Restless Farewell

Commentary

Dylan supposedly wrote Restless Farewell in response to a 1963 Newsweek reporter’s article about him. The article nailed Dylan for having fabricated his personal history – claiming to have lost touch with his parents, to having been born with the Dylan name, etc. Here’s the article.

I Am My Words

He popped up out of nowhere, another unknown, unscrubbed face in Greenwich Village, and now, only two years later, he sits in the pantheon of the folk-music movement. His name is Bob Dylan, he is 22 years old, and his bewildered brown-blond hair trails off into uneven sideburns. He sticks his skinny frame into blue jeans and wrinkled shirts, and he talks hip talk, punctuated with obscenities. His singing voice scratches and shouts so jarringly that his success,
at first, seems incredible. Yet his knack for stirring audiences, is unmistakable, and it stems, mainly, from the words of the some 200 songs he has written, simple words that pounce upon the obvious, the inequalities, dangers, and deceits of the 1960s and hammer them home.

How many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

“His ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ is a huge hit, and his concerts‹last week at Town Hall in Philadelphia and at Carnegie Hall‹draw sellout crowds, mostly high school and college students to whom Dylan is practically a religion. He has suffered; he has been hung up, man, without bread, without a chick, with twisted wires growing inside him. His audiences share his pain, and seem jealous because they grew up in conventional homes and conventional schools.

“The ironic thing is that Bob Dylan, too, grew up in a conventional home, and went to conventional schools. He shrouds his past in contradictions, but he is the elder son of a Hibbing, Minn., appliance dealer named Abe Zimmerman, and, as Bobby Zimmerman, he attended Hibbing High School, then briefly the University of Minnesota.

“‘DIG IT, MAN’: Dylan admits he was born in Duluth and raised in Hibbing, but as he sat in a New York restaurant one day last week, after a recording session with Columbia Records, he denied that Bob Dylan was ever Bobby Zimmerman. ‘Dig my draft card, man,’ he said. ‘Bob Dylan.’ (He changed his name legally on Aug. 9, 1962.)

“His parents? ‘I don’t know my parents,’ he said. ‘They don’t know me. I’ve lost contact with them for years.’

“A few blocks away, in one of New York’s motor inns, Mr. and Mrs. Abe Zimmerman of Hibbing, Minn., were looking forward to seeing their son sing at Carnegie Hall. Bobby had paid their way east and had sent them tickets, they had told friends in Minnesota. ‘He was home a few days in August,’ said David Zimmerman, Bobby’s 17-year-old brother. ‘We were kind of close. We’re both kind of ambitious. When we set out to do something, we usually get it done. He set out to become what he is.’

“‘My past is so complicated you wouldn’t believe it, man,’ said Dylan.

“‘Bobby is hard to understand,’ said David Zimmerman.

THE IMAGE

Why Dylan picked the name in admiration for Dylan Thomas‹should bother to deny his past is a mystery. Perhaps he feels it would spoil the image he works so hard to cultivate (with his dress, with his talk, with the deliberately atrocious grammar and pronunciation in his songs). He says he hates the commercial side of folk music, but he has two agents who hover about him, guarding his words and fattening his contracts. He scorns the press’s interest in him, but he wants to know how long a story about him will run and if there will be a photograph. He is a complicated young man, surrounded now by complicated rumors.

“There is even a rumor circulating that Dylan did not write ‘Blowin’ in the Wind,’ that it was written by a Millburn (N.J.) High student named Lorre Wyatt, who sold it to the singer. Dylan says he did write the song and Wyatt denies authorship, but several Millburn students claim they heard the song from Wyatt before Dylan ever sang it.

“Dylan says he is writing a book that will explain everything. But, he insists, the explanations are irrelevant. ‘I am my words,’ he says. Maybe this is enough. ‘There’s a lot about Bobby I don’t understand,’ says Joan Baez, who plays princess to his prince among young folk fans. ‘But I don’t care. I understand his words. That’s all that matters.'”

The melody of Restless is based on the traditional Irish song The Parting Glass, which was often performed by Dylan favorites, The Clancy Brothers . The lyrics of the two songs are similar.

