Duquesne Whistle

Since his 2001 release, Love and Theft, Dylan has included at least a track or two that sounds as if it could have been recorded during the 30s, a time when popular artists such as Leroy Carr were adding a light-jazz touch to the blues. Duquesne Whistle is one of those tunes.

The lyrics are also old-timey, invoking a distant era of trains and small-town ways. The line, “I’m gonna stop at Carbondale and keep on going” refers to Carbondale, Pennsylvania. The phrase “You say I’m a gambler” brings to mind The Roving Gambler, a traditional folk song Dylan recorded for his first album (although it wasn’t included). “You ole rascal” also seems from long ago, bringing to mind the Louis Armstrong hit You Rascal You. Blues singer Mance Lipscomb once called Dylan a “rascal”. the phase “Blowing like he never blowed before” is ungrammatical but alliterative, and similar to many old blues songs, like Carr’s Big Four Blues. “Big Four blowed this morning : at the break of day“.

Dylan co-written Duquesne Whistle with Robert Hunter, of Grateful Dead fame. They worked together in the 90s on Down in the Groove and again on Together Through Life.

Dylan’s videos, at least to me, are almost universally terrible. The one for this song, directed by Nash Edgerton, is no exception (although better than most).

Lyrics

Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowin’
Blowin’ like it’s gonna sweep my world away
I’m gonna stop in Carbondale and keep on going
That Duquesne train gonna ride me night and day

You say I’m a gambler, you say I’m a pimp
But I ain’t neither one

Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowin’
Sound like it’s on a final run

Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowin’
Blowin’ like she never blowed before
Blue light blinkin’, red light glowin’
Blowin’ like she’s at my chamber door

You smiling through the fence at me
Just like you always smiled before

Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowin’
Blowin’ like she ain’t gonna blow no more

Can’t you hear that Duquesne whistle blowin’
Blowin’ like the sky’s gonna blow apart
You’re the only thing alive that keeps me goin’
You’re like a time bomb in my heart

I can hear a sweet voice gently calling
Must be the Mother of our Lord

Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowin’
Blowin’ like my woman’s on board

Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowin’
Blowin’ like it’s gonna blow my blues away
You ole rascal, I know exactly where you’re goin’
I’ll lead you there myself at the break of day

I wake up every morning with that woman in my bed
Everybody telling me she’s gone to my head


Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowin’
Blowin’ like it’s gonna kill me dead

Can’t you hear that Duquesne whistle blowin’
Blowin’ through another no-good town
The lights of my native land are glowin’
I wonder if they’ll know me next time around

I wonder if that old oak tree’s still standing
That old oak tree, the one we used to climb

Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowin’
Blowin’ like she’s blowin’ right on time

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