According to Rolling Stone magazine, this song is about all the naysayers and plastic people Dylan encountered during his time in Greenwich Village (when he lived on West 4th street) and his stint on fraternity row at the University of Minnesota (located on 4th Street in Minneapolis). The song deals with the jealousy he encountered from people in the artistic community who resented his success.
Ken from Philadelphia, PaIf Bob had confronted that target of his ire and merely yelled these words at him (or her) rather than sang them, it would not sound the least bit stilted, and that is an amazing thing. Think about it. Try to come up with another song... about anything let alone one that conveys this much emotion, anger and disgust... with which you could do that. Yeah, maybe, if spoken-word, you might think he was belaboring the point a bit by the end, but we’d be saying that without knowing exactly who and why Bob is angry. If we knew the whole story, i suspect that we’d wonder why he didn’t add a few more verses about what a drag it is to see this person.
David Debin from Santa Barbara, CaFor me, this song is about my personal regrets. The "You" in "You got a lot of nerve..." Is the younger me, tho one who took the wrong cues and made the wrong turns. It's painful but it's real.
Tom from UsaHey Ray Callihan who once lived in Wilton Manors Florida... THIS SONG'S FOR YOU BUD! Every time I hear it I think about the friendship we had - how many times I 'caught' you when life hit you with a pile of crap, and then how you betrayed me by taking my girlfriend... I hear she took you for everything you had... good. Still, not enough. Rot in hell you self centered pile of crap... (and for those reading this, that took place back in the 80's... yeah, I hold a grudge for a long, long time!)
Jennifur Sun from RamonaI'm not a huge fan of Bob's but some of the lyrics I could dedicate to kids I went to high school with.
Cathi from GeorgiaJohnny Rivers has an awesome version of this song....it is my favorite
Dennis from OregonOk here's why this song Is brilliant. I agree with all the people that say that Dylan wrote this song about a person that he absolutely despised in a very deep deep way. He wrote it so that this person will know till the day that he / she dies that this song is about him / her. The real beauty of the song? If I ever wanted to really let someone have it... I mean really really let someone know how I feel that I absolutely cannot stand, and there is no way to find the words to explain to this person how I really feel..... All I have to do is say "Positively 4th street".
If they know all about the song and know what it means, then you have expressed how you feel adequately. If they don't know what it means and have to look it up? Can you imagine what's going through their mind while the lyrics of this song unfold right in front of them? As they read it over and over and come to the realization that someone feels this way about them? That's the genius. This song translates / transcends all races of people through all of time. It's not about love, it's about the opposite of love - hate. Which is just as powerful as love, just a very negative emotion with raw power. I am not a hater, and I have never done this. I hope there never comes a time, but if that time comes, I'll pull this weapon out of my arsenal and use it accordingly.
Emil from Budapest, Czech RepublicI don't think this song says screw you at all. It's about how hard it is to take the high road when you have to break up with a friend or group. Clearly Dylan feels this friend is toxic: he thinks the friend has a "lot of nerve" for just standing around when Dylan needed a friend, "talking behind my back", and being jealous ("you know as well as me you'd rather see me paralyzed") and petty ("You just want to be on the side that's winnin'")), etc. But Dylan wants to repair the relationship. But the problem is he knows it won't make a difference. The friend is a total poser and just pretends like everything is ok: "You see me on the street, you always act surprised; Ya say 'how are you'", "good luck", but ya don't mean it." What the friend needs to do is tell Dylan to his face what his grievances are. but the friend "tries to hide what he don't know to begin with", i.e. the grievances. So Dylan knows he'd be a fool to make a contact with this person. Particularly since the person's grievances are unfair and petty. The problems really don't have to do with Dylan but with the friend being "dissatisfied with your position and your place", which really isn't Dylan's "problem". But Dylan is still sympathetic, he does not "feel good when he sees the heartbreaks his friend embraces". He'd even like to fix the problems. But he knows he can't; he'd have to be a master thief to "rob" the friend of his negative thoughts. That's why it's such a "drag" to see this "friend". The friend is just not reasonable. Of course, if you see yourself in this song, then it might feel like a giant middle finger being pointed at you. And that's the genius of the song.
Steve from Whittier, CaThe perfect song for all artists (including Bob Dylan himself) to sing to Justin Bieber.
