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Rocky Raccoon

by

The Beatles



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

Paul McCartney got the idea for this when he was playing guitar with John Lennon and Donovan Leitch at the Maharishi's camp in India. The Beatles went there in 1968 to study transcendental meditation.
Beatles producer George Martin played the piano in an old-west saloon style. Several Beatles songs feature piano parts, which were usually played by either Martin, Lennon, Nicky Hopkins or Billy Preston.
The main character was originally called Rocky Sassoon but McCartney changed it to Raccoon, as he thought the name was more cowboyish.
Like many of McCartney's songs at the time, this was a pastiche, in this instance of Folk songs. He explained in Mojo magazine October 2008: "I've got to admit a lot of my stuff is pastiche. I'd learned by then that pastiche would work because inevitably behind it would be something more."
McCartney told Mojo about the song: "Rocky was me writing (speaks-sings in a baccy-chewing old prospector voice), 'It was way back in the hills of Dakota-or Arkansas-in the mining days. And it was tough, picking shovels, and we were underground 24 hours a day…' I could have taken this serious route, researched it- Take This Hammer (a prison work song recorded by British skiffle star Lonnie Donegan in 1959), stuff I'd been brought up on. But at that point I was a little tongue-in cheek. So I crossed it with a (British singer and banjo player popular in the 1940s) George Formby sensibility, where John and I would go (sings a bit of doggerel in a choppy rhythm)- Stanley Holloway, Albert in The Lion's Den (the comic poem The Lion and Albert, written by Holloway's creative partner Marriott Edgar in 1932). We were very versed in all that stuff (sings opening lines of Rocky Raccoon in the same choppy way). The scanning of the poetical stanza always interested me. Somehow this little story unfolded itself. I was basically spoofing 'the folk-singer.' And it included Gideon's Bible, which I've seen in every hotel I've ever been in. You open the drawer and there it is! Who's this guy Gideon! I still don't know to this day who the heck he is. I'm sure he's a very well-meaning guy. Rocky Raccoon was a freewheeling thing, the fun of mixing a folky ramble with Albert In The Lion's Den with its ''orse's 'ead 'andle,' ha ha."
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Comments (93):

I wouldn't call this tune a spoof of Dylan, despite the harmonica. That was period a feel. The song kinda reminds me of the old 1920's Tex Ritter silent fims.
- Jim, West Palm Beach, FL
Dylan has lived in South Dakota too. If Dylan is Rocky then who is McGill/Lil/Nancy and Daniel ... is it the Beatles? weird
- Joydeep, London, United Kingdom
Gideon distributing bibles, dylan has been said to have ... er, how can i say ... 'ripped off', 'distributed' or been inspired by ... the bible for some of his songs lyrics ... so is Rocky Dylan? and Gideon checked out and helped with his revival?
- Joydeep, London, United Kingdom
Pffttt.. Imagine was released in 71 .. one thing i hate more than ignorant people is ignorant people who "assume" theyre not
- David, London, United Kingdom
Sorry, John was murdered in 1980:)
- Steven, Bundaberg, Australia
Alright this comment is at the German, Roy Bremen.
Genius, The song was written in 1968. Lennon died in 70. Unless Johnny could predict the future.. that would be SWEET, but I doubt he can.. it just doesn't add up! Unless, unless Johnny was conspiring to kill Lennon.. But I call b.s. on myself already, so no one else can! =]

