Idiot Wind

Album: Blood On The Tracks (1975)
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  • "Idiot Wind" boasts some of Dylan's most malicious lyrics:

    I can't feel you anymore
    I can't even touch the books you've read
    Every time I crawl past your door
    I been wishin' I was somebody else instead

    This song was written in the summer of 1974, when Bob was separating from his then-wife, Sara. Although Dylan has reportedly since denied this song is about his former wife, Bob and Sara's son, Jakob, claims this, and many other songs on Blood on the Tracks, are "his parents talking."
  • On one level, this is another of Dylan's angry songs of moral condemnation, in the same category as "Positively 4th Street" or "Masters Of War." This time, however, the song is more reflective, as the narrator turns the dissecting knife on himself in the final verse, with the lines:

    And I'll never know the same about you
    Your holiness or your kind of love
    And it makes me feel so sorry

    By the final chorus, the "you" has become "we":

    We're idiots, babe
    It's a wonder we can even feed ourselves

    This lyrical twist elevates the song, causing it to transcend a work of condemnatory catharsis and become a song about the universality of human foolishness.
  • Dylan re-recorded this in Minnesota while visiting his brother, David. Local musicians were brought in to play with Dylan, while David helped out with production. Dylan liked the results and decided to redo four other songs on the album, including "Tangled Up In Blue."

    Of the songs Dylan reworked, this one changed the most. Dylan gave it different lyrics and a faster pace than the version he first recorded in New York.
  • Paul Williams has written that Norman Raeben suggested the word "idiot" to Dylan during an art class in 1974. Raeben's widow later said Norman felt there was "an idiot wind blowing and blinding all human existence," and that "idiot" was one of his favorite words.
  • Dylan denied that this or any other song on Blood On The Tracks was about his divorce. "That was a song I wanted to make as a painting," he said. "A lot of people thought that song, that album Blood On The Tracks, pertained to me. Because it seemed to at the time. It didn't pertain to me. It was just a concept of putting in images that defy time - yesterday, today, and tomorrow."
  • The musicians who played on this were not credited on the album because the packaging had already been printed with the musicians from the New York sessions getting the credit.
  • The line, "From the Grand Coulee Dam to The Capitol" indicates the length of the United States. The Grand Coulee Dam is in Washington State, The Capitol is on the other side of the country in Washington, D.C. The line is also a nod to Woody Guthrie, who wrote a song called "Grand Coulee Dam."
  • Dylan performed "Idiot Wind" on May 23, 1976, at Hughes Stadium in Fort Collins, Colorado. The performance is remembered for its angry, almost boisterous delivery. Sara Dylan was reportedly front row at the concert, prompting fans to believe this is why Dylan sang it with such snarling ferocity. The recording of the Fort Collins concert can be found on the live album, Hard Rain.
  • Blood On The Tracks was the first album Dylan recorded under his new contract with Columbia Records, which paid him a lot more than his old one. Dylan left Columbia a year earlier to sign with David Geffen's label, Asylum Records.
  • Ellen Bernstein was Dylan's girlfriend after his divorce from Sarah Lownds. She said that Dylan worked and reworked the lyrics to the song constantly.
  • Hardcore Dylan fans generally consider "Idiot Wind" to be one of his masterpieces, on par with "Like a Rolling Stone," "Desolation Row," "Blind Willie McTell," and a handful of others.
  • An acoustic version recorded in New York and sung with more sorrow than anger was released on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3. Glenn Berger, author of Never Say No to a Rock Star, says that after recording it, Dylan asked, "Was it sincere enough?"
  • Dylan has stated that "Idiot Wind" is about the expression of willpower. He told Jonathan Cott, "With strength of will you can do anything. With willpower you can determine your destiny."
  • The song is full of Biblical imagery, some obvious and some less so. The "lone soldier on the cross" is a conspicuous reference to crucifixion, and the priest wearing "black on the seventh day" is self-explanatory.

    "What's good is bad, what's bad is good," meanwhile, is possibly a reference to Isiah 5:20: "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter."

