“Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” Lives: New Photos of Greenwich Village Walk on 4th Street


Photo by Don Hunstein, February 1963

Bob Dylan’s second album, perhaps the greatest folk album of topical songs ever released, was titled the Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. (1963)  For some reason there has been an upsurge in interest in the photo shoots for the cover. The cover contains an iconic image of the twenty-one year old Minnesota transplant walking down a snowy street in Greenwich Village with a girl friend, Suze Rotolo.

On the cover booklet of liner notes for the soundtrack of Bob Dylan: No Direction Home, the 2005 film by Martin Scorsese, is another outtake of the Bob Dylan neighborhood sojourn with Ms Rotolo. On p. 13 of the liner notes is still another photo, quite similar to the above, but without Ms Rotolo. Mr Dylan at the time was living on 4th Street in New York City’s, The Village and the bannister leading to his apartment  is clearly shown in the photo above, for sale by the New York Times. One of Mr Dylan’s greatest songs is “Positively 4th Street” with the obvious autobiographic reference.

The song is remarkably similar to “Like a Rolling Stone.” Both were recorded in 1965 at the Highway 61 Revisited sessions but “Positively” did not make the cut. It was released as a single and rose to seven on the charts. Not until 1967, does it appear on an album, Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits. Its sound and lyrics, while not as rich and surreal, are more than a little suggestive of “Rolling Stone.” Mr Dylan was evolving from his politically revolutionary music into a pathbreaking counter-romantic genre. The love song was now the anti-love song. Falling in love was now bitter disapointment with a failed relationship. Traditional songs celebrating friendship and mirth are now undergoing a Dylanesque revolution of spite and resentment.

I have always felt the single most dominant characteristic of Dylan’s genius was anger. It is the motive force behind his inspired music and frankly the engine of his greatness. While it is inexact to be too reductionist in assessing such a complex figure, I believe it is his anger that forms the context of his creativity and which spurred the music that endures forever.

“Positively 4th Street”

You got a lotta nerve
To say you are my friend
When I was down
You just stood there grinning

You got a lotta nerve
To say you got a helping hand to lend
You just want to be on
The side that’s winning

You say I let you down
You know it’s not like that
If you’re so hurt
Why then don’t you show it

You say you lost your faith
But that’s not where it’s at
You had no faith to lose
And you know it

I know the reason
That you talk behind my back
I used to be among the crowd
You’re in with

Do you take me for such a fool
To think I’d make contact
With the one who tries to hide
What he don’t know to begin with

You see me on the street
You always act surprised
You say, “How are you?” “Good luck”
But you don’t mean it

When you know as well as me
You’d rather see me paralyzed
Why don’t you just come out once
And scream it

No, I do not feel that good
When I see the heartbreaks you embrace
If I was a master thief
Perhaps I’d rob them

And now I know you’re dissatisfied
With your position and your place
Don’t you understand
It’s not my problem

I wish that for just one time
You could stand inside my shoes
And just for that one moment
I could be you

Yes, I wish that for just one time
You could stand inside my shoes
You’d know what a drag it is
To see you

Copyright © 1965; renewed 1993 Special Rider Music

This entry was posted in Politics/Music/Culture. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply