Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Favorite Songs #5: Mississippi

You would think choosing one song written by Bob Dylan as your very favorite would be a difficult task. But it wasn't, not for me. There are days when I think "Mississippi" is the single greatest song ever written. Every line in every verse, both ambiguous and dead on personal. These are words from a genius that remove any doubt about his genius. Add a melody that is both upbeat and melancholy and you have a true masterpiece in both storytelling and record making. Maybe on the surface, "Mississippi" feels less important than "Hard Rain" or "Blowin' In The Wind," but I don't think anyone can say with any honesty, that they cannot relate to each and every line, either once or still. You may have to change a name, vehicle or town, but that's the beauty of the song, "Mississippi" is anywhere and nowhere. It's everywhere for everyone.

Every step of the way we walk the line
Your days are numbered, so are mine
Time is pilin’ up, we struggle and we scrape,
We’re all boxed in, nowhere to escape

City’s just a jungle; more games to play
Trapped in the heart of it, tryin' to get away
I was raised in the country, I been workin’ in the town
I been in trouble ever since I set my suitcase down

Got nothin' for you, I had nothin' before
Don’t even have anything for myself anymore
Sky full of fire, pain pourin’ down
Nothing you can sell me, I’ll see you around

All my powers of expression and thoughts so sublime
Could never do you justice in reason or rhyme
Only one thing I did wrong
Stayed in Mississippi a day too long

Well, the devil’s in the alley, mule’s in the stall
Say anything you wanna, I have heard it all
I was thinkin’ 'bout the things that Rosie said
I was dreaming I was sleepin' in Rosie’s bed

Walkin' through the leaves, falling from the trees
Feelin' like a stranger nobody sees
So many things that we never will undo
I know you’re sorry, I’m sorry too

Some people will offer you their hand and some won’t
Last night I knew you, tonight I don’t
I need somethin’ strong to distract my mind
I’m gonna look at you ’til my eyes go blind

Well I got here followin' the southern star
I crossed that river just to be where you are
Only one thing I did wrong
Stayed in Mississippi a day too long

Well my ship’s been split to splinters and it’s sinkin' fast
I’m drownin’ in the poison, got no future, got no past
But my heart is not weary, it’s light and it’s free
I’ve got nothin’ but affection for all those who’ve sailed with me

Everybody movin’ if they ain’t already there
Everybody got to move somewhere
Stick with me baby, stick with me anyhow
Things should start to get interestin' right about now

My clothes are wet, tight on my skin
Not as tight as the corner that I painted myself in
I know that fortune is waitin’ to be kind
So give me your hand and say you’ll be mine

Well, the emptiness is endless, cold as the clay
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way
Only one thing I did wrong
Stayed in Mississippi a day too long



Is that song about my home town or about my marriage?


Anonymous said...

Spot on.


Bill said...

Wow, Sal, you and I are of like minds. Every time I hear this song I get lost in it and usually end up hitting repeat to listen to it again. On first listen, Mississippi seems to be an unassuming number, kind of catchy and with a chorus--if you can call it that--that gets caught in your brain. But then you start listening to the rest of the words, and each line rings so true that you come away from it shaking a little.

My favorite version is the one that starts the Tell-Tale Signs bootleg series, although I like them all. The live version you posted is new to me, and it's great. Dylan really puts a lot into the performance.

And number 2 Dylan song is Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues.

mauijim said...

Sal, great analysis on his late era gem. better than Blind Willie McTell? Why list? Why give it away to Sheryl? His greatness is undisputed.

big bad wolf said...


Robin said...

Yep. "Only one thing I did wrong, stayed in Mississippi a day too long" speaks volumes to me. Just a brilliant song. If I had to pick I guess "Love Minus Zero/No Limit" is the Bob song that tugs at me most.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoy this Favorite Songs series.

Each song speaks different to everyone, to me, Not dark yet is on the very top along with Just like a woman or Girl of the north country (with Cash) or Jokerman...No, as with The Fab, I just cannot pick one single song from Dylan.

I am looking forward to your Cheap Trick's pick.


Chris Collins said...

This is one of my top 5 Bob Dylan songs for sure. Other 4? "Tangled Up in Blue", "Brownsville Girl", "Hurricane" and "Subterrainian Homesick Blues". For the record.

A guy called Tak said...

Yes, Sal, this song is the very proof of Dylan is not 'used to be a great artist' like most of 60's and 70's artist.
It's my favorite song from 'Love and Theft'.
Great choice as usual, Sal.

heartsofstone said...

And like many later Dylan great it was left off the album it was originally recorded for. Your Favorite Series is awesome.

Anonymous said...

My two faves are Ballad Of Hollis Brown (and my fave Dylan cover is Nina Simone's absolutely harrowing version of Hollis) and Ballad Of Frankie Lee & Judas Priest. And there's a live boot I heard of Changing Of The Guards from the '78 tour that ranks with my favorite live recordings ever by anyone.
C in California