Bob Dylan Countdown #159: “Lay Down Your Weary Tune”

Life is a song. That’s basically the gist of this track that was recorded as a demo and didn’t make the cut for The Times They Are A-Changin’. It should say something about Dylan’s productivity about this time that he could leave this mesmerizing song on the cutting-room floor and still have an album packed to the gills with classic songs.

According to Bob, he wrote “Lay Down Your Weary Tune” in an attempt to mimic a Scottish ballad. Information like that should tell you all you need to know about why so many New Dylans have failed. Whereas Dylan himself looked to a vast variety of sources as old as time to create his songs, the newbies often looked no further than the onset of rock and roll. Throw in Bob’s ridiculous skill and creativity, and it’s just not a fair fight.

“Lay Down Your Weary Tune” stands out as one of Dylan’s finest poetic achievements. The sound of every word included in the lyrics clearly means as much as the meaning. Lulled by such euphony, a listener can be still be stopped short within the song by the sudden appearance of evocative images that cut through the dreamlike world the singer has created.

My personal favorite couplet:  “I stood unwound beneath the skies/And clouds unbound by laws.” It lets you know that the narrator is not just a passive observer and listener to the scene; his soul is stirring beside the wondrous sights and sounds.

There isn’t enough of that human element in the song, at least in my judgment. As pristine as those lyrics are, they are a bit bloodless. The formality of the technique masks those messy emotions that make things interesting. “Lay Down You Weary Tune” is undoubtedly one of the most impressive songs in the Bob Dylan catalog. That doesn’t mean it’s one of the best.


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