore the Romanov fortune. The Romanovs and their children were all executed during the Russian Revolution, but rumors persisted that one or another child had escaped and been raised in secrecy. So it looks like this verse is talking about deception. Let's see what develops.

    Twelfth Night is easy. This is one of those Shakespeare comedies where a woman disguises herself as a man for some reason or other, falls in love with a man, and many hilarious complications ensue. So the deception here is obvious.

    The first father is a reference from the prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament: "Your first father sinned; those I sent to teach you rebelled against me". God is excusing the people for their sins. Their fathers and teachers, the people who were supposed to instruct them in God's ways, instead betrayed both God and their children and students. The people were deceived.

    The second mother is a common expression for an older woman who is very kind and caring, e.g. "You're like a second mother to me". She acts like your mother, but she isn't. Deception again.

    The seventh son is a familiar figure from mythology. Born seventh of seven children, all of whom are also boys, this child was believed to have supernatural powers. If you carry it down to another generation, the seventh son of a seventh son is almost christ-like in his abilities. So here we have a figure who is Jesus-like, but not really Jesus.

    Wow. So Bob has pulled together multiple deceivers, all of whom have numbers in their name, and weaved them into a story. Not bad.

    The other lines in the verse, the ones without numbers, refer to blacks who "passed" for white due to their light complexions. One more deception. And, of course, they all end up on Highway 61.

    "The rovin' gambler could be a lot of different characters up to no good. Knowing that Bob was fond of using card-playing imagery to represent sacred figures, I think he's Satan. Being bored is a reference to the book of Job, where God and Satan make a bet out of boredom. Their bet ends up destroying poor Job, who's done nothing to deserve such treatment. In fact he's in this mess precisely because he was such a good man. Highway 61, anybody?

    But the verse is about something different, the Cold War. The Devil is trying to find a way to get World War III going. He needs to deceive the public so they'll be convinced to start another war. He finds a promoter to do the job. I'm going to go out on a limb here -- I think it's P. T. Barnum, risen from the dead (fell off the floor -- get it?). Barnum admits that this is a new challenge, having been dead for the last 75 years or so, but rises to the occasion. He will take the war and make it an entertainment event. This is an idea repeated through history, from throwing Christians to the lions on down. I don't think at this point we need to explain why it's taking place on Highway 61.

    Thus ends our return visit to The Blues Highway. There were very few figures in Rock and Roll who could truly be called poets. Jim Morrison, maybe John Lennon, but Dylan was in a league all his own. I doubt we will ever see his equal.
    The Set List
    The Lyric Box
    Highway 61 Revisited
    Bob Dylan, 1965
    Oh God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son”
    Abe says, “Man, you must be puttin’ me on”
    God say, “No.” Abe say, “What?”
    God say, “You can do what you want Abe, but
    The next time you see me comin’ you better run”
    Well Abe says, “Where do you want this killin’ done?”
    God says, “Out on Highway 61”

    Well Georgia Sam he had a bloody nose
    Welfare Department they wouldn’t give him no clothes
    He asked poor Howard where can I go
    Howard said there’s only one place I know
    Sam said tell me quick man I got to run
    Ol’ Howard just pointed with his gun
    And said that way down on Highway 61

    Well Mack the Finger said to Louie the King
    I got forty red, white and blue shoestrings
    And a thousand telephones that don’t ring
    Do you know where I can get rid of these things
    And Louie the King said let me think for a minute son
    And he said yes I think it can be easily done
    Just take everything down to Highway 61
    Having made his way through All Along the Watchtower in one piece, and conquering The Doors and King Crimson, your friendly author thinks he can analyze anything. Not really, but I figured I'd give Dylan another shot.

    Some say Blonde on Blonde was Dylan's greatest album, but for me, Highway 61 is the zenith. The amount of magic poured onto that single disc is just mind-boggling.

    This is the title track, so it probably says something about the whole album. Let's start there.

    US Highway 61, also known as The Blues Highway, starts in New Orleans, heads north up through Mississippi, Memphis and St. Louis, and ends in Minnesota. Prior to 2004, when part of its numbering was changed, it ran up through Duluth to the Canadian border. Near Duluth, it ran through Hibbing, Bob's hometown.

    Highway 61 enjoyed a significant history in the Blues. Several musicians recorded songs about Highway 61. It was the road that they traveled from New Orleans and Mississippi north to musical outposts like Memphis and St. Louis, where their music became electrified and spread to a larger audience. It was the intersection of Memphis Blues, Southern Gospel and Tennessee Country Music, as interpreted by a young truck driver named Elvis Presley, that gave birth to Rock and Roll itself.