This is a amazing, awesome, great, fun song!
- Blah, Farmer City, IL
The Gold Rush in the Black Hills of (South) Dakota pretty much ended in 1877. Gideons Intl. didn't start putting bibles in hotel rooms until 1908 (Montana)... so I think we can safely say that everything in the song refers to something. What I don't know.
- Surrealweb, La Mesa, CA
My favorite part is "Now the doctor came in,stinking of gin" I just like the way Paul sings that part.This is one of my favorite songs from White Album.
- Jema, South Portland, ME
This song is great. I do love the old western type in this song.
- Tony, Arcadia, IN
To Kevin, Riverside, CA: Strangely heartbreaking, yes. While I think what others say about a silly spoof on folk music is true, I also think this song is about his loss of a relationship with John Lennon to Yoko Ono. Yoko was his rival, but Paul was shot down time and again. He knew, that despite this and the pain it was causing Paul, he would have to revive himself and find a new path of creativity. Yoko made her first in studio appearance during the recording of this album, and it really caused great emotional upheaval for the whole band, especially Paul.
- Erin, Schenectady, NY
I've always been curious if this song was somehow inspired by Robert Service's poem "The Shooting of Dan McGrew" which was published in 1907 in Canada. If you have not read the poem check it out- there are many similarities.
- eric, Tucson, AZ
Technically there's several Beatles songs that lie right on the border of Country and Rock. John described the Beatles For Sale album as their Country/Western record. Honey Don't, Matchbox, What Goes On, Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby, I Don't Want to Spoil the Party, Words of Love, and I Call Your Name (some of those are other albums as well) all could be called country, but were closer to the rock sound the Beatles used.
- Nikolai, Los Angeles, CA
My stepdad's favorite line in any song is "Her name was Magill, and she called herself Lil, but everyone knew her as Nancy."
- Cassi, Kokomo, IN
The Gideons were a group of businessmen who were used to traveling for business meetings and crusaded to get a bible in every hotel room
- Ben, Alma Center, WI
to me listening to the song for the first time in a few years the ending made perfect sense even if it was not the intended meaning. Rocky found the bible the first time in his room, then after his fight he found it again and realized how pointless and stupid his quarrel was after reading it, and he took it with him and it changed his life.
- kyle, st. augustine, FL
the following is a reply to the second post by the person from Nephets, Tuscaloosa, AL: the fact that the girl has three names is a hint the girl's occupation as a prostitute.
"her name was McGill, but the called herself Lill, and everyone knew her as Nancy." Her true name is McGiill, according to the narration, but for whatever reason she calls herself Lill (childhood resentment to parents, etc). Next, "everyone knew her as Nancy". The word "knew" may be interpreted as the act of intercourse, as reference from the Bible, which is a chronicly apprearing prop in the story. the word "everyone" refers to all her clients: hoards and hoards of men who want to "know" "Nancy".
- Luis, Atlanta, GA
Running an animal trapping company in Naples, Florida, I get to hear people's comments now and again when we get a raccoon. More than one person started SINGING Rocky Raccoon after we got the critter!

Ken, NeighborHelp Referrals Affordable Trapping (239-465-9291) -- and yes, we humanely relocate all the Rocky's we get!
- Kenneth, Naples, FL
Rocky dies. His revival is a rebirth into the afterlife.

The doctor, being drunk, couldn't help him. Rocky says," Ill be better, Ill be better doc as soon as I am able".

The stutter suggests a struggle to talk due to his wound, contradicting Rocky's claim that it "was just a scratch".

Rocky fell into his room, dying. He once again saw a Gideon's Bible which he uses to help usher his soul to the bla bla bla, you know the routine.

It's funny that McCartney and Lennon chose to regard Gideon as an individual saying that he "checked out". Gideons of course being an organization dedicated to distributing copies of the Bible. I smile to think that they would look at a Gideon's Bible and consider,"Who is Gideon?"

People call this a joke song. I disagree. There is a seriously ominous chord progression and a sad story of a tragic figure.

Rocky who after losing the three named girl(which suggests she had many faces) he fancied, goes to take the legs of his rival. Important to point out that Rocky doesn't want to kill this man.

