Popular Music History, Vol 8, No 2 (2013)

Dylan and pity

David Punter
Issued Date: 20 May 2014


Pity is a huge and complex human emotion; among its elements are a kind of universal pity, more specific pity for the suffering fellow-creature, and self-pity. Bob Dylan’s lyrics constitute a remarkable address to these issues, sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly, in specific contexts: the condition of American history, the plight of the immigrant, all manner of relations between the powerful and the powerless. Pity also confuses subject and object: are we in need of pity, or are we more in need of the necessity of displaying it? This article seeks to describe some of the complexities of Dylan’s work on these topics through particular attention to ‘Tryin’ to Get to Heaven’, ‘It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)’, ‘I Pity the Poor Immigrant’, ‘Spanish Harlem Incident’, ‘No Time to Think’, ‘Tight Connection to my Heart’ and ‘Desolation Row’.

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DOI: 10.1558/pomh.v8i2.141


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