Dylan's 'Subterranean Homesick Blues,' Lyrics And Meaning Of The 1965 Rap

By Emily Morenz
Source: centerforpoetry.wordpress.com

"Johnny's in the basement / Mixin' up the medicine" -- so begins Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues," a single from his album Bringing It All Back Home that sounded unlike anything else in pop music. Even today, this hipster patter, with deceptively simple lyrics whose meanings are more complex, is startling. What is it? It's been called proto-rap, the kind of street-corner sermon that meant something to the kids in the know but sounded like gibberish to their parents. 

Released in March 1965, "Subterranean Homesick Blues" was a counterculture anthem when the counterculture was still percolating. The Summer of Love was still two years off, and Woodstock another two years after that. It was Dylan's first single to crack the top 40 -- "Blowin' In The Wind" and "The Times They Are A-Changin'" are also anthems, but they weren't hits. A few months later, Dylan would release "Like A Rolling Stone," his all-time biggest hit.

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