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Cynical Poem

It is interesting to experience how vivid memories could be through music. This morning I woke up and suddenly I remembered my late father. My sister and I accompanied him when he was working on his comics books, drawing some illustrations or painting some figures. We chatted about history, our boyfriends, art, politics and other subjects while listening to the music, his music. My father was an artist and a hippie. We were brought up with rock ‘n roll, folk & blues. One of his favourite artists is Bob Dylan. I still can see the three of us singing along to Dylan’s Like a rolling stone. Here it comes.

The lyrics
Once upon a time you dressed so fine,
Threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn’t you ?
People’d call, say, “Beware doll, you’re bound to fall,”
You thought they were all a’kiddin’ you.
You used to laugh about
Everybody that was hangin’ out.
Now you don’t talk so loud,
Now you don’t seem so proud
About having to be scrounging your next meal.

How does it feel ?
How does it feel ?
To be without a home ?
Like a complete unknown ?
Like a rolling stone ?

Aw, you’ve gone to the finest school all right, Miss Lonely,
But you know you only used to get “juiced” in it.
Nobody’s ever taught you how to live out on the street,
And now you’re gonna have to get used to it.
You say you never compromise
With a mystery tramp, but now you realize
He’s not selling any alibis
As you stare into the vacuum of his eyes
And say, “Do you want to make a deal?


Aw, you never turned around to see the frowns
On the jugglers and the clowns
When they all did tricks for you.
You never understood that it ain’t no good,
You shouldn’t let other people get your kicks for you.
You used to ride on a chrome horse with your diplomat
Who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat.
Ain’t it hard when you discover that
He really wasn’t where it’s at
After he took from you everything he could steal ?


Aw, princess on the steeple and all the pretty people
They’re all drinkin’, thinkin’ that they’ve got it made.
Exchanging all precious gifts,
But you’d better take your diamond ring, you’d better pawn it babe.
You used to be so amused
At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used.
Go to him now, he calls you, you can’t refuse.
When you ain’t got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose
You’re invisible now, you’ve got no secrets to conceal.



A cynical poem
I see Bob Dylan more as a poet than a singer. His songs contain sharply written poems (The time they were A-changing, Blowing in the wind and many more). In this song Dylan mocks a woman who once was rich (Once upon a time you dressed so fine, Threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn’t you ?) but become poor (Now you don’t seem so proud. About having to be scrounging your next meal). The poem is still relevant today as many people go from rich to rag because of the crises nowadays.

Dylan uses an organ in this song which was considered too modern, too electric in 1965 when Like a rolling stone was released. Now the organ chords represent his style in the 60es. I personally love the tambourines & the harmonica in it. Especially during the chorus, it feels good to sing along; How does it feel?

Many other artists/bands covered this song. Among them: The Rolling Stones. Their version is not differently arranged than Dylan’s. Only Dylan sounds raw and cynical while Jagger sounds angry. I find The Rolling Stones’ clip perfectly visualizes the song starring Patricia Arquette who looks so fine and sophisticated and yet so lost and neurotic.

Cheers to my father up there. Your memories live on!


3 thoughts on “Cynical Poem

  1. I love love love Bob Dylan! his lyrics are deep and always have something to tell to people. Your father really had a great taste in music which passes on to his daughter 🙂 I just saw a documentary about Rodriguez, a singer who also makes folk music and inspires many people esp. in South Africa. Kinda like Bob Dylan but less famous..well, now he becomes really famous thanks to the documentary.

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