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
Movin' on
You burned so bright
Roll on, John

From the Liverpool docks to the red-light Hamburg streets
Down in the quarry with the Quarry men
Playing to the big crowds, playing to the cheap seats
Another day in the life on your way to your journey's end

Shine your light
Movin' on
You burned so bright
Roll on, John

Sailin' through the trade winds bound for the south
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
Movin' on
You burned so bright
Roll on, John

I heard the news today, oh boy
They hauled your ship up on the shore
Now the city gone dark, there is no more joy
They tore the heart right out and cut him to the core

Shine your light
Movin' on
You burned so bright
Roll on, John

Put on your bags and get 'em packed
Leave right now, you won't be far from wrong
The sooner you go the quicker you'll be back
You've been cooped up on an island far too long

Shine your light
Movin' on
You burned so bright
Roll on, John

Slow down you're moving way 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
Movin' on
You burned so bright
Roll on, John

Roll on, John, roll through the rain and snow
Take the right-hand 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
Movin' on
You burned so bright
Roll on, John

Tyger, tyger burning bright
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
In the forests of the night
Cover 'em over and let him sleep

Shine your light
Movin' on
You burned so bright
Roll on, John


Lyrics submitted by ooshnas

Roll on John Lyrics as written by BOB DYLAN TRADITIONAL

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

Roll On John song meanings
Add Your Thoughts

9 Comments

sort form View by:
  • +2
    Song Meaning

    It's clearly a tribute to John Lennon.

    StuartLon September 24, 2012   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    The 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 Comment

    This 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
  • 0
    Song Meaning

    It 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 Opinion

    I 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
  • 0
    Memory

    It'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
    General Comment

    It could be about JJ Cale. His last album was called "Roll On". Also, his full name was John Weldon Cale

    Waymore0005on June 24, 2018   Link
  • -2
    My Interpretation

    A 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 23, 2012   Link
  • -6
    General Comment

    he is singing about John Brown the abolitionist

    zef316on February 13, 2013   Link

Add your thoughts

Log in now to tell us what you think this song means.

Don’t have an account? Create an account with SongMeanings to post comments, submit lyrics, and more. It’s super easy, we promise!

More Featured Meanings

Album art
Step
Ministry
Both as a standalone and as part of the DSOTS album, you can take this lyric as read. As a matter of public record, Jourgensen's drug intake was legendary even in the 1980s. By the late 90s, in his own words, he was grappling with massive addiction issues and had lost almost everything: friends, spouse, money and had nearly died more than once. "Dark Side of the Spoon" is a both funny & sad title for an album made by a musical genius who was losing the plot; and this song is a message to his fans & friends saying he knows it. It's painful to listen to so I'm glad the "Keith Richards of industrial metals" wised up and cleaned up. Well done sir.
Album art
Techno Ted
Audioslave
Techno Ted may be a person who caused Chris incredible emotional pain & trepidation as well as moments of peace & happiness but now is removed and awaiting his fate. Darling may be a different person who is also free of him and can live her life free of Ted's tyranny. "In between all the laughing, and daydreams ... lies: a desert of truth" Lies are like a desert or the omission of Truth: Where there were Lies then Truth was absent. The song, "Techno Ted", may be a cathartic celebration of the downfall of this person.
Album art
Fortnight
Taylor Swift
The song 'Fortnight' by Taylor Swift and Post Malone tells a story about strong feelings, complicated relationships, and secret wishes. It talks about love, betrayal, and wanting someone who doesn't feel the same. The word 'fortnight' shows short-lived happiness and guilty pleasures, leading to sadness. It shows how messy relationships can be and the results of hiding emotions. “I was supposed to be sent away / But they forgot to come and get me,” she kickstarts the song in the first verse with lines suggesting an admission to a hospital for people with mental illnesses. She goes in the verse admitting her lover is the reason why she is like this. In the chorus, she sings about their time in love and reflects on how he has now settled with someone else. “I took the miracle move-on drug, the effects were temporary / And I love you, it’s ruining my life,” on the second verse she details her struggles to forget about him and the negative effects of her failure. “Thought of callin’ ya, but you won’t pick up / ‘Nother fortnight lost in America,” Post Malone sings in the outro.
Album art
Standing On The Edge Of Summer
Thursday
In regards to the meaning of this song: Before a live performance on the EP Five Stories Falling, Geoff states “It’s about the last time I went to visit my grandmother in Columbus, and I saw that she was dying and it was the last time I was going to see her. It is about realizing how young you are, but how quickly you can go.” That’s the thing about Geoff and his sublime poetry, you think it’s about one thing, but really it’s about something entirely different. But the lyrics are still universal and omnipresent, ubiquitous, even. So relatable. That’s one thing I love about this band. I also love their live performances, raw energy and Geoff’s beautiful, imperfectly perfect vocals. His voice soothes my aching soul.
Album art
The Night We Met
Lord Huron
This is a hauntingly beautiful song about introspection, specifically about looking back at a relationship that started bad and ended so poorly, that the narrator wants to go back to the very beginning and tell himself to not even travel down that road. I believe that the relationship started poorly because of the lines: "Take me back to the night we met:When the night was full of terrors: And your eyes were filled with tears: When you had not touched me yet" So, the first night was not a great start, but the narrator pursued the relationship and eventually both overcame the rough start to fall in love with each other: "I had all and then most of you" Like many relationships that turn sour, it was not a quick decline, but a gradual one where the narrator and their partner fall out of love and gradually grow apart "Some and now none of you" Losing someone who was once everything in your world, who you could confide in, tell your secrets to, share all the most intimate parts of your life, to being strangers with that person is probably one of the most painful experiences a person can go through. So Painful, the narrator wants to go back in time and tell himself to not even pursue the relationship. This was the perfect song for "13 Reasons Why"