“Natural Innocent Love Salvaged from a World Gone Wrong”: Bob Dylan’s Early Songs (1962-64)

Shrabani Basu

Asst. Professor, Dept. of English Literature and Language, St. Francis College, Hyderabad. Email:

Volume 9, Number 1, 2017 I Full Text PDF

DOI: 10.21659/rupkatha.v9n1.s06


The article attempts to look at the early stage of Bob Dylan’s lyrics (1962-64), before his iconic defiance of the tradition of folk music in the Newport Folk Festival of 1965, and to study the possibility of a cohesive argument connecting the phase with the changing tides of pan-American ethos. His songs over the first three years remain distinctive amongst his entire oeuvre with a prophet-like eloquence, where the image of a democratic poet emerges with a dream of salvaging “a world gone wrong.” With righteous indignation over reactionary politics, social injustice, inequality in the eyes of law, Dylanesque poetry creates a beaded tapestry of synecdochic fragments of a changing nation. Images of “crooked highways” connecting the disparate demography, where the artistic soul “crawls” away to defy stagnation, the unredemptive scaling of the skyscrapers of class binaries, the open spaces of hope and the “hard rain” of apocalyptic cleansing; add up to the disquiet of a Jeremiad narrative. The older-than-his-time oracle calls for answers from senators and politicians, writers and critics, parents and offspring that can only be found “blowing in the wind” with a dire prophecy that “…he that gets hurt will be he who stalls….” This First Phase of Dylan depicts a firm refusal of inherited ethos and strives to question the construction of the essence of the terra nova, as a unified, abstract, ‘democratic’ space. There is an attempt to trace out an America of his perception with streets and highways, muggy lights of New York and Wild West, with tired trumpets playing the swan song of the old order.

Keywords: Beat generation singers, Bob Dylan, folk imagery, folk-rock, Jeremiad tradition, rock poetry, Ginsberg

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