What does Tangled Up In Blue mean?

Search Login

Bob Dylan: Tangled Up In Blue Meaning

Song Released: 1975

Tangled Up In Blue Lyrics

Early one mornin' the sun was shinin',
I was layin' in bed
Wond'rin' if she'd changed at all
If her hair was still red.
Her folks they said our lives together
Sure was gonna be rough
They never did like Mama's homemade dress


    click a star to vote
    Jul 8th, 2008 7:59pm report

    I can't believe nobody has discussed this song, it's one of my favourite Bob Dylan songs.
    It's about the breakdown of Dylan's marriage, he said it took him two years to write and ten years to live. It pays no attention to time, mixing up a time line with each verse.
    First Verse: It's the present, he woke up in bed and reflected on what went wrong.
    Second Verse: It's the past, as they broke up, it's the exact details of the break up.
    Third Verse: It's directly after the second verse, what happened to him after they broke up.
    Fourth Verse: It goes back to the very beginning of the time line, when he first met the girl.
    Fifth Verse: Follows from the fourth, when he first met her.
    Sixth Verse: After they met it's detail of their life together, and how it didn't work out.
    Seventh Verse: It's back to the present, how he's going after her, and hints that all their arguments weren't worthwhile.
    So in chronological order it's:
    4th Verse, 5th Verse, 6th Verse, 2nd verse, 1st verse, last verse.
    And the meaning of Tangled up in Blue as a phrase, it means stuck to the same girl, whether he likes it or not, why it's blue I don't no. Tangled doesn't entirely give a positive image, you don't really want to be tangled in something.

    This was my first interpretation on this website, please tell me how it was, was it a load of garbage or was it a decent interpretation?


    click a star to vote
    Nov 21st, 2011 11:29pm report

    My two-cents about the lyrics:

    I see the recurring phrase "Tangled Up In Blue" almost like a 'click' on a camera shutter, capturing a moment in the narrator's relationship with the woman. So, as they are splitting up, she says "We'll meet again someday on the avenue" and there is a "click", a mental snapshot of the moment.

    In the middle stanzas the story starts: he goes into a topless bar looking for a thrill and unexpectedly sees a dancer whose FACE is the part of her anatomy that he is starting at. She returns the favor by "studying the lines on his face", again, both looking at each other faces, not as "customer/dancer" but as "man/woman" attracted to each other. In fact, as she bends down to "tie the laces on his shoes" (that is, to get a big tip in her G-string by showing him her ass and private regions), he is already uneasy about thinking of her as just a piece of meat. "Click"

    In that stanza, he is attracted to her body, but immediately in the next stanza he is attracted to her soul. She gives him a book of poems by an "Italian poet
    From the thirteenth century", a reference to Dante's "Vita Nuova" (about Dante's soul-mate, Beatrice). "Click"

    I take the verse about "he started into dealing with slaves" to be a verse about a pimp engaged in the prostitution business, with the implication that the pimp has dragged his wife from working in a topless bar to being a prostitute. The narrator has to rescue her from that. "Click".

    The basic recurring phrase, "Tangled Up In Blue", is never fully explicated, which I think is good. It could refer to a certain sadness ("blue") throughout their relationship, but I think it's more likely to be a "metonymy", that is, a 'part' which stands for the 'whole'. In this case, something about "blue" is standing in for the woman and/or both of them in the relationship. It could be something like a blue dress that makes the narrator think of her. If you're into biography when analyzing a poem, it's worth noting that Bob Dylan and his ex-wife Sara Dylan both have blue eyes (as does their eldest son). It is also noted that Sara worked as a Playboy bunny before she met Bob.

    What I love about the song is how is expresses that "cubist" nature of long-term relationships, in which you simultaneously see parts from all different time snapshots at the same instant. For example, when I met a woman friend of mine at an airport last year, I saw her as a high school student that rode around in a borrowed convertible car that I drove one summer, and saw myself walking away from her on the one date we went on at 17, and saw her when I gave her a hug outside her house in Chicago when I tracked her down again after a 35 year absence, etc. etc, etc. Every one of those images was there at the same time, overlaying each other in my memory, "tangled up in blue".