    This isn't really that much of a stretch, considering Dylan's penchant for using the Bible in his songs.
  • Blood on the Tracks assistant engineer Glenn Berger recalled Dylan's recording of the track to Uncut magazine:

    "He's cutting 'Idiot Wind' and just spitting this mean, angry and hurtful song, and it's so incredibly intense and vulnerable and real. And then he turns to us in the control room and says, 'Was that sincere enough?' I think it was such an intense emotion that he had to make some distance from it, by making that funny remark."
  • Hootie & the Blowfish lifted some lines from this song ("Said I shot a man named Gray, took his wife to Italy...") verbatim in their 1994 hit "Only Wanna Be With You." They are huge Dylan fans and did it in tribute, but Dylan took legal action and received a settlement.
  • This song was a huge influence on Sinead O'Connor. She told Entertainment Weekly in 2021: "Bob Dylan gave me permission to be angry because of his song 'Idiot Wind.' None of us would like to be the person he's talking to [in the song]. That's why I love Bob Dylan. He's utterly honest. He can be real f--king nasty."

Comments: 27

  • Po from NashvilleThere are a lot of Tarot cards hidden in this song if you know where to listen.
  • Bill from SyracuseOn "Idiot Wind", Dylan in a moment of disparagement mentions "Chestnut Mare", a song on the Byrds "Untitled" album. And in another unrelated Dylan tune "You ain't goin' nowhere", a verse seems to condemn Byrds band leader Roger McGuinn. And so I wonder if Dylan's apparent angst and considerable disgust on "Idiot Wind" is directed at McGuinn.
  • Rob from BostonSaw this live "75" or maybe 76. No doubt he is really pissed at his wife. But watching him snarl at me (it felt personal) I began to think its also an answer to the 9 questions he posed in "Blowing in the Wind." By 75, Dylan was an adult superstar. In 62 he was just an idealistic Kid.
    In the intervening 12 years not only did Dylan age an mature, but a whole lot of bad stuff went down. 74 was Watergate, and I believe the "ceremony" referred to in IDIOT is the Nixon resignation or maybe the 2nd inauguration. Another hint is that in the NYC bootleg, the line is "Grand Coulee Dam to the Mardi Gras" but in album its "Grand Coulee Dam to the CAPITOL . I think Dylan pissed off at his wife, but also the loss of the idealism of the early sixties, and he was tired of being treated as God. He was also being humble; if we really believed he was God , we were all idiots. Another clue; more simple. The juxtiposition of the two words "Wind Blowing" canat be a coincidence. Dylan is just too aware of his word choice.
    AM I NUtS?
  • Erik from Bloomfield Hills, MiDylan sings this with such intense passion and emotions; Hootie sang it like it was a jingle for orange juice.
  • Christine from Underhill, VtGun to my head, I would pick the Bootleg Series version of this song as my favorite Dylan song. Distilled to one verse, the verse not on the album: "We pushed each other a little too far, and one day it just turned into a ranging storm..." Distilled into one moment: "Oh, I figured I'd lost you anyway, why go on, what's the use?" The squeak in "What's the use?"

