Tangled up in Blue – an encore for a great poet

While many of Bob Dylan’s songs resonate with me, my personal favorite is “Tangled up in Blue.” The poetic storytelling of this song keeps me fascinated from start to finish. Plus, the title means to me that we are all blue more than we care to admit and get tangled up in our sadness and melancholy.  Here are the lyrics to this poetic song.

Early one morning the sun was shining
I was laying in bed
Wond’ring if she’d changed it all
If her hair was still red
Her folks they said our lives together
Sure was gonna be rough
They never did like Mama’s homemade dress
Papa’s bankbook wasn’t big enough
And I was standing on the side of the road
Rain falling on my shoes
Heading out for the East Coast
Lord knows I’ve paid some dues getting through
Tangled up in blue.

She was married when we first met
Soon to be divorced
I helped her out of a jam I guess
But I used a little too much force
We drove that car as far as we could
Abandoned it out West
Split it up on a dark sad night
Both agreeing it was best
She turned around to look at me
As I was walking away
I heard her say over my shoulder
“We’ll meet again someday on the avenue”
Tangled up in blue.

I had a job in the great north woods
Working as a cook for a spell
But I never did like it all that much
And one day the axe just fell
So I drifted down to New Orleans
Where I happened to be employed
Working for a while on a fishing boat
Right outside of Delacroix
But all the while I was alone
The past was close behind
I seen a lot of women
But she never escaped my mind and I just grew
Tangled up in blue.

She was working in a topless place
And I stopped in for a beer
I just kept looking at her side of her face
In the spotlight so clear
And later on as the crowd thinned out
I was just about to do the same
She was standing there in back of my chair
Said to me “Don’t I know your name?”
I muttered something underneath my breath
She studied the lines on my face
I must admit I felt a little uneasy
When she bent down to tie the laces of my shoe
Tangled up in blue.

She lit a burner on the stove and offered me a pipe
“I thought you’d never say hello” she said
“You look like the silent type”
Then she opened up a book of poems
And handed it to me
Written by an Italian poet
From the fifteenth century
And every one of them words rang true
And glowed like burning coal
Pouring off of every page
Like it was written in my soul from me to you
Tangled up in blue

I lived with them on Montague Street
In a basement down the stairs
There was music in the café at night
And revolution in the air
Then he started into dealing with slaves
And something inside of him died
She had to sell everything she owned
And froze up inside
And when finally the bottom fell out
I became withdrawn
The only thing I knew how to do
Was to keep on keeping on like a bird that flew
Tangled up in blue.

So now I’m going back again
I got to get her somehow
All the people we used to know
They’re an illusion to me now
Some are mathematicians
Some are carpenter’s wives
Don’t know how it all got started
I don’t what they’re doing with their lives
But me I’m still on the road
Heading for another joint
We always did feel the same
We just saw it from a different point of view
Tangled up in Blue. 

If you are like me, you will be saying these words in time with the music. I love the references and wordsmithing throughout. My favorite line which I use on occasion is “we will meet again someday on the avenue.” I just find that so profound. Dylan wrote and sang about many causes and some of his songs are anthems. Yet, I find this real kind of storytelling is what makes his words live beyond his eventual death. He will be viewed favorably centuries from now. Tangled up in blue.


30 thoughts on “Tangled up in Blue – an encore for a great poet

  1. He is a great songwriter and I count myself as a fan. I still can’t help thinking, though, that if they wanted to give the Nobel Prize to someone for the poetry of their lyrics then Leonard Cohen would have got my vote.

      • I suspect Cohen not being with us any more may have destroyed his chances! Maybe Joni Mitchell would be a good choice for them?

      • It is funny, I was thinking the same thing. You might laugh at this one, but Dolly Parton would be an interesting choice with her prolific songwriting. Keith

  2. I never could stand the man’s singing voice, but there’s no denying he’s one of the greatest poets of our time. Like Lou Reed once said, Bob Dylan always had the ability to “turn an impeccable phrase.”

    • Larry, my brother did not like when I said something similar. Yet, Dylan’s songwriting is exemplary. I think both are reasons others have covered his songs. Jimi Hendrix’ version of “All along the watchtower” is a good example of taking a Dylan song to a higher performance level. “Tangled up in Blue” actually suits Dylan’s voice better than other songs he wrote and sang. Keith

  3. Note to Readers: In high school, I once did a literature project using several songs of Bob Dylan’s, including “Tangled up in Blue.” I think I included “Blowing in the Wind” and “Tambourine Man.” The class liked this song the best.

  4. another Dylan fan here! And you’re right, I absolutely did hear Bob singing in my ear as I read the lyrics. Great analysis, thanks for sharing. I was in Vocal Ensemble in high school and we sang Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright. Love that one too 🤗

  5. Definitely a song that suits Dylan’s voice. With his drawl, driving guitar I would call it a ‘classic American’ song for the atmosphere of roads, hasty choices, looking over past years and of course a story built in.
    “Some are mathematicians
    Some are carpenter’s wives”
    Only Dylan could evoke imagery by those words. A master of his craft.

      • Dylan does have a fascinating, captivating way with words. His art and legacy will be discussed in centuries ahead.
        This was one part of the panorama of America which drew me in, always through song, the likes of Jerry Jeff Walker, Brewer & Shipley and Alison Krauss, to name a few.

    • Yvette, thanks. Being a writer, do you think the song could be expanded into a novel? I love the line “when she bent down to tie the laces of my shoe,” which I find shows familiarity. Keith

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