If Not For You (November 17, 2014)

Here we present an entirely new verse to “If Not For You,” with nothing similar appearing in the original New Morning album version from 1970. If Not For You entered Dylan’s live repertoire many years later in 1992 and made an appearance every year afterwards through 2004.

We listened to the other five performances from 2004, where the song moved from early in the set all the way to the encores, and found the lyrics of the others kept close to the original. That is, except for in Asheville, NC on 9 April 2004, when he sang: “Ah, what would I, what would I do – I don’t know! – if not for you.”

At time of writing (January 2012), this 17 November 2004 performance remains the last public outing for the song. We will never know quite what prompted Dylan to create unique lyrics on this particular occasion but, as always, we are thankful he did.

In Dylan’s early to mid-career he sang stories about romanticized outlaws (Jesse James, Pretty Boy Floyd, Joey), about an innocent man in jail (Hurricane Carter), and about travesties of justice (Hattie Carroll). In recent years, however, the focus appears to have shifted to take on a more directly personal note. He sings from the perspective of a person who, in different circumstances, left to his own devices, if not for the help of others, would inevitably and deservedly end up in trouble with the law. We hear this in songs like Workingman’s Blues #2 in the words, “I got to be careful, I don’t want to be forced/ Into a life of continual crime.” We also hear it in live lyric variations like the above example, and in several others to be published here later.

If not for you, babe
I’d be even lost around the trail
Without for you, I’d be, I might be in jail

I just wouldn’t have a clue
Well, if not for you

If not for you
Winter would have no spring
Couldn’t hear the robin sing

I just wouldn’t have a clue
Anyway it wouldn’t ring true
If not for you

Make You Feel My Love (November 6, 2013)

When the rain is blowing in your face
And the whole world got you out of place
I could offer you a warm embrace
To make you feel my love

The storms are raging on the rollin’ sea
And on the highway of regret
Put your hand in mine and come with me
I’ll see that you’ll never get wet

When the rain is blowing in your face
And the whole world is on your case
I could offer you a warm embrace
To make you feel my love

The storms are raging on the rollin’ sea
And on the highway of regret
The winds of change are blowing wild and free
You ain’t seen nothing like me yet

Long And Wasted Years (October 10, 2013)

Here begins a Long and Varied Journey into the lyric variations in this song. This particular verse saw changes beginning in 2013 and far beyond. It all began right here, unless you can prove us wrong…..

My enemy ran – crashed into the dust
He lost his pain and he lost his lust
He was run down hard, he died in shame
My enemy, huh, had an iron heart

My enemy crashed into the dust
Stopped dead in his tracks and he lost his lust
He was run down hard and he broke apart
He died in shame, he had an iron heart

Tangled Up In Blue (2013)

Well, she lit a burner on the stove
And brushed away the dust
Well, she looked at me, and she said to me
“You look like somebody I can trust.”
Then she opened up a book of poems
And she said, “Just so you’ll know,
Memorize every one of these lines
And you can use ’em when you’re walkin’ to and fro
And every one of them words rang true
Glowed like burnin’ coal
And pourin’ off of every page
Like it was written in my soul from me to you
Tangled up in blue

Now I’m goin’ back again
I’ve got to get to them somehow
All the people that we used to know
They’re an illusion to me now
Well, some went up the mountain
And some of ’em went down to the ground
Some of their names are written in flames
And some of them they just left town
But me, I’m still on the road
And I’m tryin’ to stay out of the joint
We always did feel the same
We just saw it from a different point, point of view
Tangled up in blue

…Splittin’ up on a dark sad night
Somewhere in the wilderness
He turned around to look at her
As she was walkin’ away
Sayin’ over her shoulder
“We’re gonna meet again someday, truckin’ down the avenue”
Tangled up in blue

Well, she lit a burner on the stove
And then she swept away the dust
“I thought you looked like someone that I used to know
You look like someone that I can trust”
Then she opened up a book of poems
And then she said, “Just so you’ll know
Memorize these lines, and remember these rhymes
When you’re out there walkin’ to and fro”

And every one of them words rang true
Glowed like burnin’ coal
Pouring off of every page
Like it was written in my soul from me to you
Tangled up in blue

Now I’m goin’ back again
I’ve got to get to them somehow
Yesterday it is gone
And tomorrow might as well be now
Some went up on the mountain
And some of them they went down to the ground
Some of their names – written in flames
And some of them they just left town