    In addition to these happenings, Highway 61 played an important role even in what many consider the greatest Blues song ever. written. Robert Johnson's Crossroads takes place in Clarksdale, Mississippi, at the intersection of Highways 61 and 49. The legend has it that Robert sold his soul to The Devil at this spot one Midnight long ago.

    As if that wasn't enough, Highway 61 has personal meaning to Bob. It was the road he took out of Minnesota on his way to New York, where his career began.

    This brings us to the album at hand. Having gone through many changes along with his country, the traveling minstrel returns to the famous road after several years, and describes what he sees. And it isn't pretty.

    Highway 61 as an image now focuses on Mississippi, the heart of bigotry and hatred in America. Bob uses the road as a symbol for Man's inhumanity to Man. If you're involved in something horrible, and everybody hates you and condemns you, there's always a place for you on Highway 61.
    Oh God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son”
    Abe says, “Man, you must be puttin’ me on”
    God say, “No.” Abe say, “What?”
    God say, “You can do what you want Abe, but
    The next time you see me comin’ you better run”
    Well Abe says, “Where do you want this killin’ done?”
    God says, “Out on Highway 61”
    It all starts with The Good Book. Right in Genesis, God Himself orders Abraham to commit a horrible act. Bob, however, creates an interesting contrast, possibly informed by his devotion to protest. While the Biblical Abraham obeys without complaint, his modern counterpart is more resistant, to say the least. So, says Bob, even if we are not inclined to evil acts, we're willing to do them because we believe God is on our side. How much slaughter, pain and misery has Man suffered throughout history in the name of religion? And where does it continue today, with the KKK and other "Christian" groups? Out on Highway 61.



















    Well Georgia Sam he had a bloody nose
    Welfare Department they wouldn’t give him no clothes
    He asked poor Howard where can I go
    Howard said there’s only one place I know
    Sam said tell me quick man I got to run
    Ol’ Howard just pointed with his gun
    And said that way down on Highway 61
    Georgia Sam was a performing name used by Blind Willie McTell. He was a great Georgia Bluesman who led a very sad life, singing on an Atlanta street corner in his old age. Poor Howard is the name of a song by Leadbelly about another poor traveling musician (read the lyrics here). There was one key difference between the two: Howard was white and Sam was black. So this is a conversation between two poor souls who have everything in common except for their skin color.

    Sam is in bad shape: beaten up, no government help, being chased, probably by a lynch mob. Sam thinks Howard will help him, since they have so much in common. But he's in for a nasty surprise: Howard sides with the angry mob. He may be the same as Sam economically, but ethnically, he has a lot more in common with Sam's enemies. Instead of helping Sam, Old Howard points his gun at him and sends him off to Highway 61.
    Well Mack the Finger said to Louie the King
    I got forty red, white and blue shoestrings
    And a thousand telephones that don’t ring
    Do you know where I can get rid of these things
    And Louie the King said let me think for a minute son
    And he said yes I think it can be easily done
    Just take everything down to Highway 61
    Now the fifth daughter on the twelfth night
    Told the first father that things weren’t right
    My complexion she said is much too white
    He said come here and step into the light,
    he says hmm you’re right
    Let me tell the second mother this has been done
    But the second mother was with the seventh son
    And they were both out on Highway 61
    Suzanna Catharina de Graaff was a Dutch woman who claimed to be the fifth daughter of Czar Nicholas and Czarina Alexandra Romanov of Russia. Like the better known Anastasia, there were a number of people in Europe who made claims to the Romanov descent, and therefore the Romanov fortune. The Romanovs and their children were all executed during the Russian Revolution, but rumors persisted that one or another child had escaped and been raised in secrecy. So it looks like this verse is talking about deception. Let's see what develops.

    Twelfth Night is easy. This is one of those Shakespeare comedies where a woman disguises herself as a man for some reason or other, falls in love with a man, and many hilarious complications ensue. So the deception here is obvious.

    The first father is a reference from the prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament: "Your first father sinned; those I sent to teach you rebelled against me". God is excusing the people for their sins. Their fathers and teachers, the people who were supposed to instruct them in God's ways, instead betrayed both God and their children and students. The people were deceived.

