Greatest Dylan Hooks


What a great day, in a categorically confusing way: a popular songwriter has won the Nobel Prize for literature!

We must pay our respects! What for you is the greatest hook in Dylan’s lyrics, and why do you pick it?

For my own answer, I swear I didn’t see this coming, but I have two finalists that both include the word “chicken.”

1. From “Tombstone Blues” (Highway 61 Revisited, 1965)

The Commander-in-Chief answers him while chasing a fly
Saying, “Death to all those who would whimper and cry”
And, dropping a barbell, he points to the sky
Saying, “The sun’s not yellow, it’s chicken”

2. From “Lo And Behold” (The Basement Tapes, 1975 [recorded in 1967])

I come into Pittsburgh
At six-thirty flat
I found myself a vacant seat
An’ I put down my hat
“What’s the matter, Molly, dear
What’s the matter with your mound?”
“What’s it to ya, Moby Dick?
This is chicken town!”
I am citing them together in a tie because my psyche is divided between two ways of being tickled by a chicken. The chicken scores zany points in each case, but the off-the-rails arrogance of the Commander-in-Chief in lyric #1 has an eerie seriousness in it, whereas the off-the-rails bawdiness of lyric #2 is just hilarious. As for my poor psyche, it seems to want to slam the doors on both of those human extremes, the one looking up and the other down.

About Steve Smith

Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies and Director of Film Studies at Millsaps College
This entry was posted in Rock, Rock Aesthetics, Words and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Greatest Dylan Hooks

  1. vick2sky says:

    “Hurricane” packs a punch with “Couldn’t help but make me feel ashamed to live in a land
    Where justice is a game.”

  2. vick2sky says:

    “Tangled up in Blue” certainly has its moments –
    “And every one of them words rang true
    And glowed like burnin’ coal
    Pourin’ off of every page
    Like it was written in my soul
    From me to you
    Tangled up in blue”

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