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Bob Dylan at 80. My top 80 greatest Bob Dylan songs. Today: 40 through 31 (Part 5)

Bob Dylan at 80. My top 80 greatest Bob Dylan songs. Today: 40 through 31 (Part 5) May 16, 2021

On May 24, 2021, Bob Dylan turns 80. In honor of this occasion, I have put together a list of what I believe are the 80 greatest songs that Dylan has composed and performed over his nearly 60-year career. (To see what I mean by “composed and performed,” go here).  Starting on May 8, 2021, I began an eight-part series of posts on these 80 songs. We have already gone through songs (1) 80 through 71, (2) 70 through 61, (3) 60 through 51, and (4) 50 through 41.  Today, in part 5, we cover songs 40 through 31:

40.  Changing of the Guards (1978)
39.  Blind Willie McTell (1983)
38.  Dark Eyes (1985)
37.  Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (1972)
36.  Ring Them Bells (1989)
35.  Simple Twist of Fate (1975)
34.  Mother of Muses (2020)
33.  Make You Feel My Love (1997)
32.  Gates of Eden (1965)
31.  Things Have Changed (2000)

What follows is a recorded performance of each song followed by the lyrics.  If I could not find a recording of a Dylan performance (or at least a good one), I included a cover version. For “Dark Eyes”I post two performances: one by Joan Osborne and the other a duet with Dylan and Patti Smith. For “Make You Feel My Love,” in addition to Dylan’s original, I include Adele’s cover, which was a massive international hit for her in 2008.

40.  Changing of the Guards (1978)

Sixteen years

Sixteen banners united over the field
Where the good shepherd grieves
Desperate men, desperate women divided
Spreading their wings ’neath the falling leaves

Fortune calls
I stepped forth from the shadows, to the marketplace
Merchants and thieves, hungry for power, my last deal gone down
She’s smelling sweet like the meadows where she was born
On midsummer’s eve, near the tower

The cold-blooded moon
The captain waits above the celebration
Sending his thoughts to a beloved maid
Whose ebony face is beyond communication
The captain is down but still believing that his love will be repaid

They shaved her head
She was torn between Jupiter and Apollo
A messenger arrived with a black nightingale
I seen her on the stairs and I couldn’t help but follow
Follow her down past the fountain where they lifted her veil

I stumbled to my feet
I rode past destruction in the ditches
With the stitches still mending ’neath a heart-shaped tattoo
Renegade priests and treacherous young witches
Were handing out the flowers that I’d given to you

The palace of mirrors
Where dog soldiers are reflected
The endless road and the wailing of chimes
The empty rooms where her memory is protected

Where the angels’ voices whisper to the souls of previous times

She wakes him up
Forty-eight hours later, the sun is breaking
Near broken chains, mountain laurel and rolling rocks
She’s begging to know what measures he now will be taking
He’s pulling her down and she’s clutching on to his long golden locks

Gentlemen, he said
I don’t need your organization, I’ve shined your shoes
I’ve moved your mountains and marked your cards
But Eden is burning, either brace yourself for elimination
Or else your hearts must have the courage for the changing of the guards

Peace will come
With tranquillity and splendor on the wheels of fire
But will bring us no reward when her false idols fall
And cruel death surrenders with its pale ghost retreating
Between the King and the Queen of Swords

39.  Blind Willie McTell (1983)

Seen the arrow on the doorpost
Saying, “This land is condemned
All the way from New Orleans
To new Jerusalem”
I traveled through East Texas
Where many martyrs fell

And I can tell you one thing
Nobody can sing the blues
Like Blind Willie McTell

Well, I heard that hoot owl singing
As they were taking down the tents
The stars above the barren trees
Were his only audience
Them charcoal gypsy maidens
Can strut their feathers well
And I can tell you one thing
Nobody can sing the blues
Like Blind Willie McTell

There’s a woman by the river
With some fine young handsome man
He’s dressed up like a squire
Bootlegged whiskey in his hand
Some of them died in the battle
Some of them survived as well
And I can tell you one thing
Nobody can sing the blues
Like Blind Willie McTell

Well, God is in His heaven
And we all want what’s His
But power and greed and corruptible seed
Seem to be all that there is
I’m gazing out the window
Of the St. James Hotel
And I can tell you one thing
Nobody can sing the blues
Like Blind Willie McTell

38.  Dark Eyes (1985)

(Performed by Joan Osborne)

(Duet with Patti Smith)

Oh, the gentlemen are talking and the midnight moon is on the riverside
They’re drinking up and walking and it is time for me to slide
I live in another world where life and death are memorized
Where the earth is strung with lovers’ pearls and all I see are dark eyes