The Parting Glass

Of all the money that e’er I spent
I’ve spent it in good company
And all the harm that ever I did
Alas it was to none but me
And all I’ve done for want of wit
To memory now I can’t recall
So fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be with you all

If I had money enough to spend
And leisure to sit awhile
There is a fair maid in the town
That sorely has my heart beguiled
Her rosy cheeks and ruby lips
I own she has my heart enthralled
So fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be with you all

Oh, all the comrades that e’er I had
They’re sorry for my going away
And all the sweethearts that e’er I had
They’d wish me one more day to stay
But since it falls unto my lot
That I should rise and you should not
I’ll gently rise and softly call
Good night and joy be with you all

Here’s an interesting twist. One singer sings a verse of Restless Farewell, followed by a verse of The Parting Glass by the other.

Many Dylan commentators have argued that Dylan wrote It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue and My Back Pages to signal to his audience that he was through with the protest movement. Restless might be his most eloquent statement in his topic.

Oh ev’ry foe that ever I faced,
The cause was there before we came.
And ev’ry cause that ever I fought,
I fought it full without regret or shame.
But the dark does die
As the curtain is drawn and somebody’s eyes
Must meet the dawn.
And if I see the day
I’d only have to stay,
So I’ll bid farewell in the night and be gone.

The performance on Times is fine, but the most memorable performance is from a 1995 network TV special, A Tribute to Frank Sinatra. Dylan had planned to perform a Sinatra standard but Sinatra specifically requested Restless. On the show Dylan sang Restless with astonishing emotional force, with the gravitas that only an older, sadder, and wiser Dylan could muster. It’s a must see performance.

Here is how Dylan introduced Restless to a live audience not too long after the Sinatra performance:

I played at the Frank Sinatra Tribute show a few years back, and I played this next song. I was going to play another song and we had it all worked out and everything, but then they said they wanted to hear this one instead so I hadn’t played it up till that time and I haven’t played it since, I’ll try my best to do it.

The theme of Restless is similar to Sinatra’s signature song, My Way. Take a look at the final verse.

So I’ll make my stand
And remain as I am
And bid farewell and not give a damn.

Wow, I never saw this before. From  the Canadian “Quest TV” show. 1964.

Mark Knopler of Dire Straits fame.

Baez really does Dylan justice.


Lyrics

Oh all the money that in my whole life I did spend,
Be it mine right or wrongfully,
I let it slip gladly past the hands of my friends
To tie up the time most forcefully.
But the bottles are done,
We’ve killed each one
And the table’s full and overflowed.
And the corner sign
Says it’s closing time,
So I’ll bid farewell and be down the road.

Oh ev’ry girl that ever I’ve touched,
I did not do it harmfully.
And ev’ry girl that ever I’ve hurt,
I did not do it knowin’ly.
But to remain as friends and make amends
You need the time and stay behind.
And since my feet are now fast
And point away from the past,
I’ll bid farewell and be down the line.

Oh ev’ry foe that ever I faced,
The cause was there before we came.
And ev’ry cause that ever I fought,
I fought it full without regret or shame.
But the dark does die
As the curtain is drawn and somebody’s eyes
Must meet the dawn.
And if I see the day
I’d only have to stay,
So I’ll bid farewell in the night and be gone.

Oh, ev’ry thought that’s strung a knot in my mind,
I might go insane if it couldn’t be sprung.
But it’s not to stand naked under unknowin’ eyes,
It’s for myself and my friends my stories are sung.
But the time ain’t tall,
Yet on time you depend and no word is possessed
By no special friend.
And though the line is cut,
It ain’t quite the end,
I’ll just bid farewell till we meet again.

Oh a false clock tries to tick out my time
To disgrace, distract, and bother me.
And the dirt of gossip blows into my face,
And the dust of rumors covers me.
But if the arrow is straight
And the point is slick,
It can pierce through dust no matter how thick.
So I’ll make my stand
And remain as I am
And bid farewell and not give a damn.

2 thoughts on “Restless Farewell”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers

%d bloggers like this: