Advertisement

Bob Dylan’s ballade

Abstract

Blood on the Tracks (1975) is one of Bob Dylan’s most popular, most successful, and most critically acclaimed albums. The album’s opening song, ‘Tangled Up in Blue,’ is similarly beloved. The musical structure of this song follows the scheme of a medieval song form, the ballade. This paper explores the underlying medievalism of ‘Tangled Up in Blue.’

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

We’re sorry, something doesn't seem to be working properly.

Please try refreshing the page. If that doesn't work, please contact support so we can address the problem.

Notes

  1. 1.

    Bob Dylan, “Tangled Up in Blue,” Blood on the Tracks (Columbia, 1975). Copyright © 1974 by Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2002 by Ram’s Horn Music. On the recording of the album, see Gill and Odegard (2004). For discussions of each song, see Heylin (2010, 17–55).

  2. 2.

    I play ‘Dame, de qui toute ma joie vient’ sung by Gothic Voices (1983), directed by Christopher Page, a performance which emphasizes the refrain line. For a discussion of form in a fifteenth-century ballade, ‘Resveilliés vous’ by Guillaume Du Fay, see Upton (2013, 106–13).

  3. 3.

    The complete lyrics can be found on Dylan’s website: http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/tangled-blue/.

  4. 4.

    For years I heard this line as her offering him a plate, due to Dylan’s idiosyncratic pronunciation. The rhyme ‘pipe/type’ corrects my misperception.

  5. 5.

    Child 1882–1896 “243. The Dæmon Lover” can be seen online: https://archive.org/details/englishandscopt204chiluoft/page/360. A four-part study of the song’s history, with musical links, was published online by Sing Out! magazine (Bigger, 2012ad). Bigger notes the link with ‘Tangled Up in Blue’ in the third part of his study (2012c).

  6. 6.

    Blue Blood on the Tracks–era notebook owned by The Bob Dylan Archive® Collections, Tulsa, OK. The notebook is currently catalogued as “Small Notebook Number 6,” Box 99, Folder 6, and the page under discussion is page 13 (recto).

  7. 7.

    ‘Tangled Up in Blue’ Copyright © 1974 by Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2002 by Ram’s Horn Music. Additional lyrics copyright © 2019 Special Rider Music. The photo is available online: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/06/arts/music/bob-dylans-secret-archive.html.

  8. 8.

    Hampton’s footnote credits the interview quotation to the website Expecting Rain, expectingrain.com/dok/who/who.html.

  9. 9.

    Dylan was eleven in 1952 when MGM’s film of Ivanhoe, in glorious Technicolor produced by Pandro S. Berman, directed by Richard Thorpe, and starring Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Fontaine, Robert Taylor, and George Sanders was released. An English translation of De amore was published in 1941 and reprinted in paperback in 1969.

  10. 10.

    On Paul Clayton (1931–67) see Coltman (2008). Clayton was an academically trained folk song collector as well as a performer, and he recorded 19 albums of traditional American folk songs, one EP, and seven singles. Clayton and Dylan met in 1961. The two artists’ publishing companies sued each other over Dylan’s ‘plagiarism’ of Clayton’s song; the lawsuits were settled out of court. The 1923 publication of “Who gon bring you chickens” is available online: https://bringyouchickens.wordpress.com/2014/02/20/eight-negro-songs-from-beford-co-virginia/

  11. 11.

    The George Hecksher Collection, the Morgan Library & Museum, MA 6201. The Morgan library published a photograph of the first page of this notebook on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/morganlibrary/photos/a.430241821182/10156541556031183/?type=1&theater.

  12. 12.

    The two songs on Blood on the Tracks whose lyrics were not copied in the Red Notebook are ‘Meet Me in the Morning’ and ‘Buckets of Rain,’ the first and last songs on Side 2 of the finished album.

  13. 13.

    Clinton Heylin also thinks the notebook reflects the order of composition (Heylin, 2001, 370).

  14. 14.

    The online audio journal Aquarium Drunkard provides links to five different live performances of the song, dating from 1976 to 2017: https://aquariumdrunkard.com/2018/09/25/different-points-of-view-dylans-tangled-up-in-blue/.

References

  1. Abbot, F.H. coll. 1923. Eight Negro Songs (from Bedford Co. Virginia). Ed. A. J. Swan. New York: Enoch & Sons/Boosey & Company. https://bringyouchickens.wordpress.com/2014/02/20/eight-negro-songs-from-beford-co-virginia/.

