What does Like A Rolling Stone mean?

Bob Dylan: Like A Rolling Stone Meaning

Album cover for Like A Rolling Stone album cover

Song Released: 1965

Like A Rolling Stone Lyrics

Once upon a time you dressed so fine
You threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn't you ?
People'd call, say, "Beware doll, you're bound to fall"
You thought they were all kiddin' you
You used to laugh about
Everybody that was hangin'...


    #1 top rated interpretation:
    click a star to vote
    Mar 18th 2012 !⃝

    Others have already, probably correctly, cited Edie Sedgwick as an inspiration for this song. But the song couldn't have become such a classic if it didn't have a more universal meaning. AFter all, millions of people related to the song, even though most had never heard of Edie Sedgwick.

    In the Fifties and the Sixties, there were a LOT of rich or upper middle class young people who felt alienated from their families, who regarded their families as "phonies." Many of these rich young people dropped out of their elite schools and moved to places like Greenwich Village (a place Dylan knew very well) or San Francisco, where they tried to join up with the artsy, bohemian crowd. They imagined that the bohemian life would be glamorous and "more authentic" than the lives they'd left behind.

    The Beatnik and hippie movements were filled with rich kids who'd left their families behind, in hopes of finding true happiness and fulfillment with a newer, grungier crowd.

    But as Dylan knew very well, the bohemian set has just as many fakes, phonies, con artists and users as any other set. Rich kids who joined that crowd often found, eventually, that the gurus and hipsters they'd followed were no more "authentic" than the families they'd abandoned. Those kids woke up one day and realized, "I left behind a comfortable lifestyle and a family that loved me, and for what? Now I live in a fleabag hotel (or on a commune) with a bunch of other losers, I have no money, I see now that the counterculture's values are no better than the ones I left behind... and yet I' m stuck here. I can never go back."


    #2 top rated interpretation:
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    Jun 8th 2011 !⃝

    It was written about a girl he knew named Edie Sedgwick. What makes the song great is the transcendent lesson it imparts on us about life, for it is really about the values he considers most important, integrity, honesty, and family. Edie Sedgwick had forsaken all of these for a world of fun and glamour. She is able to enter this world because she is attractive, well educated, and has the means, for a while at least, to enjoy these people’s company. She has nothing to offer of substance to them, as they entertain her in their exciting and superficial world. When her money and looks are gone, she is no longer welcomed by this crowd. Unfortunately, she no longer has a family (home) to go back to because they too have abandoned her, because of her secrets and lies. In the end she is “invisible now,” and has no more “secrets to conceal”. She literally is “without a home, like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone.”


    #3 top rated interpretation:
    click a star to vote
    Mar 23rd 2011 !⃝

    Could it be about someone who once was famous and/or everything was handed to them when they were younger but as they get older they aren't appreciated as much and now they are finding they have to work harder and nothing is handed to them?

    "Once upon a time you dressed so fine
    You threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn't you ?
    People'd call, say, "Beware doll, you're bound to fall"
    You thought they were all kiddin' you
    You used to laugh about
    Everybody that was hangin' out
    Now you don't talk so loud
    Now you don't seem so proud
    About having to be scrounging for your next meal."

    "You've gone to the finest school all right, Miss Lonely
    But you know you only used to get juiced in it
    And nobody has ever taught you how to live on the street
    And now you find out you're gonna have to get used to it"

  4. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Apr 6th 2020 !⃝

    Ain't it hard when you discover that
    He really wasn't where it's at
    After he took from you everything he could steal?

    It's about Suze Rotolo. He was in a revenge mood.

  5. anonymous
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    Jan 11th 2019 !⃝

    Clearly written about Edie Sedgwick, an all time beauty ( think Audrey Hepburn meets Grace Kelly) socialite and her descent into mental illness and poverty. Incredibly tragic. R.I.P. Edie

  6. anonymous
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    Dec 11th 2017 !⃝

    It's a reversal of the classic "rags to riches" story. You might call it "riches to rags." It's about a girl who has been taken from her carefree comfortable life and is now a hooker on the street corner. The song is told from the point of view of somebody important like a parent saying how does it feel? As sarcasm

  7. anonymous
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    May 26th 2017 !⃝

    I believe that it is about a girl who left her life living in a small town and goes to either New York City or the West Coast, Las Vegas, Nevada or Hollywood, California and began a new life in a new world as a prostitute or adult movie actor. There is this friend who in the shadows tried to warn her about the outcome and where she would land; letting her know that pipe dreams are not always reality. She begs him off, puts him down because his life is going nowhere.

