Down the Highway

Commentary

Todd Harvey writes that Down the Highway marks Dylan’s arrival as a bluesman, saying it’s “Dylan’s most original blues to date and perhaps his most creative work in this genre.”

Clinton Heylin, however, says Dylan’s version owes an enormous debt to Robert Johnson’s Crossroads Blues. Listen for yourself, see what you think.

Paul Nelson and Jon Pankake, writing in June 1963 edition of the Little Sandy Review, claim that Dylan is trying to copy Charlie Pickett’s guitar figure from an unrelated song that happens to have the same title.

Nelson and Pankake conclude that “the result is practically pure folknik, and Dylan has missed Pickett’s point altogether”.  I don’t suppose anybody missed Pickett’s use of the phrase “Highway 61”,  right?

Like most songwriters, Dylan frequently used an event from his own life as the take-off point for a song. In this case his girlfriend at the time, Suze Rotolo, leaving on an extended trip to Italy.

Yes, the ocean took my baby
My baby took my heart from me.
She packed it all up in a suitcase
Lord, she took it away to Italy, Italy

As of this writing, Dylan has never played the song live.


Lyrics

Well, I’m walkin’ down the highway
With my suitcase in my hand.
Yes, I’m walkin’ down the highway
With my suitcase in my hand.
Lord, I really miss my baby,
She’s in some far-off land.

Well, your streets are gettin’ empty,
Lord, your highway’s gettin’ filled.
And your streets are gettin’ empty
And your highway’s gettin’ filled.
Well, the way I love that woman,
I swear it’s bound to get me killed.

Well, I been gamblin’ so long,
Lord, I ain’t got much more to lose.
Yes, I been gamblin’ so long,
Lord, I ain’t got much more to lose.
Right now I’m havin’ trouble,
Please don’t take away my highway shoes.

Well, I’m bound to get lucky, baby,
Or I’m bound to die tryin’.
Yes, I’m a-bound to get lucky, baby,
Lord, Lord I’m a-bound to die tryin’.
Well, meet me in the middle of the ocean
And we’ll leave this ol’ highway behind.

Well, the ocean took my baby,
My baby stole my heart from me.
Yes, the ocean took my baby,
My baby took my heart from me.
She packed it all up in a suitcase,
Lord, she took it away to Italy, Italy.

So, I’m a-walkin’ down your highway
Just as far as my poor eyes can see.
Yes, I’m a-walkin’ down your highway
Just as far as my eyes can see.
From the Golden Gate Bridge
All the way to the Statue of Liberty.

1 thought on “Down the Highway”

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