    The second mother is a common expression for an older woman who is very kind and caring, e.g. "You're like a second mother to me". She acts like your mother, but she isn't. Deception again.

    The seventh son is a familiar figure from mythology. Born seventh of seven children, all of whom are also boys, this child was believed to have supernatural powers. If you carry it down to another generation, the seventh son of a seventh son is almost christ-like in his abilities. So here we have a figure who is Jesus-like, but not really Jesus.

    Wow. So Bob has pulled together multiple deceivers, all of whom have numbers in their name, and weaved them into a story. Not bad.

    The other lines in the verse, the ones without numbers, refer to blacks who "passed" for white due to their light complexions. One more deception. And, of course, they all end up on Highway 61.
    Now the fifth daughter on the twelfth night
    Told the first father that things weren’t right
    My complexion she said is much too white
    He said come here and step into the light,
    he says hmm you’re right
    Let me tell the second mother this has been done
    But the second mother was with the seventh son
    And they were both out on Highway 61

    Now the rovin’ gambler he was very bored
    He was tryin’ to create a next world war
    He found a promoter who nearly fell off the floor
    He said I never engaged in this kind of thing before
    But yes I think it can be very easily done
    We’ll just put some bleachers out in the sun
    And have it on Highway 61
    Now the scene moves to Europe. Mack the Finger is British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan, and Louie the King is French President Charles DeGaulle. Mack has problems in his country, which is in the midst of Beatlemania and Swinging London. It's the conflict between parents and children. The ties that used to bind families (the shoestrings -- Britain, France and the United States all have the same national colors) are now useless. The telephones, which represent communication, don't ring -- the two generations can't speak to each other.

    While all this is going on in England, things are quiet in France. Mack wants to know how Louie can have such peace in his country. Louie doesn't answer Mack directly, but instead sends him to Highway 61. In this case, the inhumanity is the refusal of parents and children to talk to each other.

    "Now the rovin’ gambler he was very bored
    He was tryin’ to create a next world war
    He found a promoter who nearly fell off the floor
    He said I never engaged in this kind of thing before
    But yes I think it can be very easily done
    We’ll just put some bleachers out in the sun
    And have it on Highway 61"

    The rovin' gambler could be a lot of different characters up to no good. Knowing that Bob was fond of using card-playing imagery to represent sacred figures, I think he's Satan. Being bored is a reference to the book of Job, where God and Satan make a bet out of boredom. Their bet ends up destroying poor Job, who's done nothing to deserve such treatment. In fact he's in this mess precisely because he was such a good man. Highway 61, anybody?

    But the verse is about something different, the Cold War. The Devil is trying to find a way to get World War III going. He needs to deceive the public so they'll be convinced to start another war. He finds a promoter to do the job. I'm going to go out on a limb here -- I think it's P. T. Barnum, risen from the dead (fell off the floor -- get it?). Barnum admits that this is a new challenge, having been dead for the last 75 years or so, but rises to the occasion. He will take the war and make it an entertainment event. This is an idea repeated through history, from throwing Christians to the lions on down. I don't think at this point we need to explain why it's taking place on Highway 61.

    Thus ends our return visit to The Blues Highway. There were very few figures in Rock and Roll who could truly be called poets. Jim Morrison, maybe John Lennon, but Dylan was in a league all his own. I doubt we will ever see his equal.



  3.  

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Jun 11th, 2013 6:51am report


    First verse: Pretty clear, poking fun at Old Testament God (you know before He lightened up and started loving everyone)
    Second verse: Dylan was a political voice even if he hated it, he couldn't help but comment on his surroundings. Writers make observations constantly. LBJ's "Great Society" is part of this verse plus it also uses old Village drug references
    Third verse: Red, White, & Blue shoe strings- an unravelled America.. Vietnam was tearing the nation apart along all kinds of demographics, 1000 telephones that don't ring are kids "beyond the command" of their parents
    Fourth verse: References in this one go to Robert J... Second mother with the Seventh son, second mother is whore of Babylon who will give birth to seventh son which is associated with the anti-christ- it's a good vs evil verse and the blurred lines between the two
    fifth verse: politicians and businessmen who only increase their status and wealth through the suffering of others, "put bleachers up for the next world war", one rule of politics is war is good business

