I Shall Be Free No. 10

Commentary

I Shall Be Free No. 10 is a silly little song, seemingly thrown in as a little aside. It not one of Dylan best songs, or even one of his best silly songs. The lyrics are scattered and the jokes are a little thin.

The song does continues the overarching theme of the album; that Dylan is not the spokesman for this generation, that he is not some wise guru from whom people should expect profound statements of political or philosophical importance:

I’m just average, common too
I’m just like him, the same as you
I’m everybody’s brother and son
I ain’t different from anyone
It ain’t no use a-talking to me
It’s just the same as talking to you.

I Shall is another talking blues in the Guthrie vein, and may have been derived from Guthrie’s We Shall Be Free. I question the wisdom of including a talking blues on this recording. It harkens back to an older style that is jarring in juxtaposition with the other more modern tunes on the recording.

The lyrics have a few interesting references that may not be obvious to everybody, especially younger listeners. Dylan mentions, sarcastically, how scary it would be if the Russians got to “heaven” before the U.S. This is of course a reference to the fear the US government had of the Russians gaining a technological edge during the Cold War, which lead to the hysterical race to reach the moon (“heaven”) first.

Dylan mentions how he would never let Barry Goldwater marry his daughter. Goldwater was a ultra-conservative Republican politician who ran for president in 1964, losing to Lyndon Johnson. The line is a clever twist on the stereotypical conservative father who objects to his daughter dating a left-wing, hippie-type.

Dylan also mentions “farms in Cuba”, a reference to the nationalization (i.e. confiscation by the state) of the American-owned farms by Fidel Castro, a major political controversy around the time Another Side was recorded.

Many Dylan fans have wonder what Dylan means by the final verse of the song, which he follows with a snazzy guitar lick:

Now you’re probably wondering by now
Just what this song is all about
What’s probably got you baffled more
Is what this thing here is for.
It’s nothing
It’s something I learned over in England.

It just a little joke. The song is obviously not about anything much, and the perky little guitar lick has no real meaning either. Some have speculated, and I tend to agree, that the lick is a reference to the British Invasion, the term used to refer to the many, mostly inconsequential, British bands that were becoming wildly popular in the US at the time. It seems likely that the reference is simply a good-natured jab at these bands.

For those who have some inexplicable attachment to this song, another version with additional lyrics is available on the Highway 61 Interactive CD Rom. Good luck finding a computer that will play it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXQY7QTB_28


Lyrics

I’m just average, common too
I’m just like him, the same as you
I’m everybody’s brother and son
I ain’t different from anyone
It ain’t no use a-talking to me
It’s just the same as talking to you

I was shadow-boxing earlier in the day
I figured I was ready for Cassius Clay
I said “Fee, fie, fo, fum, Cassius Clay, here I come
26, 27, 28, 29, I’m gonna make your face look just like mine
Five, four, three, two, one, Cassius Clay you’d better run
99, 100, 101, 102, your ma won’t even recognize you
14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, gonna knock him clean right out of his spleen”

Well, I don’t know, but I’ve been told
The streets in heaven are lined with gold
I ask you how things could get much worse
If the Russians happen to get up there first
Wowee! pretty scary!

Now, I’m liberal, but to a degree
I want ev’rybody to be free
But if you think that I’ll let Barry Goldwater
Move in next door and marry my daughter
You must think I’m crazy!
I wouldn’t let him do it for all the farms in Cuba

Well, I set my monkey on the log
And ordered him to do the Dog
He wagged his tail and shook his head
And he went and did the Cat instead
He’s a weird monkey, very funky

I sat with my high-heeled sneakers on
Waiting to play tennis in the noonday sun
I had my white shorts rolled up past my waist
And my wig-hat was falling in my face
But they wouldn’t let me on the tennis court

I got a woman, she’s so mean
She sticks my boots in the washing machine
Sticks me with buckshot when I’m nude
Puts bubblegum in my food
She’s funny, wants my money, calls me “honey”

Now I got a friend who spends his life
Stabbing my picture with a bowie knife
Dreams of strangling me with a scarf
When my name comes up he pretends to barf
I’ve got a million friends!

Now they asked me to read a poem
At the sorority sisters’ home
I got knocked down and my head was swimmin’
I wound up with the Dean of Women
Yippee! I’m a poet, and I know it
Hope I don’t blow it

I’m gonna grow my hair down to my feet so strange
So I look like a walking mountain range
And I’m gonna ride into Omaha on a horse
Out to the country club and the golf course
Carry The New York Times, shoot a few holes, blow their minds

Now you’re probably wondering by now
Just what this song is all about
What’s probably got you baffled more
Is what this thing here is for
It’s nothing
It’s something I learned over in England

3 thoughts on “I Shall Be Free No. 10”

  1. Avatar

    Oh Dear, these are the lyrics of I Shall Be Free from Freewheelin’ – not from I Shall Be Free # 10 from Another Side.

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