“Black rider, black rider, all dressed in black / I’m walking away, you try to make me look back.” Prepare to have your mind blown! Just reading the lyrics from “Black Rider” it’s very dark and enigmatic; an unsettling vibe. The lyrics by the iconic Bob Dylan are absolutely incredible throughout the course of his highlight from his 39th studio album, Rough and Rowdy Ways. Furthermore, the sound and production of the record, though more minimal and modest, is gorgeous and fitting. The real question is, what specifically is Mr. Dylan referencing and atoning for? Honestly, it’s open to interpretation on this haunting number. There seems to be atonement for numerous sins, particularly given the Biblical references. Additionally, mortality seems to cross his mind. Blackness and death are often associated, and the minor key only amplifies the eerie vibes.
Decoding the lyrics is always the fun part of many Bob Dylan songs. In this case, “Black Rider” has no shortage of lyrics that reference a variety of things or are subject to interpretation. The aforementioned lyrics reference the past, likely including the Biblical tale of Lot’s Wife, who ‘looked back’ though instructed not to, and was ultimately, turned into a pillar of salt. Later, within the same verse, Dylan seems to criticize the Black rider for ‘adultery’, asserting, “Go home to your wife, stop visiting mine / One of these days I’ll forget to be kind.” That said, part of the interpretation depends on who you think the black rider actually is…
References to various sins, connected Biblically, as well as varied literary references, are characteristic to the songwriting genius of Dylan. “The size of your cock will get you nowhere” admonishes cockiness (no pun intended) and narcissism to some to degree, while also linking to mythology. There’s also the matter of mortality, where “Black rider, black rider, you’ve been on the job too long.” Determining who or what the black rider is can further shape how you interpret one of the most thought-provoking selections of 2020.
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About The Curator - Brent Faulkner
Slightly eccentric with interests that seem to know no ends, restless ‘Renaissance Man’ is the best way to characterize Brent Faulkner, a native of Kentucky. A certified music educator, multi-instrumentalist, and composer known for his incredibly sharp ear, he lives and breathes music of a variety of styles. In addition to passion for educating, performing, and writing music, he’s equally passionate blogging and writing about it, managing his own site, The Musical Hype (https://themusicalhype.com). When he’s not intensely analyzing music, you can find him reading or watching a movie, reality television or some sporting event.