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Thursday, November 20, 2008

GMVW # 46: "Lullaby...with a Twist"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 46:  Lullaby....with a Twist
Song: I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight by Bob Dylan
Covered Here By: Kris Kristofferson
(Songwriter: Bob Dylan)
November 20, 2008

I don’t always seek to interpret a song.  Sometimes it’s good to leave well enough alone and just enjoy the music.  However, there are songs that demand an answer to the question “What exactly is this song about?”.  Take Don Mclean’s ‘American Pie’.  Few songs have been scrutinized as much as this one, with images flying at you left and right:  The jester; moss on a rolling stone; eight miles high and falling fast; broken church bells.  The meaning of this song seems pretty straight up though: America’s loss of innocence in the 60’s. 

What about songs that leave you hanging or better yet have more than one meaning?  Great lyricists can often find a way to avoid a one-shoe-fits-all context to their songs, putting the interpretation in the hands of the listener.  At first the song may appear to say one thing, but upon further review, something else comes through.  For example, ‘Margaritaville’ immediately brings up images of a tropical location, but Margaritaville can also represent a state of mind.  ‘Hotel California’ also has an initial sense of locale, but dig deeper and, as with ‘American Pie’, it is more likely about innocence lost (in this case on a personal level).  These are fairly easy conclusions to come to.  Other song lyrics can be a bit more difficult to interpret.  Yet, occasionally you make a gratifying diagnosis.  Two cases come to mind for me.

The first is this week’s Gem, ‘I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight’ by Bob Dylan. As much as anyone, Dylan keeps the meaning of his songs close to the vest, but a number of years ago, I recall having a eureka moment listening to this jaunty deep cut off the ‘John Wesley Harding’ album. Prior, I had assumed the song to be a straight-forward love song, but this conclusion was gnawing at me.  It was too simple for Dylan. Then, a light bulb:  Could it be about a baby singing to an
adult (if indeed this could happen)?  I replayed the song and listened closer to the lyrics.  Bingo!  I felt as if I had tapped into Dylan’s cone of silence.  Years later, I was reading a Dylan interview. Talking specifically about this song he stated (in a rare revealing manner) something along the lines “I suppose it could be from an infant’s point of view”.  The song was later to be a favorite when Charlotte had me up in the wee hours during her crib years.  Most other songs I would sing for her, but this lullaby-with-a-twist was from her to me (although I had to fill in on vocals).

The second song is The Beatles ‘Hey Jude’ (which should be its own Gem, but it fits this week’s theme).  Long ago, I concluded that the song was Paul McCartney singing about John Lennon.  Later, I read that the song was about Julian (Lennon’s son from his first marriage).  Ok, I could understand that, but the more I listened to the lyrics the more I liked the idea that the song was at the very least also about John. It just seemed appropriate.  Many years later, I read the must-have ‘Beatles Anthology’ book (a great Christmas gift from Dale).  One of my favorite lines was this quote from Lennon: 

“Hey Jude is one of his (McCartney’s) masterpieces.  He said it was written about Julian, my child.  He knew I was splitting with Cyn and leaving Julian.  He was driving over to say ‘hi’ to Julian.  He’d been like an uncle to him.  Paul was always good with kids.  And so he came up with ‘Hey Jude’.  But I always heard it as a song to me.  If you think about it, Yoko’s just come into the picture.  He’s saying ‘Hey, Jude – hey John’.  I know I’m sounding like one of those fans who read’s things into it, but you can hear it as a song to me.  The words ‘go out and get her’ – subconsciously he was saying ‘Go ahead, leave me’.  But on a conscious level, he didn’t want me to go ahead.  The angel inside him was saying, ‘Bless you’.  The devil in him didn’t like it at all, because he didn’t want to lose his partner.”

I agree with Lennon.  The song reveals McCartney’s genuine love for his songwriting partner.

Below are three links: The first is ‘I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight’ by Bob Dylan and sung here by Kris Kristofferson (with gusto!).  The second is ‘Hey Jude’.  The third is ‘Hotel California’ by The Eagles.  Below the links are the lyrics to ‘I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight’.

- Pete

Gem Music Video: I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight



Close your eyes, close the door,
You don't have to worry any more.
I'll be your baby tonight.

Shut the light, shut the shade,
You don't have to be afraid.
I'll be your baby tonight.

Well, that mockingbird's gonna sail away,
We're gonna forget it.
That big, fat moon is gonna shine like a spoon,
But we're gonna let it,
You won't regret it.

Kick your shoes off, do not fear,
Bring that bottle over here.
I'll be your baby tonight.

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About the Video:  Kristofferson performance at the Dylan Atlantic Records 30th Anniversary Show

Video Rating: 1

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