Pod Dylan #235 – Tombstone Blues

Rob welcomes fellow BobCat Dereck Daschke to discuss "Tombstone Blues" from 1965's HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED.

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One response to “Pod Dylan #235 – Tombstone Blues

  1. Hi, Rob! Just a note to say how much I enjoyed this episode. Seems unbelievable that this song hadn’t been covered on Pod Dylan this far into it, but it was worth the wait!

    Ok, it’s more than a note “just to say” that…but it’s a good thing.

    You and Dereck were right there in the neighborhood when you got to discussing the lines,

    “Now I wish I could give Brother Bill his great thrill

    I would set him in chains at the top of the hill

    Then send out for some pillars and Cecil B. DeMille

    He could die happily ever after…”

    It seems a clear reference to Samson. The story of Samson, from the Book of Judges, is one of those bible stories that gets a lot of attention, partly because the narrative is so entertaining. It would have been familiar to a young Bob Dylan, as it’s from the Hebrew scriptures, of course, being an “Old Testament” tale, and certainly, as you and Dereck mention, was popularized by the likes of the “Sword and Sandal” genre of movie spectacles. Samson is one of the most interesting of the judges. The story ends with a blinded Samson chained to the pillars of the Philistine temple. Since being imprisoned and blinded, his hair had begun to grow again…Here’s the coda of the story of Samson, starting at Judges Chapter 16, verse 23…

    “Judges 16:23–31

    The Death of Samson

    [23] Now the lords of the Philistines gathered to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to rejoice, and they said, “Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hand.” [24] And when the people saw him, they praised their god. For they said, “Our god has given our enemy into our hand, the ravager of our country, who has killed many of us.” [25] And when their hearts were merry, they said, “Call Samson, that he may entertain us.” So they called Samson out of the prison, and he entertained them. They made him stand between the pillars. [26] And Samson said to the young man who held him by the hand, “Let me feel the pillars on which the house rests, that I may lean against them.” [27] Now the house was full of men and women. All the lords of the Philistines were there, and on the roof there were about 3,000 men and women, who looked on while Samson entertained.

    [28] Then Samson called to the LORD and said, “O Lord GOD, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.” [29] And Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and he leaned his weight against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other. [30] And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life. [31] Then his brothers and all his family came down and took him and brought him up and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father. He had judged Israel twenty years.”

    Anyway, I think it’s a safe bet this story was rattling around in Bob’s head when he penned that line about calling for some pillars and Cecil B. DeMille. Certainly, the references to DeMille and dying “happily ever after” match the general cultural tone, even to the present day, about these old bible stories. There is a “just-so” story quality to most of the stories of the Judges (Check out the Godfather-level gruesomeness of the story of Ehud, the left-handed judge, in Chapter 3:12-30).

    “See you on the radio, Rob!”

    (Brother) Bill

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