    Anyway, that's what I get out of the song and why I admire it so much. It expressed something to me that I was only vaguely aware of, and now it's in the forefront of my mind. Thanks, Mr. Dylan.


    click a star to vote
    Jun 26th, 6:15am report

    You for get Blue is the colour of Misery. Think about that in TANGLED UP IN BLUE.


    click a star to vote
    Mar 21st, 2016 3:59am report

    It's Dylan trying to come to grips with an epic love of his life. "Some are mathematicians, some are congressmen's wives." His way of reckoning the entire situation within himself by comparing/contrasting; and yet still in a quagmire; unable to break free from her. His pain is deep and he carries it with him at all times. Tangled up in blue, caught in the past.


    click a star to vote
    Jan 15th, 2016 1:06pm report

    as with a painting,the artist leaves it to you to determine what it says.you are correct as is everybody else is.this song is mona lisa


    click a star to vote
    Nov 13th, 2014 11:29am report

    I always thought "tangled up in blue" meant to be in trouble with the law. Because they sometimes call the cops "the boys in blue".


    click a star to vote
    Mar 14th, 2013 3:26pm report

    Some are carpenters' wives = Jesus was a carpenter=a nun is theoretically married to Jesus, hence C'carpenter's wives= a nun or a reformed or spiritually changed individual


    click a star to vote
    Jul 1st, 2012 7:23pm report

    I've always considered this song an allegory about dylan's relationship with music, and his view of his place in the history of music, personal and professional.
    "she" is not a woman. "she" is music.Changing at the beginning, when his career started. Prostituted in the middle.
    Idealized at the end.


    click a star to vote
    Jun 14th, 2012 6:57am report

    it' definititly about losing sara. she was working in a topless place!, sara was a Playboy bunny what amazes is that dylan describes about 6 jobs he has when he met sara and 6 destinations he headed to before meeting her and he decribes how he went on the road again secretly wishing he run into someplace


    click a star to vote
    Jun 7th, 2012 6:52am report

    Dylan has actually gone on record as saying that the 'Blue' refers to Joni Mitchell's record of the same name, which Bob said influenced him heavily.


    click a star to vote
    May 21st, 2012 5:21am report

    He refers to her red hair. Blue is a nickname given to redheads ?!


    click a star to vote
    Apr 11th, 2012 4:59pm report

    I thought it might have a connection with 'Its all over now.. Baby Blue. Wasn't there a David Blue in Dylan's entourage?


    click a star to vote
    Aug 24th, 2011 8:39pm report

    During the period that he wrote this song, Dylan was interested in painting. His art teacher explained that beginner painters get "tangled up in blue" meaning that they use too much of the blue palette in their early works and then grow to use other colors. When they move on to skillfully use a broader range of color they grow as an artist.


    click a star to vote
    Aug 14th, 2011 8:25pm report

    I think "tangled up in blue" means "tangled in sadness".


    click a star to vote
    May 23rd, 2011 5:14pm report

    The song is about the famous incident where dylan became tangled up in the blues.

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway


    click a star to vote
    Feb 28th, 2011 2:45pm report

    He is Blue from the break up of a relationship, hooks up with another woman in the same boat, they cry and console each other, and eventually go their own way,only eventually meet again. Both are thankful for the understanding and compassion of a friend during a very difficult time, picking up each other when they were down and out.


    click a star to vote
    Oct 24th, 2010 10:16am report

    Tangled up in blue, simplest explanation for 'blue' is the common use of blue for feeling hurt and/or depressed. It is about Sara, but more than only about her, he is singing for every breakup and so all of the details don't have to match Sara. The bootleg earlier version is even more personal than the one that made the official album, well worth hearing.

    I had a 'mondegreen' in this song; Dylan sings "split up on that dark sad night"; for years I thought he sang "split up on the docks that night". My mis-hearing made sense with a nice double play on 'docks' normally a place of joining becomes that place of separation for Dylan.

‹ prev 12

More Bob Dylan song meanings »


Submit Your Interpretation

[ want a different song? ]

Just Posted

The Sound of Silence anonymous
Hallelujah anonymous
Ultralife anonymous
Nothing Compares to You anonymous
The High Road anonymous
Killin' Time anonymous
Rolex anonymous
Lost Boy anonymous
Total Eclipse of the Heart anonymous
Give Me a Sign anonymous
Helium anonymous
Razor anonymous
Soap anonymous
25 or 6 to 4 anonymous
Breathe Me anonymous

Get a weekly email update

(We won't give out your email)

Latest Releases

Daddy Yankee
New Freezer
Rich The Kid
You Know My Name
Tasha Cobbs Leonard
Beast Mode
A Boogie Wit da Hoodie
Beautiful Trauma
Mala Mala
Better Days
Kinda Don't Care
Justin Moore