Highway 61 Revisited by Bob Dylan

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The apparent brutality and schadenfreude of ‘Like a Rolling Stone’, then, is really just the prophetic railing of a seer intent on forcing the woman he sings to through the gates of perception, as William Blake might have put it, and vicariously forcing his audience to go through the same process. Such a tone – and indeed such an aim – is unmistakably reminiscent of Beat literature and particularly the writings of Allen Ginsberg. Dylan, in fact, is on record as stating that the song began as ten pages of Beat-style ‘vomit’ – precisely the kind of ‘free’ writing advocated and practised by William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac:

It was ten pages long. It wasn't called anything, just a rhythm thing on paper all about my steady hatred directed at some point that was honest. In the end it wasn't hatred, it was telling someone something they didn't know, telling them they were lucky. Revenge, that's a better word.

Miss Lonely, at the end of the song, knows how it feels; she has, like the listener, experienced Dylan’s ‘steady hatred directed at some point that was honest’, and through the pain and humiliation of her fall she has reached a place of enlightenment in which both language and the deeper understanding that lies behind that language is renewed. Although she may not realise it, she is, as Dylan says, ‘lucky’. Unlike her former friends who are still ‘drinkin’’ and ‘thinkin’ they got it made’ she really does have ‘it made’, and like Robert Wilkins’s ‘rolling stone’ she has found that in having ‘no direction home’, in being ‘a complete unknown’, she has ironically and finally rolled ‘back home’ to the place she was always meant to be.

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the Unkindness of Ravens If you have found our critical notes helpful, why not try the first Tower Notes novel, a historical fantasy set in the time of the Anglo-Saxon invasions.

Available HERE where you can read the opening chapters.

The Unkindness of Ravens by Anthony Paul