John Wesley Harding
Was a friend to the poor
He traveled with a gun in every hand
All along this countryside
He opened a many a door
But he was never known
To hurt an honest man

It was down in Chaynee County
A time they talk about
With his lady by his side
He took a stand
And soon the situation there
Was all but straightened out
For he was always known
To lend a helping hand

All across the telegraph
His name it did resound
But no charge held against him
Could they prove
And there was no man around
Who could track or chain him down
He was never known
To make a foolish move

Lyrics submitted by Cake

John Wesley Harding Lyrics as written by Bob Dylan

Lyrics © BMG Rights Management, Universal Music Publishing Group

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John Wesley Harding song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentAfter the Beatles released SPLHCB and the rest of the musical community was knee-deep in psychedelia Dylan took the polar opposite approach to John Wesley Harding. Clearly by sound alone you can hear the simple American traditionalism it's rooted in, written and recorded in Nashville, Tennessee. But in addition to that, while The Beatles, Byrds and Jefferson Airplane were dealing with the very esoteric aspects of existence and reaching out as far as they could with their thoughts and music, Dylan reared back and examined things in their bare nature from the start.
    John Wesley Harding which is the first track and title of the album groups things together as well as Dylan's previous 'album-starters'.
    Clearly reminiscent of Woody Guthrie's Pretty Boy Floyd, John Wesley Harding is a glorified outlaw whose sins are forgotten and virtues extolled. In this sense it is stylistically and musically a tribute to folk Americana.
    However history would note that John Wesley Harding is a fictal character while John Wesley Hardin was a real man. Is this misspelling intentional? Also history would note that the JWH initials are comprable to the Hebrew moniker for Jehovah. Could this also be intentional?
    Throughout the album Dylan draws on numerous Biblical references dealing with traditional Christian themes. It only makes sense that the album title and first song would serve to encompass this.
    nigelmustaphaon December 24, 2007   Link

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