Celebrate Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan With His 15 Most Poetic Lyrics

Bob Dylan in 1965
 H. Thompson/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Bob Dylan photographed on April 28, 1965. 

Ever since he entered the national consciousness as the "voice of his generation" in the '60s, Bob Dylan has been hailed as a poet. Unlike most other galvanizing figures in pop culture, even his detractors acknowledge the beauty of his lyricism. After all, some variation on "he's a great writer, but I can't stand his voice" has been repeated like a mantra by non-fans for decades now.

But if there were any lingering doubt that Dylan's work rises above the realm of rock/pop songwriting and into the rarified atmosphere of poetry that rewards academic discourse, that should be put to rest with news that Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature this year -- making him the first American to claim that honor since Toni Morrison in 1993.

Bob Dylan Wins Nobel Prize in Literature

To celebrate his Nobel win, we're looking back on some of the most beautiful lyrics (or stanzas, if you wanna get fancy) from his 50-plus-year career. From his early days as a politically minded folk singer to his development into a master of surrealist imagery to his reemergence as a highly personal (yet deeply universal) meditator on love and loss in the '70s, these are Bob Dylan's 15 most beautiful lyrics.

"Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" (The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, 1963)

I ain't a-saying you treated me unkind
You could have done better but I don't mind
You just kinda wasted my precious time
But don't think twice, it's all right

"Mama, You Been on My Mind" (Another Side of Bob Dylan outtake, recorded 1964)

When you wake up in the mornin', baby, look inside your mirror
You know I won't be next to you, you know I won't be near
I'd just be curious to know if you can see yourself as clear
As someone who has had you on his mind

"It's Alright Ma, (I'm Only Bleeding)" (Bringing It All Back Home, 1965)

Pointed threats, they bluff with scorn
Suicide remarks are torn
From the fool’s gold mouthpiece the hollow horn
Plays wasted words, proves to warn
That he not busy being born is busy dying

"She Belongs to Me" (Bringing It All Back Home, 1965)

She wears an Egyptian ring 
That sparkles before she speaks
She's a hypnotist collector
You are a walking antique

"Like a Rolling Stone" (Highway 61 Revisited, 1965)

You say you never compromise
With the mystery tramp, but now you realize
He's not selling any alibis
As you stare into the vacuum of his eyes
And say "Do you want to make a deal?"

"Desolation Row" (Highway 61 Revisited, 1965)

To her, death is quite romantic
She wears an iron vest
Her profession's her religion
Her sin is her lifelessness

"Visions of Johanna" (Blonde on Blonde, 1966)

The ghost of electricity howls in the bones of her face
Where these visions of Johanna have now taken my place

"I Want You" (Blonde on Blonde, 1966)

The guilty undertaker sighs
The lonesome organ grinder cries
The silver saxophones say I should refuse you
The cracked bells and washed-out horns 
Blow into my face with scorn
But it's not that way, I wasn't born to lose you

"I Shall Be Released" (The Band's Music From Big Pink, 1968)

They say ev’ry man needs protection
They say ev’ry man must fall
Yet I swear I see my reflection
Some place so high above this wall

"Shelter From the Storm" (Blood on the Tracks, 1975)

Well, I'm livin' in a foreign country but I'm bound to cross the line
Beauty walks a razor's edge, someday I'll make it mine
If I could only turn back the clock to when God and her were born
Come in, she said, I'll give ya
Shelter from the storm

"Simple Twist of Fate" (Blood on the Tracks, 1975)

People tell me it's a sin
To know and feel too much within
I still believe she was my twin
But I lost the ring
She was born in spring
But I was born too late
Blame it on a simple twist of fate

"Idiot Wind" (Blood on the Tracks, 1975)

Idiot wind
Blowing through the flowers on your tomb
Blowing through the curtains in your room
Idiot wind
Blowing every time you move your teeth

"Abandoned Love" (Desire outtake, recorded 1975)

So one more time at midnight, near the wall
Take off your heavy makeup and your shawl
Won't you descend from the throne, from where you sit?
Let me feel your love one more time before I abandon it

"Not Dark Yet" (Time Out of Mind, 1997)

I was born here and I'll die here against my will
I know it looks like I'm movin' but I'm standin' still
Every nerve in my body is so naked and numb
I can't even remember what it was I came here to get away from                                                    

"Mississippi" (Love & Theft, 2001)

Well, the emptiness is endless, cold as the clay
You can always come back, but you can't come back all the way


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