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Tombstone Blues Lyrics

Artist: Bob Dylan
Album: Highway 61 Revisited

The sweet pretty things are in bed now, of course
The city fathers, they're trying to endorse
The reincarnation of Paul Revere's horse
But the town has no need to be nervous
The ghost of Belle Starr, she hands down her wits
To Jezebel the nun, she violently knits
A bald wig for Jack the Ripper, who sits
At the head of the Chamber of Commerce

(CHORUS) Mama's in the factory, she ain't got no shoes
Daddy's in the alley, he's lookin' for food
I'm in the kitchen with the tombstone blues

The hysterical bride in the penny arcade
Screaming, she moans, "I've just been made"
Then sends out for the doctor, who pulls down the shade
And says, "My advice is to not let the boys in"
Now, the medicine man comes and he shuffles inside
He walks with a swagger and he says to the bride
"Stop all this weeping, swallow your pride
You will not die, it's not poison"

(REPEAT CHORUS)

Well, John the Baptist, after torturing a thief
Looks up at his hero, the Commander-in-Chief
Saying, "Tell me, great hero, but please make it brief
Is there a hole for me to get sick in?"
The Commander-in-Chief answers him while chasing a fly
Saying, "Death to all those who would whimper and cry"
And, dropping a barbell, he points to the sky
Saying, "The sun's not yellow, it's chicken"

(REPEAT CHORUS)

The king of the Philistines, his soldiers to save
Puts jawbones on their tombstones and flatters their graves
Puts the pied pipers in prison and fattens the slaves
Then sends them out to the jungle
Gypsy Davey with a blowtorch, he burns out their camps
With his faithful slave Pedro behind him, he tramps
With a fantastic collection of stamps
To win friends and influence his uncle

(REPEAT CHORUS, last line changed to:)
I'm in trouble with the tombstone blues

The geometry of innocence, flesh on the bone
Causes Galileo's math book to get thrown
At Delilah, who's sitting worthlessly alone
But the tears on her cheeks are from laughter
Now, I wish I could give Brother Bill his great thrill
I would set him in chains at the top of the hill
Then send out for some pillars and Cecil B. DeMille
He could die happily ever after

(REPEAT CHORUS)

Where Ma Rainey and Beethoven once unwrapped their bedroll
Tuba players now rehearse around the flagpole
And the National Bank at a profit sells road maps for the soul
To the old folks' home and the college
Now, I wish I could write you a melody so plain
That could hold you, dear lady, from going insane
That could ease you and cool you and cease the pain
Of your useless and pointless knowledge

(REPEAT CHORUS)

Comments/Interpretations

by Dave on 12/20/2020 8:23pm
Never noticed the rhyme scheme when I was a kid:

"My advice is to not let the boys in ...
You will not die, it's not poison"

And I probably never would have ever been aware of any of that had it not been for Netflix showing Ma Rainey's Black Bottom earlier this evening.








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