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Free Bob Dylan Download: Mississippi

To celebrate the October 7 release of the new Bob Dylan album, Tell Tale Signs: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 8, bobdylan.com is allowing fans until September 29 to download a free copy of a song from that album, "Mississippi." Although a version of this song appeared on the 2001 album, Love & Theft, the version on Tell Tale Signs is an outtake from 1997's Time Out of Mind, winner of the album of the year Grammy Award. Here are the lyrics to "Mississippi":

Mississippi by Bob Dylan

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, trying 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 nothing for you, I had nothing 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' about the things that Rosie said
I was dreaming I was sleeping in Rosie's bed

Walking through the leaves, falling from the trees
Feeling 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 following 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 sinking 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 interesting 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

Copyright ©1997 Special Rider Music

Comments (13)

Do you know what he means when he says he stayed in Mississippi one day too long?


I have no idea what he means.

I do hope that Senator Obama will be singing that line on Saturday morning:

"Only one thing I did wrong. I stayed in Mississippi a day too long." :-)


I can't say what he means by that line, but very relevant to what Mississippi means to him, probably, are other songs that are largely about that state (and in which it doesn't come off that well): "Oxford Town":



... and "The Death Of Emmett Till":


While Frank hopes that Obama sings that regretful line, it seems Dylan himself would not, as he seems to be quite pro-Obama. Here's the wise Dylan from an interview a few months ago:

Right now America is in a state of upheaval. Poverty is demoralizing. You can't expect people to have the virtue of purity when they are poor. But we've got this guy out there now who is redefining the nature of politics from the ground up, Barack Obama. He's redefining what a politician is, so we'll have to see how things play out. Am I hopeful? Yes, I’m hopeful that things might change. Some things are going to have to.

-Bob Dylan, from "Bob Dylan says Barack Obama is changin' America," Times online

Barack Obama is not redefining the role of a politician. He is a far-left partisan ideologue whose campaign does what every other campaign does. And if he really were different, he wouldn't pick Joe Biden, who is the poster boy for old style politics. If Obama's redefining anything, he's redefining experience -- downward. He's a half-term senator who spent more than half of his half-term running for a different office. He's running for the highest executive office in the government, and doing so without any governmental executive experience. Indeed, the ONLY one of the four candidates with executive experience in government is the very one the Democrats chide for inexperience -- Governor Palin, formerly Mayor Palin. On the issue of governmental executive experience, she has towers by comparison. They cannot criticize her experience without ridiculously skewering themselves at the same time.

And you don't really redefine American politics by having the single most liberal voting record in the Senate and then picking as your running mate the man with the third most liberal record.

While on some things Bob Dylan is beautifully and profoundly correct, this is not one of them.

Especially relevant, I think, is "Oxford Town," which is about the James Meredith incident at Oxford Mississippi. It contains the line "I ain't a-goin down to Oxford Town," then follows with "He [Meredith, pretty clearly] went down to Oxford town..." and then relates some of the bad results that ensued. The Wikipedia article on Oxford Mississippi has the basic facts, for those interested:

The book Meredith wrote about his ordeal is called *Three Years in Mississippi*. I think it's largely in response to that that we get the key line of Dylan's song.

Thanks for the reference, Keith. It sounds worth pursuing.

FWIW, I don't think Dylan's later song, "Mississippi," concerns anything so specific as racism, racial violence, or the civil rights movement. My own very vague and uncertain understanding of that song is that Mississippi is being used there as a symbol of place of general repression and danger. (Fans of Mississippi might not be thrilled with their state being used as such a symbol. Perhaps some Mississippi-based ban can reply to Dylan in the way that Lyndard Skynard (sp?) replied to Neil Young on bahalf of Alabama?) That understanding seems, to me at least, to do the best by the song, and getting more specific seems to me a mistake.

Who really knows what Dylan means? Given Keith's reference to "Oxford Town," it may that Mississippi is symbolic for having been political "a day too long," since the comeback part may refer to Joan Baez. "Rosie's bed" may refer to Baez's sister, Mimi Farina, who founded "Bread and Roses." Baez always said that Dylan had a huge crush on Mimi.

Thanks for the link, Frank. It's interesting to hear that earlier try at "Mississippi." My own judgment is that it sounds like Dylan did well to let that one sit for a while longer. A bit surprising Dylan & Lanois (sp?) couldn't come up with a better musical approach to that one -- seems like the *kind* of song Lanois could really do great things with. Those two seem to have been a real hit-or-miss combination. I'm glad they got together, though, for the sake of the great recordings they did when Lanois's style worked moody magic with a Dylan song & performance -- esp. what I consider to be their two masterpieces: "Most of the Time" from OH MERCY & "Not Dark Yet" from TOOM.

Does Dylan know that he is a poster boy for the Anglo Saxon horde? Gimme a break on the Christendom stuff! Just come out and say it. Yee-hah !!

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