Pass it Around
Bob Dylan Plagarizes Nothing, But He DOES Look Back Where are You Tonight
One last time, here we go. EVERY MUSICIAN CRIBS FROM THE PAST. It is what makes a song. More than anything, and believe me, after 40 years of listening, there is MORE than anything and much much more...Dylan is a blues based musician. He started out learning the chords to blues records, and in fact some of his very first recordings were playing harmonica with Big Joe Williams and Victoria Spivey. Yes, he is that old.
In blues music, there are floating verses. Hundreds of hundred-year old couplets which are reused, recycled and reapplied. In countless places and songs. Over and Over and Over again. Folk Music too...They're ancient. That's what makes them songs and that's what makes them folk. They're handed down, passed around and relearned by every single musician and singer.
One example here is Bob Dylan's "Where are You Tonight" an amazing song from 1978, one of his quote "low" points...ANY artist would chop off their pinky for a low point like this. We all should have such low points. I count no less than three word for word cribs from Robert Johnson, bluesman extraordinaire, and I bet Greil Marcus (IF HE HADN'T DISSED THE ALBUM IN HIS ORIGINAL REVIEW, in fact not even MENTIONiNG the best song on the album) or Michael Gray could find more. And you know what? Robert Johnson cribbed them TOO. The "juice runs down my leg" phrase was used most famously by Led Zeppelin. I guess they plagiarized as well.
Just for the record? The song is about Junk. And more. And one of the things about Dylan is that he throws out so many of his OWN ideas, nearly every sentence would equal a dozen songs from anyone else, Miss Mitchell included. And this album, one of 50 or so by Zimmerman, wasn't even a good one.
Want to know ONE musician who was original? Big Joe...He invented dissonance by hanging beer cans in front of his amplifier because he loved the buzz...and he also played a 9 string guitar.
There's a long-distance train rolling through the rain, tears on the letter I write.
There's a woman I long to touch and I'm missing her so much, but she's drifting like a satellite.
There's a neon light ablaze in a green smoky haze, and laughter down on
And a lonesome bell tone in that valley of stone where she bathed in a stream of pure heat.
Her father would emphasize you got to be more than street-wise but he practiced what he preached from the heart.
A full-blooded Cherokee, he predicted to me the time and the place that we'd part.
There's a babe in the arms of a woman in a rage
And a longtime golden-haired stripper onstage
As she winds back the clock and she turns back the page
Of a book that nobody can write.
Oh, where are you tonight?
The truth was obscure, too profound and too pure, to live it you have to explode.
In that last hour of need, we entirely agreed, sacrifice was the code of the road.
I left town at dawn, with Marcel and St. John, strong men belittled by doubt.
I couldn't tell her what my private thoughts were but she had some way of finding them out.
He took dead-center aim but he missed just the same, she was waiting,
putting flowers on the shelf.
She could feel my despair as I climbed up her hair and discovered her invisible self.
There's a lion in the room, there's a demon escaped,
There's a million dreams gone, there's a landscape being raped,
As her beauty fades and I watch her undrape,
But I won't, but then maybe again, I might.
Oh, if I could just find you tonight.
I fought with my twin, that enemy within, 'til both of us fell by the way.
Horseplay and disease is killing me by degrees while the law looks the other way.
Your partners in crime hit me up for nickels and dimes, the man you were lovin' could never get clean.
It felt outa place, my foot in his face, but he should have stayed where his money was green.
I bit into the root of forbidden fruit with the juice running down my leg.
Then I dealt with your boss, who'd never known about loss, who always was
too proud to beg.
There's a white diamond gloom on the dark side of this room and a pathway that leads up to the stars.
If you don't believe there's a price for this sweet paradise, just remind me to show you the scars.
There's a new day at dawn and I've finally arrived.
If I'm there in the morning, baby, you'll know I've survived.
I can't believe it, I can't believe I'm alive,
But without you it doesn't seem right.
Oh, where are you tonight?