Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Streetcar Visions: Transportation in Bob Dylan's Music

Greenwich Village, but not a true narrow street.
Over at The Infrastructurist, Eric Jaffe has a great post up in recognition of Bob Dylan's 70th birthday that anyone with even a passing interest in Bob really ought to check out.  Combining infrastructure and Bob Dylan?  Yes, it can be done, and with fascinating commentary on each of the chosen songs.  At the cost of giving away my own longtime interest in Dylan's music, and for the sake of doing a purely fun post, I thought I'd add a list of my own on transportation in Dylan's songwriting (the former a subject I don't write about much, since it's done so well elsewhere by the pros). 

Without further ado, the modes of transportation ranked by their number of mentions in Dylan's five plus decades of songwriting, added up using Dylan.com's lyric search:

Trains: 39
Ships and boats: 33
Cars:  17 (including two Fords, two Cadillacs and one Buick)
Trucks: 10 
Airplanes: 6
Horseback riding: 6
Buses: 3
Horse-drawn vehicles: 3
Motorcycles: 2
Streetcars: 2
Subways: 2
Taxis: 1
Bicycles: 1
Monorails: 0

...and walking: 128

Is Dylan a walking man at heart?  He's certainly no couch potato:  constant, almost compulsive walking appears in many songs, especially those on more recent albums.  Despite the relative scarcity of mentions of personal automobiles (13% of all non-walking mentions), one looking for a pro-urban bent in Dylan's lyrics is likely to find more of a mixed bag: although negative characterizations frequently accompany mentions of cities in general, specific urban settings come off memorably well.

1 comment:

  1. bob definitely seems to have quite an appreciation for the romance of trains...ala woody guthrie. great post, and thanks for not making some dramatic, grand claim about bob's stance on urbanism!