Madeline Mulligan Dr. Beach English 17529 January 2018″Like A Rolling Stone” An eternal piece of music considered to be one of the most prominent songs of all time, “Like a Rolling Stone” is written and sung by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan. Released in 1965, the song marked a strong shift in Dylan’s genre, from folk music to rock. The excellence of the song is due to how well it conveys its complexity, with many elements joining together to make quite the cohesive entity. Literally speaking, to be a “rolling stone” means to be unwilling to settle down in one place or with another person for an extended period of time, something Bob Dylan expresses his disdain for as he confronts the accused person in the narrative of the song. Employing the different factors of a confrontational message, varying use of literary devices, placement of melodies and tones, and the inclusion of historical and social background in its meaning, Bob Dylan created something of remarkable depth and quality that consists of a perfect balance of complexity and simplicity. At first glance, this song appears to be portraying a division of different classes. The woman being addressed by the narrator clearly used to be a member of high society, having gone to the “finest schools,” and having “used to ride on a chrome horse with her diplomat,” vividly conveying the flashy, fortunate lifestyle she once lived (lines 15, 34). On the contrary, Dylan illustrates for the listener the “mystery tramp” and “Napoleon in rags” (lines 20, 50). The dramatic shift in this song, at the level of the message, is simple: some incident happened in this woman’s life for her now to be scrounging for her next meal and to be living with no material possessions. But, this song also includes another level of complexity, in which the words are about illusion, deception, and understanding. The song repeatedly describes the actions the woman performed in which she failed to listen to the advice of those trying to help her and neglected to see what was really occurring in her surrounding environment. Dylan assesses her actions to make known how she feels about now being in poverty. The climactic line, of which the song revolves around, is an unanswerable question: “How does it feel? / To be…/ Like a rolling stone” (lines 10-14). The overarching theme of the entirety of the words lies in the position of the idea that sometimes the people who originally have everything they could need, and even more, finish with the least in the end, due to their negligence. It is also worth noting how quickly and finely Bob Dylan reveals this underlying message. The first line summarizes the class issue and informs the listener of the harsh decline of the woman’s existence: “Once upon a time, you dressed so fine, / threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn’t you” (lines 1-2). The second line then concludes just how ignorant the woman was to her surroundings: “People used to call and say, ‘Beware, doll, you’re bound to fall,’ / you thought they were all a’kidding you” (lines 3-4). Dylan is almost portraying the persona of someone saying “I told you so,” directly addressing an individual who had been unaware and unenlightened. As for the structure of the song, the short length of the lines, the fairy-tale opening, the simplicity of the words and visuals, and the candid repeating rhyme scheme all work together to create a feeling similar to that of a children’s song. In conjunction with the themes, these specific devices suggest that the woman in the story being told by Dylan started her adventure with a childish attitude, thinking that everything in life was there simply for personal amusement. He is using the very structure of the song to let the listener know, and to let the woman know, that there is a much bigger picture to be seen than this simple children’s world. The structure of the verses and rhymes are playing with the ideas of deception and truth, first portraying that of a simple childlike song, then illustrating a much bigger world in which this childish beginning is only a very small part of its entirety. Dylan includes the device of ending each line or verse with an unmatched rhyme, leaving the listener waiting for some sort of closure due to their wonder of how the pattern will complete itself:”Now you don’t talk so loud Now you don’t seem so proud About having to be scrounding your next meal” (lines 7-9). Then, the chorus repeats the words, “How does it feel,” completing the pattern with no unfinished rhymes. The complex arrangement of one line coinciding with the next is initially expressed in this instance. And so, constructing a dynamic and unique arrangement for the structure of the verse and chorus, Dylan continues to get increasing yield in return for it as he repeats the same patterns with different words, but still reinforcing the same story. As for the actual musicality of the piece, “Like A Rolling Stone” starts in a somewhat modest way: a drop of the drums, guitar, light piano, and the lilt of Dylan’s voice elongating the confrontational, yet slightly depressing, words. The music is somber and temperate, moving the song along at an appropriate pace without pushing it forward too quickly. Never overwhelming the resonant vocals, the music forms a vibrant environment, an ambience that is motivated by rock, but also reverts back to Dylan’s folk birthplace. On top of the instrumental background is the singing, which directly demands the attention of the listener. The mood set by the vocals is stocked with authentic intonation and human character, yet can still successfully facilitate the melody and the lyrics. Lacking a sense of condemnation in his words, the delivery of the lyrics is neither overly emotional nor is it free of emotion. Heavy and rich, his voice brims with the consistency of a smooth, thickened molasses that is full of character and depth. Dylan, who is both the singer and a character, holds no discomfort or pretense in his presence in the song. On this note, considering Dylan the singer, there is something else happening here besides the actions of the woman being observed and described. There is another major character moving the story along: the singer himself. One of the unexplained mysteries of the song lies in the interesting relationship of the singer and the troubled woman, as no reference is said about how these two know of each other. Due to the deep insights into the woman’s life and the sheer working of the song, the listener knows that Dylan is too involved with her to simply be a random observer. But, why the obsession with this person’s downfall? Considering the culture at the time of “Like A Rolling Stone’s” release, on one hand, members of this generation were immersed in a predominantly white culture, filled with affluence and success. On the other hand, these people also had the influence of blues and folk artists that sang about a people they were unfamiliar with, the impoverished and the unfortunate. Yet, despite their clear advantages, many of the young people growing up in the sixties did not discover the other dimension that contrasted their culture. So, blues, folk, and rock artists created meaningful expressions of music that clarified a vision that goes along with all of this. The phrase, “a rolling stone,” that meant a lack of home or belonging, became a symbol of liberation for this generation as those who sang it made everyone see that material ties only enslaved the people. Dylan is singing, not about the misfortune of one single woman in his life, but about the necessary transformation that had to take place amongst this generation. This is why he asks the question: “How does it feel? / To be like… / a rolling stone” (lines 10-14). The content of this song is the complete opposite of the material that typically made it to the top of the charts, hence the reason for the creative impact it caused on the listeners. “Like A Rolling Stone” is a song about the transformative nature of art and how that can assist in human development and the complexity of human existence. It became a part of the fabric of an entire culture, as it displayed that a good song can come from anywhere. In the lyrics, the listener is made to see the pitfalls of specific types of behaviors, particularly the heartless tendencies of the woman being harshly criticized by the narrator. Through words of both empathy and pity, Bob Dylan develops a powerful set of lyrics that form an underlying message of the importance of taking into account the differences among classified cultures and not being ignorant to those less fortunate. He opens the song with arcane and caustic words saying, “Once upon a time you dressed so fine / Threw the bums a dime, in your prime, Didn’t you,” attempting to make the listener come to the realization that there is a change that needs to occur with those who believe they are better than others (lines 1-2). By implementing the use of confrontational language, varying rhythmic patterns, instrumental artistry, and his own personal history with the issues at hand, Bob Dylan created the masterpiece that is “Like A Rolling Stone,” including the lasting effects of the song’s creative culture.