    In her beginning, she was a great splash on the scene; making lots of quick money and she became popular in that industry. As she rose in the game, she remembered where she came from and tossed tokens to those who she considered still where she was.

    But there are rival's and rivalry becomes more intense as one climbs the ladder of success. A certain stature one must maintain and she does so by living lavishly and spending and buying whatever her desire. Due to her false sense of pride lines are drawn and determinations are made by her that she will not compromise and do just anything as others (namely one who in her mind is a tramp) and willing to compromise her more modest morals, at first.

    But her lifestyle takes a turn for her and she journeys down a forbidden road. She becomes addicted to drugs and alcohol, and those who sponsored and admired her begin to see the cracks in her facade and she is no longer a money draw. The intrepid lifestyle of her's becomes a liability more than an asset. Her manager who she once idolized as he lied to her making her think that he was forever and her life is forever is unmasked. He shows her that it was always about the money, and women like her come to him a dime a dozen.

    Tossed out, her addiction and alcoholism get the best of her. She is forced from her false comforts and fleeting fame due to addiction and wrong choices and must make a choice. She remembers her friend who tried to warn her of the road she was headed onto. She now thinks and asked the rhetorical question "How does it feel to be on your own (abandoned) with no place, or direction to go because she does not and cannot escape her addiction. Her so-called friends and associates have all left her; she has been completely exposed by her addiction and poverty - no one cares for her and like a rock that is kicked around this is how her life has become and there is no way that she sees things can turn around. Her manager, friends who she partied with and used her, addiction, and pride have taken everything from her and the only worth in her life is a diamond ring that she is forced to pawn for the survival of either eating or satisfying her drug addiction which is, in reality, a place to nowhere. She asks again, how does it feel to be left alone with no direction home, a complete unknown - like a (kicked around) rolling stone?

  8. anonymous
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    Jan 11th 2017 !⃝

    I think the song is fairly self-explanatory. Put simply it is a "Riches to Rags" tale. It's about a self-centered, superficial rich-girl that is suddenly thrust into real life where she is not rich anymore and possibly homeless. It's a timeless story about what really matters in life.

  9. anonymous
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    Jun 29th 2016 !⃝

    ''Like a Rolling Stone'' was one of Bob Dylan's famous songs in a time when some of the High Class Society people were beginning to have their tables turn upside down on them, with terrorism by the social and political revolution of the 60's. Where also some of her children got influenced by the dark side of life that left many of them feeling like a rolling stone without a home, especially when everything was lost on the city street hangouts with the philosophical drug mix. On a little more personal level this song could've been or is about any Wasp Elite Princess, assumed ''stuck up'' lady who's name, let's just say is Lucy 4 wanting to socialize and mingle with hope to become more of a ''down to earth'' intellectual lady with the Vultured Bohemian crowd. But unfortunately within time she lost her heavenly place to the scum of this world that took advantage of her and turned her into a rolling stone that is on this earth without a home anywhere now.

  10. anonymous
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    Aug 23rd 2014 !⃝

    the song is about a girl who always laughed at those who became addicted to heroin("everybody that was hanging out") and thought it would never happen to her. Her new boyfriend(the "diplomat") she finds out is a dealer/pimp("ain't it hard when you discover that he really wasn't where its at"),and she subsequently tries it thinking she wont become addicted ("now you don't talk so proud")and he used her and manipulated her mind, body, and spirit("after he took from you everything he could steal/how does it feel?")

  11. anonymous
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    Aug 22nd 2014 !⃝

    Could this be about Marianne Faithfull. It reflects her fall from being a wild society child hanging out with Mick Jagger and her crashing into destitution. Dylan met her but not sure of the timelines. Just a thought

  12. anonymous
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    Mar 20th 2012 !⃝

    i hastily submitted a motto of don't ask don't tell which was WRONG. i meant to say "don't ask don't smell" as i don't ask the government what it is i specifically DO for them but i try to bathe a whole bunch. okay on with the meaning..

    she went to the school of hard knocks
    which is a fine one indeed
    but there she felt lonely because
    she was put through a juicer and
    ground into a pulp...
    nobody informed her how to comfortably sleep underneath park benches...
    she was adamantly opposed to bargaining
    with vagrant riddlers, as it just made
    "no damn sense" to her..
    his eyes are free space so she stares into them because she worships anything labeled "FREE".
    do you want to make a deal?
    is him/Dylan honestly questioning her/the rolling stone as to whether she'd like to be a pawn in their game.