    But really, Dylan wants people to think and interpret for themselves things he says cause most stuff he had no idea he just knew it was good (Dylan was my semester project for a class on the Sixties), most musicians say they don't write songs they are just the "divining rod" that yanks them out of space and Bob claims this in the same way.. he's a junkie for literature and a search for, I don't want to say God, but an idea close to the idea of God. He recognizes change as a universal law like gravity and modeled his entire life after that law. His appearance changed more in the 1960's than Michael Jackson did throughout his entire life and he constantly changed musical genres, styles, and techniques. "An artist never has to reach a point where he feels comfortable. That's when he gets in trouble."- Bob Dylan

    Also, Highway 61 is, here in the heart of the South, supposed to be some opening to hell, again to the RJ deal and Dylan says he sold his soul... when an artist says this it is not literal. It means they have found what they love and will never stop like a fantasy they can't believe. Jay-Z says he sometimes feels like he is getting away with murder and says the same regarding his soul. Dylan will die on stage because he sold his soul to music and in heaven, Satan was the musician of God.



  4.  

    joseph.hester.7
    click a star to vote
    Jan 15th, 2013 1:35pm report


    Highway 61 is the road/path linking New Orleans and Chicago taken by the old bluesmen, and the song exaggerates the many stories told by these bluesman where it seems that anything and everything happens out on the road...highway 61, revisited means that now he's out there travelling this road from place to place going from one gig to the next, and all things can and do happen to a
    travelling minstral such as himself, and he's telling the stories of his time.



  5.  

    m320753
    click a star to vote
    Sep 2nd, 2011 9:54am report


    while your interpratations are well meaning, highway 61 revisited was an album which introduced "like a rolling stone" the song you are commenting on is highway 51 from "Bringing it all back home"
    God said to Abraham, kill Me a son.
    Abe said Man you must be puttin me on
    God said no, Abe said what?
    God saidAbe you can do what you want
    But the next time you see Me coming , you better run
    Abe said where you want this killin done?
    God said out on highway 51.
    yes dylan had a strong religious upbringing in the Jewish faith, and i think he was a Jew for Jesus long before it was popular to admit to being one. the Jews have many sects to their religion Orthodox -Reformed -Hassidic etc. where other religions are more toe the line. If you are Roman Catholic , that's what you are if you are a methodist that the only option open you're a Methodist and nothing else. i believe one of dylan's first references to Jesus was " with God on our side"

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway


  6.  

    oracle
    click a star to vote
    Aug 25th, 2011 8:51pm report


    the roving gambler and the promotor may be the same person.
    the promotor who nearly fell off the floor is almost for sure Jesus because
    "nearly fell off the floor" is likely a metaphor for "rose from the dead"



  7.  

    oracle
    click a star to vote
    Aug 25th, 2011 8:37pm report


    "the roving gambler he was very bored
    trying to create a next world war
    he found a promoter who nearly fell off the floor...."

    a promoter who nearly fell off the floor
    is likely a reference to jesus rising from death.



  8.  

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Aug 23rd, 2011 8:40pm report


    if u look at a map of where highway 61 runs through our country it is the heartland, the middle of the country. i think the reference is to where things or people can get lost, how easy it is to con the american people, where to dump the unwanted, just send it all down highway 61.



  9.  

    Immanuelkant
    click a star to vote
    Jan 7th, 2011 1:42pm report


    Bob Dylan was very familiar with Biblical scripture, with all those seemingly arbitrary allegories in the Old Testament with their references to the Seventh Son or the three Days in The Fish (it's not a Whale!) and Forty Days Forty Nights Forty years, etc. (If you thumb through The Book of Revelation, you'll find all sorts of numbers and Sons and Fathers and weeping women for Seven Years. Anyway, for a young man, as well as an unbeliever he knew more than most Christians (Ha!)
    One critic penned these early songs as "Humories Impurities" (satirical jabs at Religious (esp. American Christianity) Self-Righteousness and blatant hypocrisy)--see the second song on Highway 61 Revisited--"John The Baptist after torturing a thief looks up to his Commander and Chief and asks is their a hole that I can get sick in?"
    The bottom line is that Dylan has a great sense of humor. Whether this song is about saving the planet or an answer to the riddle of The Sphinx is immaterial--only addled-head Hippies thought that way about him and his work. The bottom line is that it's hilarious and a great tune for a College Toga Party. Ha!



  10.  

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    May 25th, 2010 5:29pm report


    see the meanings of the DOORS' soft parade...all non sense lyrics. A lot of words that are nothing more than an other musical instrument. Dylan probably threw darts at dictonary pages and said o yea, that rymes...it;'ll work!

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway



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