Pod Dylan #68 – In The Summertime

POD DYLAN

Episode 68 – In The Summertime

Now that summer is officially here, Rob flies solo to talk about one of his all-time favorite Dylan songs, “In The Summertime”, from 1981’s SHOT OF LOVE.

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3 responses to “Pod Dylan #68 – In The Summertime

  1. WOW! I think I requested this song in a comment a while back and this certainly didn’t disappoint – this was probably my favourite Pod Dylan episode yet!

    I really appreciated your decision to go solo on this one. I totally concur with the idea that a Bob song can suddenly take on a new meaning given life’s current circumstances – so many buried treasures await!

    I have been listening to In The Summertime ever since a can remember (it was released in the year I was born) and it only really hit home to me recently when I was listening to it while on summer break (Australian time). It’s an incredibly deep song, and rather than signifying a move away from any ‘religious phase’ I think that its a fond recollection of the early days of faith, what the Bible calls our “first love.”

    Thanks “Freewheelin” for this inspirational episode and thanks Bob for another great song.

    Can’t wait for the next episode.

    1. Thanks for commenting Jonathan! Sorry if I forgot you put this song on a list/comment. I’m getting better at keeping that stuff organized!

      I’m glad you liked the show, it felt weird doing a “solo” (in Dylan-esque fashion, I recorded the whole episode twice, and nearly threw the whole thing out), but in the end I’m glad I did it and people seemed to enjoy it. Sometime I need to cover that weird-o version of “Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking” where Bob literally talks about his recording studio.

  2. Hey there, Rob! Very late to the party here, but just got done listening to this episode last week o4r so and it stuck with me. One of the things I really love about Pod Dylan is how no matter what, I always hear things I’ve never heard before, appreciate a Bob song, not to mention Bob’s amazing talents, more, and enjoy someone else’s take on something that like this song is for you, speaks particularly to whoever happens to listen to it.

    I really appreciated your point that this song seems somewhat like a song about the transition away from overtly Christian themes for Dylan, after his previous two relative barn-burners of “Slow Train” and “Saved.”

    Hopefully nothing I say here will dim the appreciation you have for this song from your particular angle, man. Relationships and songs go together like memories and aromas. Something about the memory is acutely associated with a particular smell or aroma, like old books and musty rooms full of wood and leather.

    Anyway, I just wanted to make some observations about how Dylan, on “Shot of Love,” was definitely still strongly reflecting his recent immersion in God and Christian imagery, no less so than on “In the Summertime.” Let me elaborate.

    If you look at Christian theology, especially in St. Paul’s epistles, the relationship of the People of God (the Church, inclusive of all God’s People from Adam to the present day) to God is repeatedly depicted as a husband to his wife. You see this in the Tanakh, for example in Isaac and Rebekah, and particularly in books like the Prophet Hosea, a stand-in for God. Hosea is told to marry a prostitute as a vivid lesson to Israel that Israel is as Hosea’s wayward wife, Gomer. And you see this trope repeated in the New Testament. In Paul’s letter to the Church at Ephesus, he describes marriage as a “mystery,” but one that reveals truths about Christ (the husband) and the Church (His bride) [Ephesians 5:32]

    Dylan uses this them a couple of times on “Shot of Love,” here in this song, and to great effect on “The Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar.” But in the present song, he seems to be using a metaphor of a summertime romance. Young love is ardent, and deeply affecting. It may go nowhere at the moment, but whoever has experienced this sort of relationship has tasted a bit of the anguish of a relationship that may have never gotten off the ground entirely. But while it was in bloom, man, it was incredible! You may have ended up marrying someone else, or being with someone else, but something about that first love always sticks with you. All subsequent relationships, even deep, long marriages, will be somewhat colored by that brief interlude. There’s almost always some quality that you were seeking in another person that attracts you to whoever you ultimately end up with, even if it’s a succession of lovers.

    Going through Dylan’s lyrics for “In the Summertime,” you can see some real and pretty direct references to both Old and New Testament passages and concepts:

    The first two lines with the rhyming so/know depict a timelessness. The third line about the sun never setting and trees hanging low near the water continue the imagery. If you read St. John’s Revelation, right at the end of the New Testament, where he’s depicting his vision of the throne of God:

    Revelation 21:23 & 25 – “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp…On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.”

    Revelation 22:1-3, & 5 – “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations…here will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light.”

    The “hid/rid” rhyme lines, and the final line of that first verse treat themes that you can see in “Property of Jesus,” where he’s clearly talking about the reaction of a lot of his fans and even close friends and associates about his embrace of faith, let alone Christianity. These lines about respect and doing/not doing things and “keeping it [his faith?] hid seem pretty clear responses to the sort of reactions he was getting from the beginning of this who ‘phase.’

    In the “I got the heart and you got the blood,” you can note that a heart doesn’t work without blood (and blood is sort of pointless without a heart, too). And, this sort of reminds me of the Hebrew book of Leviticus, where, in describing the prohibition of ‘eating blood,’ that this is because “the life is in the blood.” (Leviticus 17:11).

    I really appreciated your pointing out the rhyme schemes in this song. It helps to see that structure at work. In the case of the blood/mud/flood business, I think the iron and mud line is sort of typical Bob looking for a rhyme, although maybe someone else may see some imagery of war or something like that in that line.

    But the reference to “the warnin’ that came before the flood” is a direct reference to the Hebrew patriarch depicted in Genesis, Noah, but very specifically as spoken about in the New Testament book of Hebrews, in Chapter 11, where it says:

    “By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.”

    The “set everybody free” seems a pretty direct reference to Jesus’ words to his Jewish disciples, from John 8:31-32, where is says:

    “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.””

    The “fools, they make a mock of sin,” is pretty much straight out of the Jewish Writings, in Proverbs:

    “Fools mock at making amends for sin,
    but goodwill is found among the upright.”

    “But you were closer to me than my next of kin,” is another direct reference to the Jewish Proverbs:

    “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,
    but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” -Proverbs 18:24

    “Poverty and shame was theirs” also is another direct rephrasing of the Hebrew book of Proverbs:

    “Whoever disregards discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored.”

    “But all that sufferin’ was not to be compared with the glory that is to be,” is another direct reference, this time to the New Testament letter of St. Paul to the Church at Rome. In Romans Chapter 8, Paul is writing to a church that has never met him, but that is under severe persecution, and he intends in this great chapter to encourage the fledgling church to persevere, despite intense suffering. Here’s the reference Dylan is lifting very closely:

    “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

    You’re not wrong to hold this song closely, especially these final words, about still carrying the gift you gave, cherishing the memory and experiences, and that it will always be a part of you. I think that’s certainly what Dylan is getting at here, and so eloquently in these lines.

    Our experiences in this world don’t necessarily pass from us ever. They shape us and mold us. And in many real ways, the longing and loss and pain we feel is what C.S. Lewis describes as sorts of clues to another world:

    “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” -C.S. Lewis

    So that metaphor that is Dylan’s chorus for this song, “In the summertime, ah in the summertime, in the summertime, when you were with me,” is, in my thinking, his way of describing this longing, and almost nostalgia, hoping for “glory that is to be,” one day.

    You can still see the song as sort of a transitional song, but it’s one that seems to be as much (perhaps even more so) about persevering in hope, as it is in putting hope away and moving on.

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