Jeff from Mountain View, CaAs far as the allegations that Farina was Dylan's target in the song discussed here, I find that to be highly questionable since Dylan attended Farina's burial in the Monterey cemetery in 1966. I think the song is generic in its attack. It's all about the phoniness of so-called friendships when someone succeeds. I often go to Farina's gravesite to sit and read or write or even nap in the sunshine. Nobody will get to do that with Dylan's grave as he's made it very clear there will be no grave for people to make pilgrimages to.
Bradley from Westminster, CaPositively Fourth Street was recorded July 29, 1965. The infamous Newport Folk Festival in which Dylan went electric was on the day of July 25, 1965. Enough said.
Tom from Norwalk, CtWho this song is about, if in fact it is about a single person, will likely never be answered since BD has certainly nothing to gain by doing so. What I can add to the stew is what I believe true, simply because it was still a hot topic when I moved to the Village a few years later and became acquainted with folks who were around at the time of, and previous to, the writing of the song. Although some thought it was Izzy Young , at the time the likeliest candidate to most people was the owner of the shop on West 4TH Street called the Music Inn, which Dylan often frequented during his early years in New York. I will not mention his name because I would consider that an invasion of privacy but certainly it is researchable info if one is curious.
Rob from Pittsburgh, PaBob Dylan has written some really terrific songs, and he has also written some really lousy ones. I have decided, however, that even if he were to write 100 bad songs in a row, I would forgive him every one of them because in my own humble (yet conceited) opinion, "Positively 4th Street" might be the single greatest song I've ever heard. It's a brilliant artistic achievement on so many levels. It's such a short and simple song -- just verses, no choruses, and no bridge, and yet makes such an impact. There's a remarkably ironic synergy between the lyrics and the music. My brother turned me on to this song, and I remarked to him about this that the music is so happy on the one hand -- the opening organ riff sounds like a march played in a parade on a sunny day, and yet the lyrics are just so, "you can just go get bent!" sort of lyrics. My brother totally agreed about the brilliant effect of setting such harsh words to such a happy tune. Dylan's singing really works well on this track; he really nails the melody and the emotion. Maybe only Carly Simon's "You're So Vain" rivals it in terms of combining such brilliant melodic writing with such brilliantly biting lyrics. I've heard some really excellent cover versions of this song. Simply Red did such a good job with it that if I didn't know any better, I might have thought it was Dylan himself. Not all covers are equally successful, however; I found Brian Ferry's interpretation unsatisfying.
James from Mon Mottawa, On" i wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes, and just for that one moment i could be you. Yes i wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes, youd know what a drag it is to see you"
Possibly my favourite line of all time. Unbelievable image of someone standing in your shoes not to see what life is like but to see how much they hate you
Ken from Philadelphia, PaI always assumed it was just about some random lover from his early days, but, upon further research, it sure seems like Richard Farina was at least the main target. To the uninitiated, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez had a relationship for a time during the early 60s folk movement BEFORE Bob Dylan was... well... BOB DYLAN. At the same time, Joan's sister, Mimi was dating and later married Richard Farina so, for a time, the four of them spent a great deal of time together making music and just being part of the scene.
Richard Farina was later killed in a motorcycle accident that some (at least the most conspiracy minded among us) seem to think was under questionable circumstances. If memory serves, he was at a party and asked to take somebody's motorcycle on a quick test drive and immediately bought it.
Susan from Toronto, CanadaLucinda Williams (who covered this song) told ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE that she related to this song because it's about a friend who stayed a nobody who hates the friend who got rich and famous. Lucinda said a friend told her "I wish you hadn't gotten famous." And Lucinda disdained her for it. But what if Lucinda (or Dylan) had ended up the failed friend? Successful people often make the reckless assumption that if THEY had failed they wouldn't be bitter about it. Which is garbage.
Steve from Vancouver, Bc@Nicole, you've got it wrong: Positively 4th Street came out FIRST, and Morgan the Pirate was written in reply. Although Dylan has never said who his song was about, Richard Farina never made any bones about the object of his scorn. Despite what Rolling Stone said, this song is probably about Farina or possibly his wife Mimi or her sister Joan Baez, all of whom hung out together with Dylan until he got more famous than all of them. We'll never know all the ins and outs, but as far as I've been able to find out, these are the bare-bone facts of both songs.
