Bob Dylan: Positively 4th Street Meaning
Song Released: 1965
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Positively 4th Street Lyrics
To say you are my friend
When I was down
You just stood there grinning
You got a lotta nerve
To say you got a helping hand to lend
You just want to be on
The side that’s winning
You say I let you down
anonymous Sep 2nd 2020 report
Dylan was way before my time and i was never really a fan, until I heard this song. I wasn't there, so the details of that time aren't as important to me. Dylan was calling out what my generation calls "the haters" of his time and is putting them on notice. We can all relate or imagine saying those words to someone we know, but what has always intrigued me, is that most of us can also imagine those exact same words, being said to US. That is what makes these lyrics art.
anonymous Aug 28th 2020 report
I believe it's a sign of the end of childhood; perhaps from high school on- when you begin to learn and understand what life is really all about. When people you knew and trusted and friendships grew with people you thought would never leave your side- leave. The pain encountered when this happens burns into your sole and you never can really trust people (friends) the way you did growing up; never look at or trust anyone the same way with childhood innocence. I experienced such a period in my young twenties and listened to this song over and over again until I accepted my meaning of it and moved on. Bob Dylan (electric or not), Bob Seeger and Simon and Garfunkel got me through some tough adolescent times. All in all a great song
anonymous Nov 15th 2017 report
omg,,cant you people see that he did something very wrong and instead of his friends being there and supporting him they turned their backs on him. he even apologizes when he asks you to be in his shoes. omg people,,its so simple you cant see it.
anonymous Oct 18th 2016 report
About the Protagonist who became the traitor to some of his fans. He made the change 'cause he probably must've felt in this time around of that time in 65 where he didn't want to be left behind and abanded like some Joseph who only wanted to hold on to his coat of many colors ''sort of speaking'' to be free and express himself in a new way now and not be left behind by the progressive electric sound of his brothers. Realisticly speaking I believe the Protagonist was never one of us or ours to be controlled or held back on equal bases to stay on one side and fight the social political one sided cause from the start. The Protagonist I guess usually felt like the outsider's insider, but didn't want to stay or be caught on the inside for to long about political issues. Wherefore he finally broke free to play both sounds of his art in music for us[the fans] that became very debatable on the overall, with all the folkies talking about the electric switch made that raised up more political views. All the while he was becoming electrified to rise famously higher, while things ''were believed'' to be positively for him according to most of his old folk crowd on 4th street hangouts, where some of them may have felt betrayed there and left behind with some others that always wanted to see him stay down in a ditch somewhere and become paralyzed.
anonymous Sep 19th 2014 report
"You just want to be on the side that's winning" It's about a person who thinks "it's all about me"
as a footnote to my comment i should have noted that after his electric set, Dylan came back on stage with his acoustic guitar and played " it's all over now, baby blue." the crowd cheered loudly wen he appeared and throughout the song, perhaps thinking the electric set was good ole Bobby playing a joke on us. what they didn't hear or refused to understand was hat Dylan was handing them Divorce papers, as he was moving on so it's all over now baby blue
a lot of folk singers back then, thought they could start or revive their careers riding on the coat tails of Dylan. when he went electric during the second set at Newport many knew the free ride was over. the crowd was so submerged in classic folk music, they couldn't see the genius that stood before them. in he movie "Don't Look Back" or maybe another short video piece, as Bob was leaving a show he asked " where are all my friends now ?" which probably led to this rant he turned into another classic songWonnte
well a great deal of this song is "IN YOUR FACE" but another angle is that Dylan saw where the future in music was. hell he was the freakin music of the future. it also runs along the lines of "Times are a changing. "senators and congressmen / please heed my call/ don't stand in your doorways don't block up the halls/ for he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled / there's a battle outside and it's a raging. he's basically teling the performers i'm moving on come along if you want but this stop is closing. Dylan '75 the bootleg has many of the people from 4th street on stage with him. but dylan is so far ahead of them and the songs they sung the audiences including me twice' wouldn't have cared if no one but joannie baez was there' play them one after and it will turn into 1 song because of the audience he is singing about
anonymous Feb 8th 2012 report
It appears to cover a few bases...'false friends' being the obvious 1, and people who just want to drag you down when you want to move on..'I know the reason, you talk behind my back', he (dylan) understands why certain people call him, because he himself was once there 'among the crowd' who he is referring to.
Personally, I play it and it sums up 'fairweather friends' to me....
This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
anonymous Jan 22nd 2011 report
In my opinion I think the song means that people only care for themselves because when he says when I was down you just stood there grinning or when he says you rather see me paralyzed. This is what the song means to me.
anonymous Jan 7th 2011 report
This was a personal attack on folk singer Phil Oches who had had earlier success than dylan. A form of jealous revenge. Oches died shortly after and dylan apparently disliked the lyrics.
This is definitely about Bob Dylan's change of direction but it's unfair to characterize it as the folk community turning there back on Dylan. Historically it was other way around.
The song is written to Richard Farina (Joan Baez's brother-in-law) and was written in response to a comment Richard made to the effect that Bob had decided to stop discussing the serious subjects (race relations, war, labor justice etc.) that were the hardcore folk raison d'etre and go with more commercial, less serious subjects. The electric guitar thing is a red herring as the 4th Street crowd had no beef against the folk-rock crowd (Sim&Gar and the Byrds) as long as the message was on point. You have to remember that it was Richard that got Bob Dylan his first gigs in the village.
In the end this song was just a somewhat juvenile overreaction to a comment that hit a little too close to home.
I think this song is about people living in the village who were there for quite a few years trying to get a book or screenplay or a poem/ lyric or song published and Dylan was recognized after about a year or so. That could be very frustrating for the old-timers and could result in jealously . plus too many wanted to grab onto his coat tails but found that there were no coat tails to grab. It could also have been his girlfriend's sister Carla who had received quite a tongue lashing in " my back pages". I think it was the name of the song who hated Dylan from the start. but it was an in your face song
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