What does My Back Pages mean?

Bob Dylan: My Back Pages Meaning

Tagged: Regret [suggest]
Album cover for My Back Pages album cover

My Back Pages Lyrics

Crimson flames tied through my ears
Rollin' high and mighty traps
Pounced with fire on flaming roads
Using ideas as my maps
"We'll meet on edges, soon," said I
Proud 'neath heated brow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I'm younger than that...


    #1 top rated interpretation:
    click a star to vote
    Sep 28th 2021 !⃝

    This is a great song, and an unusual one in that it takes on a subject only rarely addressed in songs. As with many Dylan songs, it can be looked at as poetry as much as song. In review of the lyrics, its meaning seems certainly to involve the "inner war" that is derived from finding one's self dislodged from old ways of thinking and trying to create new ones associated with a maturing sense of evolving identity. It describes a process of self discovery, whereby avenues and forms of belief about the world are radically questioned. In the repeating last two phrases of each stanza, he repeats the ultimate conclusion that his previous belief system was born of "old and pre-established teachings and influences," and that, through the process of throwing a lot of that out and starting over with fresh perspectives rooted in a "blank slate" way of looking at the world, he actually feels "younger," or "renewed." I can't think of any other songs which directly take this inner process on and put it forth in such a dramatic representation.


    #2 top rated interpretation:
    click a star to vote
    Oct 8th 2012 !⃝

    Bob Dylan wrote this song in 1964, as he was starting to make huge changes in both his style of music and the themes of his lyrics.

    Up to this point, Dylan had played simple, stark acoustic folk music, in the style of his hero, Woody Guthrie. And his lyrics were very serious takes on the important political causes of the day. Thanks to songs like "Blowing in the Wind" and "The Times They Are a-Changing," Dylan was being hailed as a prophet and and important political commentator.

    In "My Back Pages," Dylan tries to distance himself from the serious political commentator people took him for. He seems to be saying several things, including:

    1) I took myself WAY too seriously!

    2) I'm NOT really that smart, and I have no business acting as if I know all the answers. I'm not qualified to be a prophet or anybody's guru.

    3) The world's problems are complicated, and some of my songs made things seem too simple, too black and white.

    When Dylan sang "I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now," I think he was suggesting that, a few years earlier, he'd been too serious in his songs, and he was now ready to be a little sillier and more playful, to have more fun with his music.

    It's not a coincidence that he went electric, and started to rock out more the following year.

  3. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Sep 30th !⃝

    "I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now".
    When we are young we think we know everything. We don't need anyone to tell us anything. We don't feel we need to listen to parents or teachers.
    You grow up one day and realize that was wrong. "I was so much older then" meaning I knew everything (or so I thought). "I'm younger than that now" meaning I now realize that I don't know everything.

  4. anonymous
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    Aug 18th !⃝

    I knew it all. Had all the answers but woke up to being only 14. Am I young? No. I know everything. I am pretty and I guess young. But somewhere there is a War & it's on Tv everynight. No No No Another Kennedy was killed. I do not understand anything. Laughing Crying Dancing I am 14. I started to learn something when I wrote a letter to a dying soldier in Viet Nam. Now I feel.younger. I don't know about dying. Does he? Comfort the dying. I am younger than what they said ~ you don't know anything Grow Up ! .I did & I feel much younger now. That soldier was already grown up when he was dying. I am so much younger now ~ a long time ago ~ had to be young first ~

  5. anonymous
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    Oct 23rd 2022 !⃝

    The song demonstrates the incredible wisdom of the then-23 year-old songwriter who, at that age, recognized the arrogance of youth. ("Ah, but I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now.") The youth of the time, influenced by teachers of dubious philosophy, thinking they could and should "rip down all hate" or thinking "liberty is just equality," believed they knew best how to order society, and sought to change it. But the songwriter saw the corrupting influence of those teachers ("In a soldier's stance, I aimed my hand at the mongrel dogs who teach") and was afraid he may have exerted a similar corrupting influence ("Fearing not I'd become my enemy in the instant that I preach"). He had learned from experience that there is no moral relativity, and that good and bad are in fact black and white ("Good and bad, I define these terms quite clear, no doubt, somehow"). There is a strong theme that youth have a lot to learn and it is not from their teachers.

  6. anonymous
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    Oct 17th 2022 !⃝

    When you are young you are influenced by the ideas of parents and their mistakes or their bitterness they have grown through their lives. Later on when you free yourself from those ideas you are fresher and younger. At least that's what it means for me.

  7. anonymous
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    Jul 3rd 2020 !⃝

    Woody guthrie was a folk singer. His music genre consisted of country folk,western,plus protest and social issue songs. He was bob dylan's mentor. Bob dylan picked up woody's style of music and looks: jeans, hair style etc and ran with it. The beatles did the same thing. at first you could hear the everly brothers, buddy holly, little richard and others in their music. They came unto their own when they rfleased rubber soul...bob dylan came unto his own when he went electric...thus my back pages...

  8. anonymous
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    Jan 31st 2019 !⃝

    I believe he is making a statement about wisdom. That true wisdom comes from an understanding of the things we know as fact and embracing them in the way a younger person would. with fire and pure belief because of there ignorance they dive without fear. that's not good without proper knowledge, but knowledge can also make you fearful and stuck in your ways. So growing up and then embracing your knowledge whole heartedly and seeing it to be a form to work "with" not "in" or without thatis what makes him younger than what he was. As a final example.. as a kid one would go down a flight of stairs on a bike. As an adult with knowledge of the danger and the possible outcomes you would be afraid to do that, being younger than that would be taking those risks again in a way that is smarter . And because you can find a way to do it smarter and better you are able to be a kid again because you are wise not historically accurate. Facts are not logic and age is not always your years. You can be old in your mind .

  9. anonymous
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    Sep 5th 2018 !⃝

    I think that Dylan started out to change the world As he matured he realized that a Utopia was never to be found. Somewhat disillusioned at first he released his grip on society’s problems he had set out to cure. That’s what we did in the 60’s. We had a plan to better the world and for a few years maybe we did make difference. Dylan found the futility of forcing a cultural change over whelming and daunting. As a very young man , he realized that ideas alone couldn’t enact change. Closing a chapter , and possibly finishing the book on the plight of the love peace generation , he came to the end of his “hoped for” influence. He came to his back pages of the story.

  10. anonymous
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    Sep 27th 2017 !⃝

    Steve Earle also covered the song on his " Side Tracks" album.

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