Hollis Brown
He lived on the outside of town
Hollis Brown
He lived on the outside of town
With his wife and five children
And his cabin fallin' down

You looked for work and money
And you walked a rugged mile
You looked for work and money
And you walked a rugged mile
Your children are so hungry
That they don't know how to smile

Your baby's eyes look crazy
They're a-tuggin' at your sleeve
Your baby's eyes look crazy
They're a-tuggin' at your sleeve
You walk the floor and wonder why
With every breath you breathe

The rats have got your flour
Bad blood it got your mare
The rats have got your flour
Bad blood it got your mare
If there's anyone that knows
Is there anyone that cares?

You prayed to the Lord above
Oh please send me a friend
You prayed to the Lord above
Oh please send me a friend
Your empty pocket tell yuh
That you ain't-a got no friend

Your babies are crying louder
It's pounding on your brain
Your babies are crying louder
It's pounding on your brain
Your wife's screams are stabbin' you
Like the dirty drivin' rain

Your grass is turning black
There's no water in your well
Your grass is turning black
There's no water in your well
You spent your last lone dollar
On seven shotgun shells

Way out in the wilderness
A cold coyote calls
Way out in the wilderness
A cold coyote calls
Your eyes fix on the shotgun
That's hangin' on the wall

Your brain is a-bleedin'
And your legs can't seem to stand
Your brain is a-bleedin'
And your legs can't seem to stand
Your eyes fix on the shotgun
That you're holdin' in your hand

There's seven breezes a-blowin'
All around the cabin door
There's seven breezes a-blowin'
All around the cabin door
Seven shots ring out
Like the ocean's pounding roar

There's seven people dead
On a South Dakota farm
There's seven people dead
On a South Dakota farm
Somewhere in the distance
There's seven new people born


Lyrics submitted by Jack


Ballad of Hollis Brown song meanings
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17 Comments

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  • +1
    General Commentgod damn this is so depressing! i think maybe the last verse is talking about how nothing really matters or how evil is always balanced by good
    dancingbearson March 23, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI love how he bought 7 shotgun shells, then the last verse says seven people dead
    JohnRussellon January 24, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is Bob Dylan telling it like it is. Yes, it is not a happy song, but this is the effect that poverty can have on people. This is what the folk/protest singers are supposed to do...describe social problems in a truthful way, without any sugar on top.
    Jerrybearon April 26, 2003   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI dont think it's describing a social problem. I relate it closer to Poe's Haunted palace. An outer enviroment which reflects an inner change. Hollis Brown may have lost himself and then lost his farm "Hollis Brown He lived on the outside of town"
    Gforce38on September 16, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song is somewhat morbid in my opinion. A story which describes one man's dealings with poverty as we know it in the 20th/21st century. Definitely 'no sugar on top' of this tale, personally this song parallels with Steinbecks's 'Grapes of Wrath" as I see it, no romance, just reality.
    Dan_Auson January 18, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentEgad, how you can you prattle on about such a simple song?

    For the urban sequel, listen to 'Frankie Teardrop' by Suicide. Then maybe you'll get the message!
    elephant_rangeon April 01, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentOh, the depression of poverty. I disease which could easily be cured by modern soceity. So depressing, isn't it? "Wait only for my bootheels to be wanderin'"
    mrjoneson June 16, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentHaunting.
    stone3on December 28, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI have a version of this on a Portugesse compilation that is faded out at the 8th verse, and it always sounded to me like 'Way out in the wilderness a cold calvary calls' rather than coyote, and left the imminence of death hanging pregnant. It's not often that misheard Dylan lyrics improve on the actual ones, but I'm not sure that that doesn't. Left unresolved with just the implication, rather than spelt out as the song in full does, it reminds me somewhat of Hemingway's 6 word short story "For Sale. Baby shoes, never worn."
    SuitBoyon January 09, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis song is amazing! for me its all about how this fella who lives on the outside of town is screwed. he's poor and can't find no work or money to keep himself and his family going adn ultimately turns to suicide/homicide. the whole thing about him being outside of town isn't as simple as it seems, i think he's making the point that Hollis Brown is an outsider which explains why he can't seem to get any help from anyone, there is no mention of friends or family in the song. this isolation is both reflected in the remoteness of the area he lives (outside of town) and the limitations poverty has put him in. the whole reference at the end that some argue is about the restoration and balance of good and evil with the "seven new people born" i think is nonsense. there is no evil in this song other than the murder of his family but it is for the best intentions if you get my drift. infact i think the whole refernce to seven new people born is more about how life goes on, which is the point i think Dylan's trying to make...no one helps the guy and his family, he's left to his own devices. like it says at the end "out there in the distance there is seven new people born" people have distanced themselves from Hollis Brown and family and get on with their lives. anyway thats just what i think. altho my favourite part about this song is the way he describes Hollis Brown contemplating murder and suicide and how his eyes are fixated at the shotgun - how the only positive aspect to his life is to end it. depressingly beautiful
    Dickfornoseon July 28, 2007   Link

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