Me, I’m still on the road
And I’m tryin’ to stay out of the joint
Well, we always felt the same
Depending on your point of view
Tangled up in blue

…Split up on a dark sad night
Both agreeing it was best
She turned around to look at me
As I was walkin’ away
I heard her say over my shoulder
“We’ll meet again someday on the avenue”
Tangled up in blue

She lit a burner on the stove
And offered me a pipe
“I thought you’d never say hello,” she said
“You look like the silent type”

Then she opened up a book of poems
And handed it to me
Written by an Italian poet
From the thirteenth century

And every one of them words rang true
And glowed like burnin’ coal
Pourin’ off of every page
Like it was written in my soul from me to you
Tangled up in blue

So now I’m goin’ back again
I got to get to her somehow
All the people we used to know
They’re an illusion to me now

Some are mathematicians
Some are carpenters’ wives
Don’t know how it all got started
I don’t know what they’re doin’ with their lives

But me, I’m still on the road
Headin’ for another joint
We always did feel the same
We just saw it from a different point of view
Tangled up in blue

Blind Willie McTell (July 23, 2013)

New lyrics for Blind Willie McTell are a rare thing, pretty much limited to the “I’ll tell you one thing” hook that was borrowed from the cover performed by The Band. That line is still used to this day but here’s a new one, in place of the “chain gang on the highway…” lines:

There’s a woman by the river
With some fine young handsome man
He’s dressed up like a squire
Bootlegged whiskey in his hand
Well, some of them were killed in battle
Well, some of them survived as well
I can tell you one thing, that nobody can sing the blues
Like Blind Willie McTell

There’s a woman by the river
With some fine young handsome man
He’s dressed up like a squire
Bootlegged whiskey in his hand
There’s a chain gang on the highway
I can hear them rebels yell
And I know no one can sing the blues
Like Blind Willie McTell

Pay In Blood (May 5, 2013)

The opening leg of the 2013 tour brought a greater number of Tempest album songs, and with them some new lyrics.

Well, another politician pumping out his piss
Another ragged beggar blowing you a kiss
Life is short but your time ain’t long
But they’ll hang you tomorrow then they’ll sing you a song

Someone must have slipped a drug in your wine
You gulped it down and you lost your mind
Got hit so hard, must be made of stone
I pay in blood, but not my own.

How I made it back home, nobody knows
Or how I’ve survived so many blows
I’ve been through Hell, what good did it do?
My conscience is clear, what about you?

Another politician pumping out the piss
Another angry beggar blowing you a kiss
You’ve got the same eyes that your mother does
If only you could prove who your father was

Someone must have slipped a drug in your wine
You gulped it down and you crossed the line
Man can’t live by bread alone
I pay in blood, but not my own.

How I made it back home, nobody knows
Or how I’ve survived so many blows
I’ve been through Hell, what good did it do?
You bastard! I’m supposed to respect you?

Tangled Up In Blue (2012)

He had a job and a pretty face
And everything seemed to fit
When he helped her out way down at the race
He just put it all down and he split

And he drifted down, down to New Orleans
Where they treated him just sure like a tramp
He nearly drowned, running up to Baton Rouge
Where the weather was cold and damp

All the while he was alone
You know the past was close behind
He seemed [lowdown] deceiving
That world was so [defiled/defined], except for you

We were tangled up in blue

He had a job and a pretty face
And everything seemed to fit
Then one day, he could just a-feel the waste
He put everything down and he quit

Then he drifted down to New Orleans
Working nights, working every day
Nearly drowned down in Baton Rouge
On a cold, on a cold December day
All the while that he was alone
You know the past was close behind
He’s seen a lot of women
But none of them were–them were ever too refined, except for you
But you were tangled up in blue

He had a job and a pretty face
Everything seemed to fit
One day, he just – everything felt out of place
He put everything down and he just quit

He drifted down to New Orleans
[Where he’d been destroyed] every day
Well, he nearly drowned in Baton Rouge
Everything [went/running] away
All the while he was alone
You know the past was close behind
He’s seen a lot of women
And none of them were too refined, except for you
You were tangled up in blue

I had a job in the great north woods
Working as a cook for a spell
But I never did like it all that much
And one day the ax just fell
So I drifted down to New Orleans
Where I happened to be employed
Workin’ for a while on a fishin’ boat
Right outside of Delacroix
But all the while I was alone
The past was close behind
I seen a lot of women
But she never escaped my mind, and I just grew
Tangled up in blue