Guy from Woodinville, WaOMG, what an amazing song! Dylan is SO good at being bitter! How can you listen to this song without singing the words out loud in a cathartic scream? "Why dont you just come out one time and scream it!" "You'd know what a drag it is to see you!" I am not a negative person and I just don't have thoughts like this, so this song is REALLY refreshing for me. Turn it up!!
Christy from Morristown, TnOut of all of the songs by Dylan, this is my favorite. The best example of why one should never piss Dylan off!
Nick from Seattle, Albaniathis 100% describes how i feel about someone right now, that if i were to say these lyrics to them they would even know it was a dylan song. thats how great he was! he was a connector to the people! yeah!
Oldpink from New Castle, InI never really LISTENED to Dylan until I heard this sarcastic thumb to the eye piece some years back. It is so simple musically, and Dylan's trademark nasal tone is at first unpleasant. Then, you realize that his tone only makes it better, when the words come through so clearly. Anger, betrayal, rebuke, and one of the best closing verbal slaps in music history. Does it even matter which person this was written about? I say it was written for all the backstabbers of the world.
Bob from Southfield, MiI've heard that this song was about Suzy Rotolo's sister. Suzy was Dylan's girlfriend and is pictured with him on the cover of "A Freewheelin' Bob Dylan". According to one of the biographies that I've read about him, He and Suzy's sister did not get along well and he wrote this song about her.
Nicole from Massapequa, NyHere are the lyrics to Richard Farina's MORGAN THE PIRATE...you can easily understand Dylan's rage in his POSITIVELY 4TH ST retort: MORGAN THE PIRATE
Well OK buddy, have to thank you for the ride, don't know how I would have made it without you. Had to push when you got busted, had to help you get adjusted, had to pick up pieces after you'd been through.
But you had to have assistance in confirming your existence and establishing resistance to the one or two hard feelings one or two hard feelings one or two hard feelings left behind.
It's all right brother, have to thank you for the fun. Don't know how I'd ever find my way alone. There were other friends around you; there were some who claimed they found you, and a few who helped construct your favorite throne.
But you saw your queen and raised her; in the process you amazed her, and if I may paraphrase her, there are one or two hard feelings one or two hard feelings one or two hard feelings left behind.
So sit tight, daddy, let me say it's been a groove; Don't know how I climbed this ladder by myself. Just because it's kinda broke, it [or "crooked"?] doesn't mean you'd overlook it or expect me up above you, giving help.
After all the lights were blinking in the headlines of your thinking while your open eye was winking at the one or two hard feelings, one or two hard feelings, one or two hard feelings left behind.
Well, so long, mother, let me say it's been a ball, and as long as you're still climbing, I'll resign. You have been an inspiration to your or image's creation so I think I'll step outside and pass the time.
You have finished your debuting, and you're ready for renewing, and there's no time for undoing all the one or two hard feelings one or two hard feelings one or two hard feelings left behind.
It's bye-bye, buddy, have to say it once again, I appreciate your velvet helping hand. Even though you never gave it, I am sure you had to save it for the gestures of the friends you understand.
You have gotten even higher and become your own supplier and the number one denier of the one or two hard feelings one or two hard feelings one or two hard feelings left behind.
Alan from London, United KingdomThis song was first released as a single, and as Songfacts says, the first album it was on was Greatest Hits.It's also on Biograph if memory serves.
Niles from Belpre, Ohno one can write lyrics like these 'cept Bob Dylan. love this song
Sam from Lincoln, NeThis is my favorite Bob Dylan song. The lyrics, as well as the manner in Dylan delivers them, are dripping with contempt and defiance. I don't think anyone's given the musical finger to anyone better than Dylan does here. But who is he giving it to?
Jason from State Of Fitz, Njgreat song. the first diss song."you'd rather see me paralyzed"
Rainking from Chicago, IlOne thing I love about this song is how realistic the structure is. Although, albeit, it's a set of lyrics whith rhyme and verse, there's really no refrain. The free-flow structure mirrors how pissed-off he is There's no refrain, nothing nostalgic or sentimental about the lyrics, just poignant venom spewed on his former friends. As Mario Puzo says in Fools Die, it's only the ones you love that can really hurt you.