Daniel, I wager, is a dick. He took Rocky's girl and he knew he was doing it because he was ready for Rocky. And he didn't shoot to wound Rocky, he shot to kill him. And he did.
- Nephets, Tuscaloosa, AL
personally, I think this was just a joke. A good song, but still a joke.
- nick, cincinnati, OH
To the dude or chick who said Paul says "Sorry Rocky, but you suck" that is so wrong he says "The Story of rocky there"
- Emily, Newcastle, Australia
My literal interpretation of the Gideons bible reference was that even though finding Gideons bible didn't change Rocky's mind about shooting his rival - Dan, Danny boy or Daniel - but he took the bible with him. When he was shot it hit the bible, which saved Rocky's life. When Rocky got back to the room he noticed the bullet hit the bible and helped with Rocky's revival. Daniel probably thought Rocky was dead in the corner and his revival is play on religious revivals.
- Tom, Crestline, CA
ummm to the comment 2 comments below me. lol. what about Act Naturally? That one was meant to sound country lol. i honestly don't think this song is too country >.< i think... like the comment below me, its just the beatles. lol. they had their own style.
- Kelly, Liverpool, United Kingdom
I dont think this song should be considered country. it was The Beatles genious and they knew it would be a great song! So its not country its The Beatles.
- Sarah, Newport, NC
Ah! I keep commenting. I just remebered this other Beatles song that sounds country. It's "Act Naturally."
It's funny because of the other songs I mentioned in my last comment are 2 from the hite Album, and the other 2 are from Help!
- Rosario, Naples, FL
BTW this is one of 3 Beatles songs that sound almost country-ish. The other to are "I've Just Seen a Face" and "Don't pass Me By." All good songs in my opinion, even though I hate counry music.
- Rosario, Naples, FL
"Her name was Magil and she called herself Lil,
But everyone knew her as Nancy."
I don't know how many times I've heard this song (to many to count) but that makes me laugh every time.
- Rosario, Naples, FL
I totally agree with dan, metuchen, NJ....Paul wrote Rocky Racoon as a spoof of Dylan's long-winded ballads.
- Kittsma, Eugene, WA
this song gets bashed a lot, but it is a great, fun, unserious song. whats wrong with that?
- David, Reno, NV
I first heard this song about a hundred years ago when I was a young man. I believe it was written like a lot of good songs; for fun, not as an excuse to begin college courses on the deeper meaning of life's more existential questions a la Beatles lyrics. I doubt it was written as an excuse for future generations to discuss Charlie Manson, hidden meanings, religious philosophy, the color purple of why Gideons put their Bibles in hotel rooms.
I've always known that Buck Owens song 'Act Naturally' was written as a hidden tribute to Jewish author, Bernard Malamud in honor of his baseball novel 'The Natural' which later was turned into a movie starring Robert Redford who once dated a girl named Nancy who was a Beatles Fan and who also once saw Donovan Leitch in concert in a foreign country.
Charlie Manson may or may not have been involved and if you say Buck Owens backwards real fast twelve times it sounds like a drunk slurring the phrase 'throw up, throw up, throw up.' The Beatles may have even thrown up once and that's probably Buck's tribute to them.'
Maybe not. That's just my two cents worth.
- looloo, Yale, OK
This song is awsome when i heard it it quickly became a favorite
- Kris, Wichita, KS
Neil Innis wrote "Doubleback Alley" for the 1978 movie, "The Rutles", which was a great parody of the Beatles. Doubleback Alley is a fine takeoff of "Penny Lane," and is played as the credits roll at the end of the movie.

Innis borrowed some lyrics from "Rocky Raccoon "for "Doubleback Alley", specifically, the lines, "...grinning a grin..." and "...stinking of gin..", both of which appear in the last verse of the Rutles song.
- Steve, Arnol, MD
How funny that Roy, Bremen, Germany mentions the comparison of Lennon's Death to Rocky Raccoon. Just to freshen your curiousity of him dying in the corner, he did collapse in the corner of the security guards office after the shots. But despite this strange coinsidence and many others mentioned, this is a wonderful song as mall others they have sung, try not too look too much into it and just enjoy it.
- Marsha, San Diego, CA
Magil isn't the only one to have three names, Daniel is called Dan, Danny and Daniel."Now she and her man who called himself Dan"=he calls himself Dan, "He (Rocky) said: Danny boy this is a showdown!"= known as Danny. Then the storyteller (presumably using his real name) calls him Daniel.

