There's an evenin' haze settlin' over town
Starlight by the edge of the creek
The buyin' power of the proletariat's gone down
Money's gettin' shallow and weak
Well, the place I love best is a sweet memory
It's a new path that we trod
They say low wages are a reality
If we want to compete abroad

My cruel weapons have been put on the shelf
Come sit down on my knee
You are dearer to me than myself
As you yourself can see
While I'm listening to the steel rails hum
Got both eyes tight shut
Just sitting here trying to keep the hunger from
Creeping its way into my gut

Meet me at the bottom, don't lag behind
Bring me my boots and shoes
You can hang back or fight your best on the frontline
Sing a little bit of these workingman's blues

Well, I'm sailin' on back, ready for the long haul
Tossed by the winds and the seas
I'll drag 'em all down to hell and I'll stand 'em at the wall
I'll sell 'em to their enemies
I'm tryin' to feed my soul with thought
Gonna sleep off the rest of the day
Sometimes no one wants what we got
Sometimes you can't give it away

Now the place is ringed with countless foes
Some of them may be deaf and dumb
No man, no woman knows
The hour that sorrow will come
In the dark I hear the night birds call
I can feel a lover's breath
I sleep in the kitchen with my feet in the hall
Sleep is like a temporary death

Meet me at the bottom, don't lag behind
Bring me my boots and shoes
You can hang back or fight your best on the frontline
Sing a little bit of these workingman's blues

Well, they burned my barn, and they stole my horse
I can't save a dime
I got to be careful, I don't want to be forced
Into a life of continual crime
I can see for myself that the sun is sinking
How I wish you were here to see
Tell me now, am I wrong in thinking
That you have forgotten me?

Now they worry and they hurry and they fuss and they fret
They waste your nights and days
Them I will forget
But you I'll remember always
Old memories of you to me have clung
You've wounded me with your words
Gonna have to straighten out your tongue
It's all true, everything you've heard

Meet me at the bottom, don't lag behind
Bring me my boots and shoes
You can hang back or fight your best on the frontline
Sing a little bit of these workingman's blues

In you, my friend, I find no blame
Wanna look in my eyes, please do
No one can ever claim
That I took up arms against you
All across the peaceful sacred fields
They will lay you low
They'll break your horns and slash you with steel
I say it so it must be so

Now I'm down on my luck and I'm black and blue
Gonna give you another chance
I'm all alone and I'm expecting you
To lead me off in a cheerful dance
I got a brand new suit and a brand new wife
I can live on rice and beans
Some people never worked a day in their life
Don't know what work even means

Chorus:
Meet me at the bottom, don't lag behind
Bring me my boots and shoes
You can hang back or fight your best on the frontline
Sing a little bit of these workingman's blues


Lyrics submitted by Statonxyb, edited by Mellow_Harsher

Workingman's Blues #2 song meanings
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19 Comments

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  • +1
    General Commentthis song is a somewhat familiar theme in Bob's music. He is singing about what is important in life - the simple things are the most meaningful to us all (memories of people you love, sounds of a creek, nightbirds call, lovers breath, cheerful dance). There is some kind of nod that the working class understands/appreciates these simple pleasures. The last verse seems inspired on the recording when he sings about being able to live on rice and beans, noting that some people don't understand what work even means. I bet he's talking about himselft here... A truly classic, wonderful Dylan song.
    mollylabelleon November 28, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentRight from the start we get a clue that this may be a song about the years after the fall of communism in Russia. (The buyin' power of the proletariat's gone down)
    A little about that time in Russian history. For 8 decades Russia was a communist state with some success. It was a super power. It's people relied totally on the state and adapting to capitalism was very hard, especially for the older people, alcoholism was rampant and the mafia was very powerful.

    In many areas there was anarchy. Many people starved with little pensions to fall back on. The military still had powerful weapons including the bomb, that America was scared to death would be sold on the black market. With the end of the cold war America was no longer constantly worried about what will the USSR do. This fall from power was especially hurtful to Russian pride.

    I think this song is an old man singing about his time adjusting to the new,less powerful, Russia. Dylan often moves back and forth between subjects and here the old man talks both to his life in Russia and appeals directly to America for help and friendship.
    Examples:
    The buyin' power of the proletariat's gone down
    Money's gettin' shallow and weak
    Well, the place I love best is a sweet memory .... Death of the USSR he knew and tough economic times

    My cruel weapons have been put on the shelf
    Come sit down on my knee
    You are dearer to me than myself
    As you yourself can see...... Nuclear weapons.. talking to America as a new friend

    Just sitting here trying to keep the hunger from
    Creeping its way into my gut...tough economic times

    I'll drag 'em all down to hell and I'll stand 'em at the wall
    I'll sell 'em to their enemies....Nuclear weapons.

