I was thinking of including this one in an upcoming article called 10 Songs About Aging, but the song has been pretty insistent in my head today, so it gets its own article. I may write about it again anyway, given that it is one of my favourite songs by Bob Dylan.
This is a tune about finding oneself at the latter half of one’s life, expecting the wisdom which is meant to come with advancing years, and finding it absent. In the past, Dylan’s lyrics have often been a series of red herrings, pointing a listener in one direction, and then throwing in lines which make one doubt the veracity of an initial interpretation. But this song is pointed, acknowledging that time has passed with very little to show for it except for past hurts; scars that the sun didn’t heal. There is no hiding behind imagery here. This is confession from the basement, the voice at rock bottom.
In this song we see the portrait of the well-traveled man, weighted down by years rather than nurtured or informed by them. It is a snapshot of a person who has seen a lot, but gives no indication that there remains any insight to make his life better. The exact nature of this existential quandary is not specified, but it doesn’t seem to matter very much. This is a man who is trapped, perhaps by his own expectations.
I love this song, this beautifully sad treatise on what it feels like to age, and to be disappointed with how life has turned out when you expected so much more. Who knows whether or not Dylan is revealing himself in this song. This doesn’t matter either. The point is that there is a universal sentiment described here; the fear of age and the fear of death. This is not just about the worry that life will end, but it’s about the downward journey toward that end, and the fear that the search for beauty is also about the embrace of something which is ultimately about pain. This is a sobering set of thoughts, yet beautiful in their honesty.
Check out the clip to hear this superlative song by Bob Dylan, and tell me what you think.