So: his name was Daniel, he called himself Dan but everyone knew him as Danny
- erla, seltjarnarnes, Iceland
Very cool song! The Anthology 3 version is hilarious! Paul sings "sminking of gin" accidently which makes me crack up every time! "He was really sminking of gin!" Silly Paul!
- Meredith, Wauwatosa, WI
Does anyone remember 1966, and an attempt by the Gideon Bible group to add their bit to all the protest hoopla swirling around John Lennon's, "the Beatles are more popular than Jesus Christ" interview statement? It appears the Gideons made two attempts. One was to place dozens of their bibles in Beatle hotel rooms during the 1966 Beatle concert tour. The second attempt was to put their bibles on every seat of the airliner taking them home at the end of the tour. Supposedly Paul even had people checking the hotel rooms. Two years later Paul writes Rocky Raccoon and just happens to mention Gideons Bible twice? Coincidence maybe, until you start putting all the "Rocky" lyrics into a 1966 context and suddenly Paul's carefully crafted, hidden message becomes crystal clear. At least for me it did. Anyone interested in a completely decoded version of "Rocky" give me a jingle.
Lonnie....Foresthill, Ca.
- Lonnie, Foresthill, CA
Great song. I think its funny how Migill has like 3 names. wich are;
Migill lil and Nancy. Ha
- Bianca Sanchez, Alburquerque, NM
The last thing said by Paul is
Sorry Rocky,,But you suck.
Listen carefully and you will head it!
- Nick, Scarsdale, United States
Maybe i analyze way to much but one thing that always sort of stuck out to me about this song is "Gideon's bible." It is mentioned a couple times in the song and it just seems kind of random whenever it comes up. Is "Gideon's bible" symbolic? Also does Rocky live or die? I always thought he died but everyone tells me that he lived.
- mikko, Chicago, IL
Craig, Rocky got knocked out. the the doctor comes and says "Rocky you've met your match." and Rocky says "Doc its only a scratch." soooooooooo he lived and was humileated and probabley can be foound in a lonley saloon tippin back a few.... some.......a lot.........of cold ones and probabley passed out.
- Bianca Sanchez, Alburquerque, NM
As much as I love this song, I HATE when any Beatles song is covered. Its never as good. Although I like James Blunt and Jack Johnson, both their versions of Rocky Raccoon suck hard
- Smitty, Calgary, Canada
you people look way to far into things. it's a good song shouldn't that be enough? not everything has to have a deep and suttel meaning.
- Renee, Canberra, Australia
Holy Cow Roy! Your Right!
- Willam, La Mirada, CA
wow conrad thats a cool story. we live really close! i live down the freeway leading to los angeles
- Willam, La Mirada, CA
Has it ever occurred to anyone listening to the first line of "Rocky Raccoon", "Somewhere in the black mountain hills of Dakota", that after dark on the 8th of December 1980 John Lennon was shot and killed in front of the Dakota Apartments, across the street from the hills of Central Park. I don't know if John "collapsed in the corner", but there are some eerie similarities between the lyrics and the killing of John.
- roy, Bremen, Germany
- Roy, Bremen, Germany
Alot of people who fashion themselves as "Beatles experts" are reading entirely too much in the song, and are certaintly reading into more than even Paul himself. Just watching a few interviews with Paul McCartney will reveal that he is certainly an artist that can make an obscure song like "Helter Skelter", but mainly his songs have a more straight forward message and readily identifiable style and meaning, despite the former sometimes being "borrowed", as in this song. He can delve into obscure or vague lyrics a la John Lennon, but rarely ever to the extent of, say, a song like "Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey", which would initially confuse any listener. With that being said, "Rocky Raccoon" is a simple tale in the Western style, and just a good old song that anyone could play around the campfire. It's almost a fable of sorts. There are no sweeping social commentaries in "Rocky Raccoon", Rocky wasn't meant to represent some deep message on masculinity or some nonsense like that. "Rocky Raccoon" is simply an excellently written "tale" written by McCartney in another genre's style, something that no one can do better than him. The song was not set in "Deadwood" or any of that; this is evident in the fact that on The Beatles Anthology 3, one of the preliminary demo versions of this song has McCartney doing an alternate intro in which he said, "a young boy from Minnesota" in a very exaggerated country accent, which would help support the idea that it was a play on Dylan's style. In any case, I think us Beatles nuts need to calm down with looking too deeply in some of the songs, specifically the straightforward Paul classics like this one, or we'll drive ourselves crazy.
- Spence, Washington, DC
If you think Rocky Raccoon is the Beatles doing country/western you need to take a listen to the B side of their Capital Records 45rpm featuring Yesterday. It's a song called "Act Naturally", and was written by none other than Buck Owens and sung by Ringo.
Lonnie...Foresthill, Ca....USA
- Lonnie, Foresthill, CA
Hey Hatman...........That is Paul singing, and not Ringo. Ringo never had that kind of voice control, or inflection abilities.
Lonnie....Foresthill
- Lonnie, Foresthill, CA
O MY GOD! this song is my least played on my 25 top played. this was my wedding song, along with "why don't we do it in the road". I listened to it everyday until my wife devorced me, so.... it didnt work out.