    Now the place is ringed with countless foes.. Anarchy.. Mafia

    I sleep in the kitchen with my feet in the hall
    Sleep is like a temporary death...Alcoholism

    Sometimes no one wants what we got
    Sometimes you can't give it away...Adjusting to capitalism

    Well, they burned my barn, and they stole my horse
    I can't save a dime
    I got to be careful, I don't want to be forced
    Into a life of continual crime...Mafia

    tell me now, am I wrong in thinking
    That you have forgotten me?...Question to America

    In you, my friend, I find no blame
    Wanna look in my eyes, please do
    No one can ever claim
    That I took up arms against you...Talking to America

    Now I'm down on my luck and I'm black and blue
    Gonna give you another chance
    I'm all alone and I'm expecting you
    To lead me off in a cheerful dance...Talking to America

    I got a brand new suit and a brand new wife
    I can live on rice and beans
    Some people never worked a day in their life
    Don't know what work even means..Getting better at adjusting to America (sounding like a capitalist)

    Even if Dylan did not write this with these themes in mind, they sure do fit well


    johna39on December 30, 2009   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationTo me the song strongly suggests the period of Reconstruction after the American Civil War. The narrator could be a soldier mustered out after the war (from either the North or the South) who is contemplating going home and getting his life back together. He's "listening to the steel rails hum" or he's "sailing on back ready for the long haul." In either case he is going home to his "brand new wife" who seems to have forgotten him and whose tongue will have to be straightened out.

    The term "proletariat" came into wide usage during this period of time when Karl Marx (1818 - 1883) used it to describe a class of citizens who have only their own labor to sell. That's a good description of a workingman. Now, after the war, it's time to put your cruel weapons up on the shelf and get back to work, selling your labor. But as the enemy troops retreated, they burned your barn and they stole your horse so you'll have to live on rice and beans for a while to get back on your feet.

    The line about "peaceful sacred fields" seems to be an allusion to battlegrounds like Gettysburg, of which Abraham Lincoln said, "The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract." The workingman/soldier/veteran knows from experience that "they'll break your horns and slash you with steel" in battle. "I say it, so it must be so," he asserts.

    I interpret this song, with its haunting beauty, as a tribute to those who returned home after the worst conflagration is U.S. history and rolled up their sleeves to work again. Dylan's genius wove this narrative into a love ballad with layer upon layer of profound meaning. I can't get this song out of my head. Thank you, Mr. Dylan.
    banjodogon November 17, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think that Bob is talking about his current life on the Never Ending Tour in this song. He views his never ending tour as just going to work in the morning. It could embody some bit longing for normal life in a life where he is now treated as an icon- a "thing". He has an inescapable wall built between himself, (the icon, the spokesman of a generation, etc...) and everyone else he encounters on a day to day basis. When Bob Dylan speaks, everyone listens. Everything he says is examined at a microscopic level for some pearl of wisdom. He can no longer speak on a human level with anyone that is around him. So Working Man Blues then might be about his reflections on how he views his current life situation and about getting up and doing the day to day work that makes Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan. Its about his life on tour (ie “sleep in the kitchen with my feet in the hall”- telling of life on the tour bus.) But hey, what do i know, i'm just a simple caveman :)
    bobshamnovon February 22, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe best song on Modern Times IMO.
    Statonxybon August 31, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI'm tying to figure out the line: I sleep in the kitchen with my feet in the hall
    Sleep is like a temporary death

    I seem to remember way back in my head that there was some old west/cowboy superstition about sleeping with your feet in the hall. Does that ring a bell with anyone?
    chazcon September 09, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentCan someone please give me some explanations about this song, i love dylans music so much but i'm too dumb too understand most of the lyrics...
    mange87on November 10, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentwhat a song...I cant even begin to describe what it means to me....He sounds like a such a wise man in this song like he's going over his experiences and just humming a tune to them all...he kind of is I guess in a way... he's always been able to be so down to earth...and able to sing to the blue collar, hard working person who fights to survive....this song to me is about the ups and downs of life but you have just got to keep fightin....just a wonderful album in general..he gets better as the years go on..he's always been so mysterious to me..my favorate line is "I sleep in the kitchen with my feet in the hall, sleep is like a temporary death."..simply beautiful.
    stcintownon January 28, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentEasily the best song Dylan has written since Mississippi.
    Jack-of-Heartson February 08, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthe line "I sleep in the kitchen with my feet in the hall" is used in song "They're Red Hot" by blues legend Robert Johnson. Dylan is huge admirerer of Johnson's; his record appears on the cover of "Bringing it all back home". As far as what the literal meaning is, I dont know. Johnson recorded in the 1930's and in context: "I got a woman whose long & tall, she sleeps in the kitchen w/ her feets in the hall" I just thought Dylan threw that in as an nod to Johnson.
    practicepreacheron March 29, 2007   Link

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