A cock is crowing far away and another soldier’s deep in prayer
Some mother’s child has gone astray, she can’t find him anywhere
But I can hear another drum beating for the dead that rise
Whom nature’s beast fears as they come and all I see are dark eyes

They tell me to be discreet for all intended purposes
They tell me revenge is sweet and from where they stand, I’m sure it is
But I feel nothing for their game where beauty goes unrecognized
All I feel is heat and flame and all I see are dark eyes

Oh, the French girl, she’s in paradise and a drunken man is at the wheel
Hunger pays a heavy price to the falling gods of speed and steel
Oh, time is short and the days are sweet and passion rules the arrow that flies
A million faces at my feet but all I see are dark eyes

37.  Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (1972)

Mama, take this badge off of me
I can’t use it anymore
It’s gettin’ dark, too dark for me to see
I feel like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door

Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door

Mama, put my guns in the ground
I can’t shoot them anymore
That long black cloud is comin’ down
I feel like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door

Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door

36.  Ring Them Bells (1989)

Ring them bells, ye heathen
From the city that dreams
Ring them bells from the sanctuaries
’Cross the valleys and streams
For they’re deep and they’re wide
And the world’s on its side
And time is running backwards
And so is the bride

Ring them bells St. Peter
Where the four winds blow
Ring them bells with an iron hand

So the people will know
Oh it’s rush hour now
On the wheel and the plow
And the sun is going down
Upon the sacred cow

Ring them bells Sweet Martha
For the poor man’s son
Ring them bells so the world will know
That God is one
Oh the shepherd is asleep
Where the willows weep
And the mountains are filled
With lost sheep

Ring them bells for the blind and the deaf
Ring them bells for all of us who are left
Ring them bells for the chosen few
Who will judge the many when the game is through
Ring them bells, for the time that flies
For the child that cries
When innocence dies

Ring them bells St. Catherine
From the top of the room
Ring them from the fortress
For the lilies that bloom
Oh the lines are long
And the fighting is strong
And they’re breaking down the distance
Between right and wrong

35.  Simple Twist of Fate (1975)

They sat together in the park
As the evening sky grew dark
She looked at him and he felt a spark tingle to his bones
’Twas then he felt alone and wished that he’d gone straight

And watched out for a simple twist of fate

They walked along by the old canal
A little confused, I remember well
And stopped into a strange hotel with a neon burnin’ bright
He felt the heat of the night hit him like a freight train
Moving with a simple twist of fate

A saxophone someplace far off played
As she was walkin’ by the arcade
As the light bust through a beat-up shade where he was wakin’ up,
She dropped a coin into the cup of a blind man at the gate
And forgot about a simple twist of fate

He woke up, the room was bare
He didn’t see her anywhere
He told himself he didn’t care, pushed the window open wide
Felt an emptiness inside to which he just could not relate
Brought on by a simple twist of fate

He hears the ticking of the clocks
And walks along with a parrot that talks
Hunts her down by the waterfront docks where the sailors all come in
Maybe she’ll pick him out again, how long must he wait
Once more for a simple twist of fate

People tell me it’s a sin
To know and feel too much within
I still believe she was my twin, but I lost the ring
She was born in spring, but I was born too late
Blame it on a simple twist of fate

34.  Mother of Muses (2020)


Mother of Muses sing for me
Sing of the mountains and the deep dark sea
Sing of the lakes and the nymphs in the forest
Sing your hearts out – all you women of the chorus
Sing of honor and fame and of glory be
Mother of Muses, sing for me

Mother of Muses sing for my heart
Sing for a love too soon to depart
Sing of the Heroes who stood alone
Whose names are engraved on tablets of stone
Who struggled with pain so the world could go free
Mother of Muses, sing for me

Sing of Sherman – Montgomery and Scott
Sing of Zhukov and Patton and the battles they fought
Who cleared the path for Presley to sing
Who carved out the path for Martin Luther King
Who did what they did and then went on their way
Man, I could tell their stories all day

I’m falling in love with Calliope
She doesn’t belong to anybody – why not give her to me
She’s speaking to me, speaking with her eyes
I’ve grown so tired of chasing lies
Mother of Muses wherever you are
I’ve already outlived my life by far

Mother of Muses unleash your wrath

Things I can’t see – they’re blocking my path
Show me your wisdom – tell me my fate
Put me upright – make me walk straight
Forge my identity from the inside out
You know what I’m talking about