also i think that it would be a better song if paul sang it instead of ringo, he sounds too mean for this song!!!! does anybody agree?
- hatman, Madison, IA
This has been covered by both Phish and Jack Johnson
- Jeff, Chicago, IL
No one seems to realize that Paul hid a commentary on Lennon's 1966 "the beatles are more popular than Jesus" quote in the lyrics. Keys to the code lie in historical context, and terms, such as "Gideon's bible". Virtually every word of the song can be decoded and placed in context to show exactly what Paul was saying. I have decoded the whole song if anyone is interested.
- Lonnie, Foresthill, CA
A friend of mine who is huge beatles trivia nut told me that Paul was sitting around with Donovan and some other people and asked them if they wanted to hear a Bob Dylan song and they said sure and sang Rocky Raccon as a joke.
- Andrew, Indianapolis, IN
"Rocky Raccoon" is the closest to a country song that John, Paul, George and Ringo ever came.
- Darrell, Eugene, United States
one of the best beatles songs and my dad is totally ubsessed with it, its not cool
- alexis, Berkeley, CA
just a great song...thats all
- rocky racoon, woburn, MA
when i was 2 i got a stuffed raccoon as a gift. i immediately named him rocky.
- amaliah, orlando, FL
um yea it's obviously not ringo if you have what they call ears.
- Buzz, Towntown, MI
Is that Paul or Ringo singing lead on this?
- Fremont, Concord, NH
I LOVE THIS SONG,

It's so catchy and has an awesome harmonica part
:-)
- Karl, Midland, MI
The setting for the song is Deadwood, in the "black mining hills of Dakota" circa late 1870's-1880's. Deadwood had lots of shady characters inhabiting it during the original gold rush of that era, just like the ones described in the song.
- Dan, Fairmont, MN
Can everyone stop talking about Charles Manson already. I love the beatles and don't really want really want to relate them to him.
- Mary, Virginia Beach, VA
I believe this is number 2 on my iTunes "top 25 most played" list.
- Linus, Hamilton, ON, Canada
played over 1000 times in Sheridan dorm room at Mount Saint Mary's College (MD) in 96'
- Pepper, Virginia Beach, VA
jimi, you're wrong about pink being wrong. helter skelter was just one of several songs on the white album to influence charles manson. rocky raccoon was another. he believed by "rocky raccoon" they meant "coon" (a derogatory term for a black person). read his interview with rolling stone and you'll see.
- steve, Norwich, United States
This is not about animals at all! I feel disgruntled! And to answer Craig, I think Rocky was just injured but still has good spirits. You guys give this song to little credit.
- Johnny, Los Angeles, CA
There is a version of this song on the beatles Anthology 3 that was supposed to be the final take but Paul messes up on the last verse singing " The doctor came in, sminking of gin"
- John, Woburn, MA
My group of friends always sings this together. It's a fun Beatles song.
- Linus, Hamilton, ON, Canada
"what's with the bible?
- Mauricio, Hanford, CA"

