Oh, God said to Abraham, "Kill me a son"
Abe said, "Man, you must be puttin' me on"
God said, "No" Abe say, "What?"
God say, "You can do what you want, Abe, but
The next time you see me comin', you better run"
Well, Abe said, "Where d'you want this killin' done?"
God said, "Out on Highway 61"

Well, Georgia Sam, he had a bloody nose
Welfare department, they wouldn't give him no clothes
He asked poor Howard, "Where can I go?"
Howard said, "There's only one place I know"
Sam said, "Tell me quick, man, I got to run"
Oh, Howard just pointed with his gun
And said, "That way, down Highway 61"

Well, Mack the Finger said to Louie the King
"I got forty red-white-and-blue shoestrings
And a thousand telephones that don't ring
Do you know where I can get rid of these things?"
And Louie the King said, "Let me think for a minute, son"
Then he said, "Yes, I think it can be easily done
Just take everything down to Highway 61"

Now, the fifth daughter on the twelfth night
Told the first father that things weren't right
"My complexion," she says, "is much too white"
He said, "Come here and step into the light"
He said, "Hmm, you're right, let me tell the second mother this has been done"
But the second mother was with the seventh son
And they were both out on Highway 61

Now, the roving gambler he was very bored
Trying to create a next world war
He found a promoter who nearly fell off the floor
He said, "I never engaged in this kind of thing before
But yes, I think it can be very easily done
We'll just put some bleachers out in the sun
And have it on Highway 61"

Lyrics submitted by mjanosko

"Highway 61 Revisited" as written by Bob Dylan

Lyrics © BMG Rights Management

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Highway 61 Revisited song meanings
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  • +4
    General CommentHighway 61 is the thread, the road that leads through all the drama of man, from Abraham and Issac, through the eventual commercialism of everything including nuclear war. This is Dylan at his best.
    mindfull51on May 14, 2013   Link
  • +4
    General CommentThe song is a panorama of human history in the manner of medieval paintings showing the past present and future, which often used the symbol of a road, for example Breughel's "Hay Wain". Dylan also connects it to his own history and American musical history for those in the know, as his father was Abraham and Highway 61 is the road that runs from Dylan's home state of Minnesota down to the deep south where much of his music comes from. Highway 61 is the land outside quotidien society where man encounters God as in the sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham - our "father in faith" and the father of Israel and thus an appropriate place wherefrom to start the story. Mack the Finger, Louis the King and "forty red white and blue shoe strings" seem to suggest the French and American revolutions which were in large part against traditional religion. "The first father" and "the second mother" suggest Adam and Eve. The "roving gambler" to me always suggests Satan, as in the Book of Job, "From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it". Thus, again as in medieval allegory, the stage is set for a climactic confrontation ("a next world war") with Satan at the end of the world.
    BlindBoyGrunton January 14, 2014   Link
  • +2
    General CommentWell, I'll get involved here because this is indeed a great song. I believe Highway 61 runs through the countryside where Bob Dylan grew up.

    I think it's no coincidence that this song and 'Desolation Row' are on the same album - both about places you can go to escape your troubles one way or another. Highway 61 is the more upbeat: no matter who you are, or what you need to do, you can go out to Highway 61 to take care of things. Desolation Row, on the other hand, is where you go when there's no hope left (maybe?).

    Apparently the whistle was borrowed from one of Dylan's crew during the recording sessions...
    caitsith01on December 19, 2004   Link
  • +2
    General CommentJust a note, the 'incestous family' is actually a blues reference. The Seventh Son is blues term for a folklore concept, and was a staple of blues musicians in the 40's and 50's. Both Howlin' Wolf and Leadbelly (whom Dylan got the talking blues from, by way of Woody Guthrie) had recorded versions of this song.
    prozacrefugeeon November 12, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Commenti just can't help but notice that the first verse is a story from genesis and the last depicts the potential end of the world...both out on highway 61!! is dylan trying to say something? i haven't really figured it out, i was just bringing it up
    ZinbobDanon February 14, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI'm from Minnesota and lived about 6 blocks off of Hwy 61 so I have always loved this song.

    Bob Dylan was never very fond of his Minnesota background. He even told people early in his career that he was from New York. So I have always taken Hwy 61 to mean that it is a road that will take him anywhere but where he is from. He desperately wanted to get out of Minnesota and the means to get to this huge, mysterious world is just to get on Hwy 61 and go.

    All of stanzas are talking about huge events such as God talking to Abraham and none of them happen where they are now, they happen "down on Hwy 61" which is leading away from where Dylan grew up.

    Just a thought. Seeing what others think.
    Randlefanon April 04, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI remember being thrilled when I first heard the verse: God say, "You can do what you want Abe, but the next time you see me comin' you better run". Seems to sum up the vengeful god portrayed in the Old Testament. Maybe it was at that moment that I became a Dylan fan.
    tomconway53on April 15, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General Commentfor the last verse im pretty sure this is what bob's talking about

    He Compares a politician to a gambler who starts wars purely out of boredom. The politician finds someone who agrees with him and will support this war. The politician really isnt sure what to do, but thinks it will be very easy to start this war. The bleachers in the sun line makes this whole verse. The politician thinks war can be marketed by having people probably pay to watch it like a "sport". Bob is talking how politicians think war is just a game or a show that they could market to people to watch.
    jerrygon May 08, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General Commenti pretty much skimmed through all this so i don't know if this has already been said, but i'm thinking it's just a cesspool pretty much. every time someone's down on highway 61 they're taking part in something shady or perverted or both, it just kind of seems like he's making a little joke of it. i know it's a golden highway of opportunity and all, and it has history and stuff, but maybe this is just one aspect of it, it's a road where anything goes, and apparently a lot of dirty shit happens along the way.
    twee!on December 05, 2008   Link
  • +1
    Song MeaningBuilding on what mindful51 and Randlefan have said:

    1) On a figurative basis, Highway 61 is just a road that connects the story arc of the lyrics, which range from Abraham and Isaac all the way to politicians gambling on nuclear way.

    2) On a literal basis, Highway 61 takes you from Dylan's birthplace in the Iron Range of northern Minnesota all the way down to New Orleans. It follows the Mississippi River and heads through Memphis... earning its name of the Blues Highway.

    So we have a blues song here with some great symbolism... Dylan at or near his best.
    rzwillingon June 10, 2013   Link

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