The Meaning of “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan

Perhaps the most recognizable and popular song by the legendary American songwriter and performer Bob Dylan, “Like a Rolling Stone” certainly crystalized the artist going electric. With it, the folk lifestyle and image he’d cultivated went in the rear-view mirror. The Origins Dylan first released “Like a Rolling Stone” on July 20, 1965 (with “Gates of Eden” as the B-side). It began, as many of Dylan’s songs did in the ’60s, with a typewriter and a bit of a vendetta. Dylan wrote many verses (many more than appeared on the six-minute song) for the track earlier that same year after he returned, worn out, from a long tour in the U.K. After that tour, Dylan, upset with how people were receiving him post-acoustic identity, considered retiring from the music scene. Nevertheless, he persevered. He told Playboy in 1966, “Last spring, I guess I was going to quit singing. I was very drained, and the way things were going, it was a very draggy situation … But ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ changed it all. I mean it was something that I myself could dig. It’s very tiring having other people tell you how much they dig you if you yourself don’t dig you.” Dylan told journalist Jules Siegel of the song’s origins, “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. I had never thought of it as a song until one day I was at the piano, and on the paper, it was singing, ‘How does it feel?’ in a slow-motion pace, in the utmost of slow […]

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