    BTW the version on The Bootleg Series Vol 1-3 is different than the New York version a friend gave to me, and I don't know where he got that version. There isn't that same kind of squeak in "What's the use" so it falls short of perfection.
  • Lee from Birmingham, Ali think this is one of bob dylans best songs, ive heard it a million times, blood on the tracks might be dylans best record..i first heard it on my dads record player.then i bought it on CD, its a long song but it doesnt seem that long when u listen to it..
  • Brad from A City, KyI prefer the New York Sessions version, but the album version is angrier and fits the lyrics better.
  • Tom from Sacramento, Ca***** intelligent, provocative brilliance. Blood on the Tracks defines Dylan as a poetic master. idiot wind is truly a gem but all the songs on the LP are strong . The album is his best by far .The music is beautifully arranged with vivid lyrics that evoke the listeners own emotions and experiences
  • Johua from Sydney, Australiathis song is another stroke of genius on behalf of dylan cant say im surprised
  • Christy from Morristown, TnThere is so much rage in this one song and that is what makes it brilliant!
  • Samuel from Singapore, SingaporeA line in this song, "You'll find out when you reach the top that you're on the bottom," inspired the title for U2's 1987 song, "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." During the late 80s, Dylan was a major influence and close associate of U2 as they explored American roots genres.
  • Pedro from Santiago, ChileI think that this song talks about all the kind of different stories that were printed on the press about Dylan, which later transformed into rumours or gossip about him, spreading like the wind. This wind spreads faster than Dylan himself, allowing people to "know him" just by what this wind tells them. That s why people "see him all the time and cant remember how to act"..."their minds filled with distorted facts"
    it gets to the point where even Dylan s wife doubts him beacuse of this idiot wind: "Even you, yesterday you had to ask me where it was at,
    I couldn't believe after all these years, you didn't know me better than that
    Sweet lady."
  • Mark B. Stoned from Desperate Hot Springs, CaCan anyone tell me what other songs are referenced in that Hootie song?
  • Peter from Portsmouth, United KingdomMy 21 year old daughter played this to me thinking I would never have heard it before; she was wrong there but we had a great few hours playing it over and over. To me this is Dylan's best song but I heard it first when i was a teenager and had feelings bigger than my spots; now i'm old and cynical but it still gets me, forces me to think and helps remove the need to beat the boss to death
  • Henry from Baltimore, MdIf you're ever mad at someone, listen to this song.
  • Victoria from BÃ?rum, Norwaya 100% right from the heart song. Truly genius.
  • Richard from St. Clair Shores, MiThis has got to be the all time best breaking up song. I should know as I have been breaking up with the same woman for the past year. I love the last line: "WE ARE IDIOTS BABE ITS A WONDER WE CAN EVEN FEED OURSELVES". I listen to this song on the way to work every morning (about 8 minute trip)at full vol. What a wake-up. I really wouldn't to piss Bob Dylan off.
    Years ago there was always a lot of speculation as to what he (Dylan) meant in his songs, listen to the words and you don't have to speculate, I think its pretty clear................rc
  • John from Worcester, MaTo me this song has SO many catchphrases that ring true and can be trotted out to help during tough times in a relationship, or if your trying to get over a breakup - "I haven't known peace and quiet for so long I can't remember what it's like" or "It was gravity which pulled us down and destiny which broke us apart" or "I can't feel you anymore, I can't even touch the books you've read Every time I crawl past your door, I been wishing I was somebody else instead". But the best line in the whole song, another great by the master Dylan, is "You'll never know the hurt I suffered not the pain I raise above "
  • Happy from In The Boonies, InThis is my ultimate favorite song to listen to when I'm mad and need to vent.
  • David from Decatur, GaThe band to which you refer was Dillon Fence, from Chapel Hill, NC. On the way to Myrtle Beach from I-95 in South Carolina there is a town called Dillon with a big fence festooned with all sorts of pop/salvage detritus. This band named themselves after that fence.
  • Tom from Lawrence, KsActually, the "put on a little Dylan, sitting on a fence" line is an homage to Dylan Fence, another South Carolina bar band that did the circuit with Hootie.

    Always thought it was a bit odd for Dylan to sue the Blowfish. Considering all the uproar about his Blood and Theft lyrics being lifted from a Japanese novel, the direct lift of Proust and Twain in Chronicles, et al.

    The line twixt plagiarism and inspiration really depends on whether your the inspired or the inspiration, doesn't it?

    That said, Bob's still a genius. And Idiot Wind may be the greatest pissed-off song of all time. The sneer in his voice when he says "boxcar" alone is enough to let you know how ticked he was.

  • Stainer from Nyc, Nyanger and disgust are very similar. my top angry Dylan tune.
  • Rodney from Charleston, WvI can't believe there aren't more comments on this song. This is a song that means different things to different people, to some it displays anger, to others it may it may be about disgust. I just play it loud.
  • Rodney from Dunbar, WvThe live version rocks on the "Hard Rain" album.
  • Ralph from Middletown, NyDylan was incredible at being able to take a personal emotion/idea/concept and make it universal. I think all art is about that. "Positively 4th Street" is another song that is a good example of this.

    The New York version of this song is slower and longer. In fact, the New York sessions seemed to have a more dour mood over it, I guess for some obvious reasons. When he went to Minnesota later, after listening to the album, he decided to re-record it, to "pep" it up a bit, it seems to me.

    Years ago, after I heard both versions of this album (constructing a copy of it myself to represent the NY sessions), I decided-- no, I felt compelled-- to write an essay about my thoughts on the differences between the NY and Minnesota sessions for "Blood On the Tracks". That is how much of an effect this album had on me.

    There are only five other albums that have been just as thought-provoking: Lou Reed's "Berlin", "Magic and Loss", and "Songs For Drella", Todd Rundgren's "A Wizard, A True Star", and Joni Mitchell's "Hejira".
  • Dan from Lee, NhThis is what Dylan's all about pure bitterness and pure from the heart poeticness. There's nothing like it.
  • Matthew from New York, NyDylan sued Hootie and the Blowfish for extensively quoting this song in their hit "I Only Want to Be With You." The prefaced the quote by singing "Put on a little Dylan, sitting on a fense..." and ended it with "Ain't Bobby so cool," just to make sure you knew they were quoting Dylan. Unfortunately, they never received Dylan's permission first. The suit settled out of court.
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