One Too Many Mornings


One Too Many Mornings, a Dylan classic similar in theme and structure to Boots of Spanish Leather and Don’t Think Twice, is a poignant tale of lost love. This is Dylan at his concise best, not a word out of place.

Todd Harvey, the author of The Formative Bob Dylan, notes that the basic melody is borrowed from the traditional Deliverance Will Come.

According to Harvey, Dylan used the Piedmont style of guitar playing on the recording, a style that he also used for Don’t Think Twice, Percy’s Song, and He Was a Friend of Mine. The Piedmont style, named after the Piedmont region in the state of Virginia, is characterized by a picking technique similar to that used by banjo players. This style was used by many well-known early blues guitar players, including Brownie McGee, Blind Blake, and the Reverend Gary Davis.

Betsy Bowden includes a terrific section in her book in which she analyzes how Dylan uses vocal and musical techniques to radically alter the meaning of the words and change the listener’s emotional reaction. She uses It Ain’t Me, Babe as the primary example of how Dylan accomplishes this effect. She could have used this song as an example as well. Over the years Dylan has radically changed the meaning of the song by changing the characteristics of the performance.

The performance on Times is quiet, contemplative. Dylan backs himself on guitar and adds several soft, melodious harmonica solos. Dylan half speaks, half sings the words in a hushed tone that clearly leads his audience to understand the song as an intimate conversation between the singer and his lover.

In 1966 Dylan played the song with The Band, his backing group in the mid-sixties and again in the mid-seventies. In the performance captured on Live 1966, Dylan’s singing is much looser and more agitated. Robbie Robertson adds some bracing guitar solos. Garth Hudson’s organ swirls in the background. Rick Danko adds backing vocals to the chorus. These changes move the song’s tone away from the quiet melancholy on Times towards something more akin to desperation.

Dylan also performed the song during the Rolling Thunder Revue shows in 1975/76. By this time the performance of the song has been transformed from quiet desperation to full-blown hysteria. Dylan’s vocal is angry and aggressive. The band blares away behind him. The violin of Scarlet Rivera howls up and down the scale. This version of the song screams out the narrator’s pain, but Dylan didn’t change the words a bit.

For Dylan, certainly more than any other pop artist, the original words and music are simply a jumping-off point for where the song will go night after night, performance after performance. Alex Ross put it well in his May 1999 New Yorker piece:

He [Dylan] is a composer and a performer at once, and his shows cause his songs to mutate, so that no definitive or ideal version exists. Dylan’s legacy will be the sum of thousands of performances, over many decades.

Josh Gibbens in his Nightingale Code points out that One Too Many is similar to Don’t Think Twice in that the “you”, as in:

It’s a restless hungry feeling
That don’t mean no one no good,
When ev’rything I’m a-sayin’
You can say it just as good.

can be taken as being directed to a lover or to the listener.

Dylan with The Band in 1966.

From the Rolling Thunder tour.


Down the street the dogs are barkin’
And the day is a-gettin’ dark.
As the night comes in a-fallin’,
The dogs ‘ll lose their bark.
An’ the silent night will shatter
From the sounds inside my mind,
For I’m one too many mornings
And a thousand miles behind.

From the crossroads of my doorstep,
My eyes they start to fade,
As I turn my head back to the room
Where my love and I have laid.
An’ I gaze back to the street,
The sidewalk and the sign,
And I’m one too many mornings
An’ a thousand miles behind.

It’s a restless hungry feeling
That don’t mean no one no good,
When ev’rything I’m a-sayin’
You can say it just as good.
You’re right from your side,
I’m right from mine.
We’re both just one too many mornings
An’ a thousand miles behind.

4 thoughts on “One Too Many Mornings”

  1. Wonderful post however , I was wondering if you could write a litte more on this subject?
    I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit more.

    Thank you!

  2. Hmm is anyone else experiencing problems with the images on this blog loading?
    I’m trying to determine if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog.
    Any feed-back would be greatly appreciated.

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