I just finished watching season 1 of Mad Men, which ended with Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" — and that reminded me of this, the stunning "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)." A modern masterpiece, a legitimate precursor to rap, and one of the greatest songs written by an American, in my opinion.
This is a live performance, probably from 1964, and one of the best I found. Turn up the sound; it's on the quiet side, but very well performed, and similar to the studio version.
Dylan at the top of his pre-electric form. He's said that he couldn't write this song any more. Not sure many could.
Just one aspect of many to note — aside from the stunning content. It's often said that English is a rhyme-poor language, especially compared to any Latinate language for instance. Yet here's just the first verse (with chorus):
Darkness at the break of noonEven the last lines of each stanza rhyme with each other — trying / dying / crying / sighing — with lots of fun "feminine rhymes" like these. Note the internal rhyme in the line "So don't fear if you hear" — internal rhyme is a Dylan specialty.
Shadows even the silver spoon
The handmade blade, the child’s balloon
Eclipses both the sun and moon
To understand you know too soon
There is no sense in trying
Pointed threats, they bluff with scorn
Suicide remarks are torn
From the fool’s gold mouthpiece the hollow horn
Plays wasted words, proves to warn
That he not busy being born
Is busy dying
Temptation’s page flies out the door
You follow, find yourself at war
Watch waterfalls of pity roar
You feel to moan but unlike before
You discover that you’d just be one more
So don’t fear if you hear
A foreign sound to your ear
It’s alright, Ma, I’m only sighing
The rhyme scheme for each stanza-set is:
- (Chorus) MMB
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