To you question..Gideon's bible says things like "if you're sad, turn to page __ and read this verse..." its supposed to make you feel better about you problems no matter what mood you're in..hence the bible is in his room...because the song is meant to make fun of americans and how [then] the "wild west" was all fighting and we're all so trigger happy, the bible intended to show how americans cant use any method to solve our problems other than fighting..
- Sarah, Branford, CT
wrong about manson -- that was helter skelter that you are thinking about
- jimi, Lapeer, MI
There was an episode of "CSI" dealing with people who liked to dress up in animal costumes and have sex. The victim was dressed in a racoon suit. The victim's "pet" name? Rocky Raccoon. I kept playing the song over and over in my head during the entire episode.
- Patrick, Tallapoosa, GA
what's with the bible?
- Mauricio, Hanford, CA
just heard it on the iTunes web radio. freakin' awesome. the tune makes you happy, and the lyrics are funny as hell.
- Petter, Ã?ngelholm, Sweden
Well paroidied by the Firesign Theatre on "How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You're Not Anywhere at All".
- yduR, Knoxville, TN
okay.... lol. I just like the part "do do do do do do do do dooo, do do do do do do do do dooo, do do do do do do dooo do..." e.t.c., you get the point! What a great song! Novelty, but not cheasy and done well! Good job!
- Mandy, Calgary, Canada
This has also been covered by Jack Johnson before his concert was due to start because people had turned up early for his show
- Edan, Melbourne, Australia
Richie Havens of Woodstock fame playe this song in the 70s, and a version appears on his "On Stage" LP (1972)
- Barry, New York, NC
"Gideon checked out, and left it no doubt, to aid in good Rocky's revival"..a sarcastic little comment about the failure of organised spirituality to temper any of the sins in the song: drinking, violence, cheating. Doesn't matter if Rocky lives or dies, it's the lame juxtopistion of Gideon's Bible (free in everyroom)in a sleazy, rough hotel. Symbolic of the loss of religious fervour/respect in the 60s. I don't think the song (as with most Beatles songs) was intended to comment on a context..Instead, they tend to make fun of it. Lyrically, the Beatles were a bunch of smart-asses. They could get a point through, without preaching, made fun of it instead.

Another example: "Happiness is a warm gun..."

You can take the boy out of Manchester, but you can't take Manchester out of the boy. : )
- token, Sydney, Australia
just another song by paul, that you can sing an enjoy, an very eays to play on guitar
- adam, rochester, NY
Isn't Rocky Raccoon a "Help prevent foristfires" guy? lol
- Nick, Solvang, CA
My best friends name is lili but her parents call her migil and her friends call her lil. I suggested I call her nancy. She wasn't pleased with the idea. :)
- Laura, Santa Fe, NM
I love this song. My mom isnt a big beatles fan but she loves this song cause her name is nancy.
- Niki, Chicago, IL
Charles Manson interpreted this song as a prediction of a race war between black and whites. The song, in his perception, means that when the war begins, the whites will be winning and will nearly destroy the blacks. However, the blacks will come back and win the war. Charles Manson told his followers that when the war was over, the blacks would need people to govern and make decisions for them. Manson convinced his followers that in order to get the war started within their lifetimes, they'd have to do it themselves. They murdered a movie star and her friends and wrote messages on the walls, making it look like blacks committed the murders. They also left the wallet and driver's license of a local black man at the scene of the crime. See what interpretation can do to you?
- Pink, Hazlet, NJ
When asked if he wrothe this song, John said "Do you actually think I'd write about Gideon's Bible and all of that other stuff?"
- Ken, Louisville, KY
Is Rocky killed, or does he just get wounded and humiliated?
- craig, madison, WI
The Gideon Society is a group that has been putting Bibles in hotel and motel rooms.
- Alan, City, MI
for a spoof/silly song...it remains, strangely heartbreaking
- Kevin, Riverside, CA
There was a Marvel comics character named Rocket Raccoon. Maybe it inspired by this song, I don't know.
- Paulo, New York, NY
Flip Wilson acted out the part of Rocky as Andy Williams sang the song on a variety show in the late sixties.
- Charles, Charlotte, NC
Just wanted to mention that this holds particular fascination for me, as I am from the "black ming hills of dakota".
- don, rapid city, SD
In the song, Rocky finds a copy of the Bible in his room placed by a man named Gideon. In a lot of public waiting rooms like doctor's offices, in hotel rooms, etc. you might find a copy of the Bible with the name "The Gideons" engraved towards the bottom of the fron cover. In some cases, it's the whole Book; in other cases, it might just be the New Testament.
- Patrick, Conyers, GA
Funny Story, my mom met Donovan and George Harrison backstage at a concert when she was just 14...

Later that summer, they recorded this song with Donovan helping out with the lyrics, Rocky's girlfriends name is Nancy, which ironically, is my mom's name

So you never know...
- Conrad, Los Angeles, CA
A backwards cover version of this song titled " Racoon Rocky" was done by Vernman and the Namnrev. It consisted of the entire song being played backwards. WAY TO GO VERNO!!
- jonathan, saratoga sorings, NY
tope thinks this is the best acoustic song by the beatles
- weinerditz de groin, berlin, Germany
As many of the White Album's songs are spoofs, this was a spoof of Bob Dylan.
- dan, metuchen, NJ
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