Erik from Bloomfield Hills, MiEveryone knows someone they'd love to say this stuff to. Great song!
Guy from Wellington, New ZealandNot saying anything new here -- just agreeing with everyone that it's a brilliant expression of what most of us have said, or thought about at least one person in our life, in four letter words.
I've often had this perspective that Dylan is a miserable bugger but I would never deny that this is a truly brilliant expression and probably couldn't have been done by anyone other someone with his peculiarly cynical view of people.
Don't you just wish you could sing this to your worst enemy, if only he would stay still for 4.09mins!
My Dylan favourite too. My all time favourite (All Along the Watchtower) was written by him as well but stunningly transformed by the genius Jimi Hendrix.
Ron from West Palm Beach, MdIt was always my understanding that this song was indeed about Richard Farina -- poet, novelist, folk singer and boyfriend to Joan Baez' sister, Mimi. Though initially friends, I guess Dylan eventually regarded him as somewhat of a backstabber. (I believe Farina was killed in a motorcycle accident in the sixties(?)). Incidentally, when in college, RF had also been a friend/acquaintance to famous recluse novelist Thomas Pynchon. Also, Farina's novel, "Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me" was the inspiration for The Doors' song of the same name.
Kc from Dundee, Il" i wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes, and just for that one moment i could be you. Yes i wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes, youd know what a drag it is to see you"
amzing line... amazing
John Smith from Southington, CtWow this guy is more of a complainer than me!!!
Cool song though
Matt from Pottstown, PaIf you don't want to stay with friends with someboby just have them listen to this song. After a big fight.
Mandy from CalgaryThis is my favourite Bob Dylan song. It's just so great. The lyrics are just so spiteful. It's the perfect way to tell someone you think they're full of rubbish. Or to say "scew you". It's brilliant. Perfect.
Chris from Chicago, IlAwesome song that anyone can relate to!
Steven from Memphis, TnI saw dylan perform this live about 4 weeks ago, anad even 40 years after he first sang it this guy can still make me step back and revel in Awe.... although its difficult to understand everything Dylan says if you arent a fan Its still is a great show
Petter from Ã?ngelholm, Swedenit's an intellectual (and long-stretched) substitute of just folding up your middle finger... I love it!
Joey from Corpus Christi, TxThis is personally one of my all-time favorite bob dylan songs. This guy is just to talented.
Steve from Fenton, MoI had heard that the song was addressing the "folk music" crowd that was criticizing Dylan for going electric.
Marko from Clarence, NyGod, I love this song. Like everyone else said, Dylan does a great job of saying crew you to whoever this song is intended to. We all come across our share of people, like the subject of the song, in our lives.
Calum from Bathgate, ScotlandI think this is a great song. It's probably one of the easiest Dylan songs to relate you, I mean everyone has felt like this. I love the organ part too!
Barry from New York, NyThe Byrds did a nice version of this in 1970, one version eventually emerged on the album (UNTITLED) as a live cut. Jerry Garcia Band also performed this nicely.
Dan from Lee, NhOh sorry, but wasn't it on the "Essential Bob Dylan" or are they the same thing.
Robin from London, EnglandActually Greatest Hits was the first album it was on. It was released as a single/45 with Buick 6 as a B-side before that.
Dan from Lee, NhThe album obviously wasn't "Greatest hits Songfacts please change the album!!
Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScKeith: you hit the nail on the head. This song contains some of the best "Screw you" lines ever.
Keith from Front Royal, VaTaylor, you might want to check your source on that one. "Positively 4th Street" was released two years after "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away". Anyway, this si my favorite Dylan song. No one has ever said F-You in such a clever way.
Caspar from Goes, NetherlandsActually, this song was written as a reply to Richard FariÃ±a's song "Morgan The Pirate", which was a (rather nasty) attack on Dylan, according to even FariÃ±a himself.
David from Oakland, TnMy favorite Dylan tune. He describes human nature perfectly. Good bookend to John Lennon's song "GOD"
Taylor from Austin, TxGood song. I've heard this was one of John Lennon's favorites and inspired him to write songs like "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away".
Anastasia from Anaheim, Cathis is probably one of my favourite of dylan's songs. *dylan has always reclined to say exactly who the song is about,because he says that they know who they are (who the song's about). therefore, i don't think we'll ever know...