Take me to the river and release your charms
Let me lay down in your sweet lovin’ arms
Wake me – shake me – free me from sin
Make me invisible like the wind
Got a mind to ramble – got a mind to roam
I’m travelin’ light and I’m slow coming home

33.  Make You Feel My Love (1997)


(Performed by Adele)

When the rain is blowing in your face
And the whole world is on your case
I could offer you a warm embrace
To make you feel my love

When the evening shadows and the stars appear
And there is no one there to dry your tears
I could hold you for a million years
To make you feel my love

I know you haven’t made your mind up yet

But I would never do you wrong
I’ve known it from the moment that we met
No doubt in my mind where you belong

I’d go hungry, I’d go black and blue
I’d go crawling down the avenue
There’s nothing that I wouldn’t do
To make you feel my love

The storms are raging on the rollin’ sea
And on the highway of regret
Put your hand in mine and come with me
I’ll see that you don’t get wet

I could make you happy, make your dreams come true
Nothing that I wouldn’t do
Go to the ends of the earth for you
To make you feel my love

32.  Gates of Eden (1965)

Of war and peace the truth just twists
Its curfew gull just glides
Upon four-legged forest clouds
The cowboy angel rides
With his candle lit into the sun
Though its glow is waxed in black
All except when ’neath the trees of Eden

The lamppost stands with folded arms
Its iron claws attached
To curbs ’neath holes where babies wail
Though it shadows metal badge
All and all can only fall
With a crashing but meaningless blow

No sound ever comes from the Gates of Eden

The savage soldier sticks his head in sand
And then complains
Unto the shoeless hunter who’s gone deaf
But still remains
Upon the beach where hound dogs bay
At ships with tattooed sails
Heading for the Gates of Eden

With a time-rusted compass blade
Aladdin and his lamp
Sits with Utopian hermit monks
Sidesaddle on the Golden Calf
And on their promises of paradise
You will not hear a laugh
All except inside the Gates of Eden

Relationships of ownership
They whisper in the wings
To those condemned to act accordingly
And wait for succeeding kings
And I try to harmonize with songs
The lonesome sparrow sings
There are no kings inside the Gates of Eden

The motorcycle black madonna
Two-wheeled gypsy queen
And her silver-studded phantom cause
The gray flannel dwarf to scream
As he weeps to wicked birds of prey
Who pick up on his bread crumb sins
And there are no sins inside the Gates of Eden

The kingdoms of Experience
In the precious wind they rot
While paupers change possessions
Each one wishing for what the other has got
And the princess and the prince
Discuss what’s real and what is not
It doesn’t matter inside the Gates of Eden

The foreign sun, it squints upon
A bed that is never mine
As friends and other strangers
From their fates try to resign
Leaving men wholly, totally free
To do anything they wish to do but die
And there are no trials inside the Gates of Eden

At dawn my lover comes to me
And tells me of her dreams
With no attempts to shovel the glimpse
Into the ditch of what each one means
At times I think there are no words
But these to tell what’s true
And there are no truths outside the Gates of Eden

31.  Things Have Changed (2000)

A worried man with a worried mind
No one in front of me and nothing behind
There’s a woman on my lap and she’s drinking champagne
Got white skin, got assassin’s eyes
I’m looking up into the sapphire-tinted skies
I’m well dressed, waiting on the last train

Standing on the gallows with my head in a noose
Any minute now I’m expecting all hell to break loose

People are crazy and times are strange
I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range
I used to care, but things have changed

This place ain’t doing me any good
I’m in the wrong town, I should be in Hollywood
Just for a second there I thought I saw something move
Gonna take dancing lessons, do the jitterbug rag
Ain’t no shortcuts, gonna dress in drag
Only a fool in here would think he’s got anything to prove

Lot of water under the bridge, lot of other stuff too
Don’t get up gentlemen, I’m only passing through

People are crazy and times are strange
I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range
I used to care, but things have changed

I’ve been walking forty miles of bad road
If the Bible is right, the world will explode
I’ve been trying to get as far away from myself as I can
Some things are too hot to touch
The human mind can only stand so much
You can’t win with a losing hand

Feel like falling in love with the first woman I meet
Putting her in a wheelbarrow and wheeling her down the street

People are crazy and times are strange
I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range
I used to care, but things have changed

I hurt easy, I just don’t show it
You can hurt someone and not even know it
The next sixty seconds could be like an eternity
Gonna get low down, gonna fly high
All the truth in the world adds up to one big lie
I’m in love with a woman who don’t even appeal to me

Mr. Jinx and Miss Lucy, they jumped in the lake
I’m not that eager to make a mistake

People are crazy and times are strange
I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range
I used to care, but things have changed


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