    dylan has a fetish for harlequin fools as he writes about them aplenty and here is an example for you:
    she knew the jugglers and the clowns were frowning at her from behind so she snubbed them.
    she adores kicking at the air and she gave it up for lent so now she is very sorry about THAT.
    chrome is silver so the horse definitely has gray hair.
    cats are a favourite pastime of dylan's as of yet.
    the brutal eyeball sucker person stole everything imaginable from her/the subject of this song.

    the last verse says much about the lyrics as well. he is SO transparent as he tries for this..
    it's about addiction and prettiness all combined into a ball. it's a gift to do something with and it is funny.
    she had better sell her jewelry so she can get some kind of kicks by firing coin at the homeless who have become her next-of-kin.
    napoleon said, "secrets travel fast in paris" which was meant in severe jest. we all know he was one to be incredibly sill with his language. dylan wants her to go to the stocky dictator even though he should be dead by this point in time. (not dylan but napoleon)
    what does she have to lose now?
    she's got no secrets to conceal as the listener/fans are ALL the skeletons in her closet.

    everyone on earth wanted and wants a piece of bob dylan and i am certainly no exception to the rule. i am in Actual Love with the man even though he is probably the biggest lyrical oaf yet.

  13. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Mar 19th 2012 !⃝

    i haven't much time to write this atall as i have an extremely important job working for the government and don't ask don't tell is my motto surrounding it as i have no idea what it is my occupation. i do want to say that i write a great deal about the topic of music and we each react differently to a piece of it which seems to be a part of its wide appeal as of yet... i love to guess at interpretating works of melody, instrumentals, ragtime, goth and BeBop. RocknRoll and acoustical folk fusion are pleasing genres as well and i do dabble in decent measure in ALL hymns/tune at attempting to decipher the reason for their being.. it's a bit of an obsession if you will and it is a science. i perceive myself to be but an arrogant intellectual upon times. i am aware and astute and in tune to the process behind making up lyrics type of these but i think songwriters can be such simpletons. to me, this song is about every one of us who gets booted by life and i need to go now and i have several more pages of thoughts to share with you and i will do so later tonight even. i have to go now as the top secret voices are beckoning me. oh i have a few more minutes so i'll tell you a little NOW.

    she dressed in finery ALWAYS
    and hurled small change at bums
    people told her she was "goin down"
    and she'd just cackle in their faces, reverently.
    she now whispers in a tiny voice
    as she scavenges for those nickels and dimes she launched at the impoverished
    HOW DOES IT FEEL? is him/Dylan asking her to explain her emotions and that is my own patented revelation i've not seen the likes of....
    okay later it will be

  14. anonymous
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    Jun 29th 2011 !⃝

    Edie Sedjwick and Jenny Finnie

  15. bobdylan
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    Apr 19th 2010 !⃝

    It's an autobiographical song. I didn't just read critics (although it helped) to work out an interpretation, I listened over and over. "You used to laugh about everybody that was hanging out". In his early starving homeless days, he didn't really care for the typical cafe crowd and he was very, very arrogant so I'm sure many young people didn't care for him.
    The ultimate meaning, or message, is somewhat ambiguous. I mean as the speaker he his launching all sorts of sarcasm and ascerbity (not a word--but could be), rancor at the song's subject (which is Dylan, himself); and then on the other hand the song could be about the joy of being free--the clarity and self-determination that comes from maturity.

  16. m320753
    click a star to vote
    Apr 19th 2010 !⃝

    this song was writen about susie rotello who dylan adored at the time she is the girl he asked to bring him a pair of boots of spainish leather. she is the subject of many of his songs. i guess this was also the time he met sara and susie becamean ex lover and all but is still the girl in like a rolling stone for some reason he wrote a lot of not hate songs but revenge? songs. this song is going to be the watermark because it changed the world of pop-rock and 3 minute songs. springstein said all other records and tapes would not been written if bob hadn't wrote this and sang it. we all know he's been singing for 40plus years though his voice is shot it's the words that keeps him up in the stratosphere . may God bless you bob dylan

  17. Blacktull
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    Apr 15th 2010 !⃝

    I'm not gonna say the meaning because Bob Dylan says it so clearly. He's one of those artists that you can pretty much tell what the meaning of the song is just by the title. This song is so obvious.

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway

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