  2. Anthology of American Folk Music. 1952. Compil. H. Smith. Folkways FP 251, FP 252, FP 253.

  3. Bigger, K. 2012a. The Demon Lover (The House Carpenter). Sing Out! 3 September. https://singout.org/2012/09/03/the-demon-lover-the-house-carpenter/.

  4. Bigger, K. 2012b. The Demon Lover (The House Carpenter), Part Two: Who Weeps for the House Carpenter? Sing Out! 4 September. https://singout.org/2012/09/04/who-weeps-for-the-house-carpenter/.

  5. Bigger, K. 2012c. The Demon Lover (The House Carpenter), Part Three: Some Are Carpenters’ Wives. Sing Out! 6 September. https://singout.org/2012/09/06/some-are-carpenters-wives/.

  6. Bigger, K. 2012d. The Demon Lover (The House Carpenter), Part Four: But Don’t You Let It Take You Over. Sing Out! 8 September. https://singout.org/2012/09/08/but-dont-you-let-it-take-you-over/.

  7. Child, F.J., ed. 1892. The English and Scottish Popular Ballads. Vol. 4. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin. https://archive.org/details/englishscottishp41chilrich.

  8. Coltman, B. 2008. Paul Clayton and the Folksong Revival. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press.

  9. Covach, J. 2005. Form in Rock Music: A Primer. In Engaging Music: Essays in Music Analysis, ed. D. Stein, 65–76. New York: Oxford University Press.

  10. Covach, J. 2006. From Craft to Art: Formal Structure in the Music of the Beatles. In Reading the Beatles: Cultural Studies, Literary Criticism, and the Fab Four, eds K. Womack and T.F. Davis, 37–53. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

  11. Dylan, B. 1963. The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. Columbia CL-1986, CS-8786.

  12. Dylan, B. 1974. Notebook of manuscript lyrics for the album Blood on the Tracks and other songs. The George Hecksher Collection, the Morgan Library & Museum, MA 6201.

  13. Dylan, B. 1975. Blood on the Tracks. Columbia 32235.

  14. Dylan, B. 2004. Bob Dylan: Lyrics 1962–2001. New York: Simon & Schuster.

  15. Dylan, B. 2018. Tangled Up in Blue (lyrics). http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/tangled-blue/.

  16. Gill, A. and Odegard, K. 2004. A Simple Twist of Fate: Bob Dylan and the Making of Blood on the Tracks. New York: Da Capo Press.

  17. Gothic Voices. 1983. The Mirror of Narcissus. Hyperion A 66087.

  18. Hampton, T. 2013. Tangled Generation: Dylan, Kerouac, Petrarch, and the Poetics of Escape. Critical Inquiry 39(4): 703–31.

  19. Heylin, C. 1991, 2001. Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades Revisited. New York: HarperCollins.

  20. Heylin, C. 2010. Still on the Road: The Songs of Bob Dylan, 1974–2006. Chicago, IL: Chicago Review Press.

  21. Johnson, L.W. 1991. Poets as Players: Theme and Variation in Late Medieval French Poetry. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

  22. Page, C. 1993. Huizinga, The Waning of the Middle Ages, and the Chanson. In Discarding Images: Reflections on Music and Culture in Medieval France, 140–88. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press.

  23. Rothenberg, D.J. 2011. The Flower of Paradise: Marian Devotion and Secular Song in Medieval and Renaissance Music. New York: Oxford University Press.

  24. Sisario, B. 2016. Bob Dylan’s Secret Archive. New York Times, 2 March. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/06/arts/music/bob-dylans-secret-archive.html.

  25. Sweers, B. 2005. Electric Folk: The Changing Face of English Traditional Music. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

  26. Upton, E.R. 2012. Concepts of Authenticity in Early Music and Popular Music Communities. Ethnomusicology Review 17. http://ethnomusicologyreview.ucla.edu/journal/volume/17/piece/591

  27. Upton, E.R. 2013. Music and Performance in the Later Middle Ages. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

  28. Van der Merwe, P. 1989. Origins of the Popular Style. New York: Oxford University Press.

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to Elizabeth Randell Upton.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Upton, E.R. Bob Dylan’s ballade. Postmedieval 10, 452–465 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41280-019-00145-9

Download citation