Doctor, doctor, tell me the time of day
Another bottle's empty
Another penny spent
He turned around and he slowly walked away
They shot him in the back and down he went

Shine your light, move it on, you burn so bright, roll on John
From the Liverpool docks to the red light Hamburg streets
Down in the quarry with the Quarrymen.
Playing to the big crowds Playing to the cheap seats
Another day in your life until your journey’s end
Shine your light, move it on, you burn so bright, roll on John

Sailing through the tradewinds
Bound for the sun
Rags on your back just like any other slave
They tied your hands and they clamped your mouth
Wasn’t no way out of that deep dark cave

Shine your light, move it on, you burn so bright, roll on John
I heard the news today, oh boy
They hauled your ship up on the shore
Now the city’s gone dark
There is no more joy
They tore the heart right out and cut it to the core

Shine your light, move it on, you burn so bright, roll on John
Put on your bags and get ‘em packed.
Leave right now you won’t be far from hine
The sooner you go, the quicker you’ll be back
You’ve been cooped up on an island far too long

Shine your light, move it on, you burn so bright, roll on John
Slow down you’re moving too fast
Come together right now over me
Your bones are weary
You’re about to breathe your last
Lord, you know how hard that it can be

Shine your light, move it on, you burn so bright, roll on John
Roll on John, roll through the rain and snow
Take the righthand road and go where the buffalo roam
They’ll trap you in an ambush before you know
Too late now to sail back home

Shine your light, move it on, you burn so bright, roll on John
Tyger, Tyger burning bright
I pray the lord my soul to keep In the forest of the night
Cover him over and let him sleep
Shine your light, move it on, you burn so bright, roll on John.


Lyrics submitted by ooshnas

Roll On John song meanings
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8 Comments

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  • +3
    Song MeaningIt's clearly a tribute to John Lennon.
    StuartLon September 24, 2012   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThe last verse is a reference the William Blake poem, "Tiger, Tiger." Dylan references his work a lot... such as Little Boy Lost in Visions of Johanna

    "TIGER, tiger, burning bright
    In the forests of the night,
    What immortal hand or eye
    Could frame thy fearful symmetry?"
    nallohon January 03, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis is clearly about John Lennon. He went from Liverpool to Hamburg. There are so many references to Lennon lyrics in it as well as the music referencing the styles of some of the tracks on John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band: "My Mummy's Dead", "Well, Well, Well" and "God".

    From the Liverpool docks to the red light Hamburg streets *biography*
    Down in the quarry with the Quarrymen. *first band*
    Playing to the big crowds Playing to the cheap seats * referencing John's comment to the Queen at the Royal Variety Concert*
    Another day in your life until your journey’s end. *Day in The Life lyric from Sergeant Pepper*
    I heard the news today, oh boy *direct quote from Day in the Life*
    Come together right now over me *quote from Abbey Road song Come Together*
    I've only just realised all of this having looked at the lyrics. Just liked the song when I first heard it. some of it chimed with me today so had to check it out.
    EsmonDoon May 21, 2013   Link
  • +1
    MemoryIt's clear that Bob wrote it about John Lennon. One of the best songs about the Beatles and the absolute best tribute to Beatle Johnny Rebel. Thanks to Dylan for honoring Lennon in a most respectful way. We need more songs of friendship in rock & roll. From One Friend to Another!! Roll On John!-Rock in Peace!!
    rabbitbunnyon January 03, 2014   Link
  • 0
    Song MeaningIt is without a doubt about John Winston Lennon. It's painfully obvious. Sadly John was shot in the back after signing a few autographs in front of his home at the Dakota building in New York. Buffalo, Dakota the land where they roam and the Dakota apartment block outside which Lennon was ambushed and shot. The last verse is a nod to William Blake.
    nelliewilsonon May 05, 2013   Link
  • 0
    My OpinionI can hear this catchy tune again and again. Thanks to EsmonDo for the collection of identifiers for John Lennon. The song is not only a tribute to John Lennon but a wish to have John’s bright light shining on.

    Lennon became a victim of various anonymous actors. They made him a “slave”, “tied your hands and they clamped your mouth”, “tore the heart right out and cut it to the core” and finally “shot him in the back”. Still he shone (and still shines) a bright light, which means that he makes things visible that need attention and correction. He was a provoking actor for peace and sharing. “Imagine no possession”, “All we are saying is give peace a chance.” I understand Dylan’s song as a contribution to keeping Lennon’s message alive.
    Mikeschon July 08, 2013   Link
  • -4
    My InterpretationA series of lives as they are ending. "the sooner you go, the sooner you"ll be back" clearly pertains to re-incarnating from one life as you die to the next life when you come back.
    2bornot2bon September 22, 2012   Link
  • -5
    General Commenthe is singing about John Brown the abolitionist
    zef316on February 13, 2013   Link

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