Song of the Day #577: ‘It Ain’t Me Babe’ – Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan’s third album of original material, Another Side of Bob Dylan, was very appropriately titled (even though Dylan himself later said he disliked the title for being so obvious). After making his name as a singer and writer of political protest songs, Dylan’s new record was a far more intimate affair.

Dylan caused outrage when he later “went electric” (and we’ll get to that on future weekends) but he received a whole lot of grief before that just for trading issue songs for introspective songs. Folkies bashed him for navel-gazing when he should have been saving the world. It’s fascinating exactly how rigid the confines of genres were back then, or at least the genre into which Dylan originally exploded.

The songs on Another Side of Bob Dylan are largely about relationships. As Dylan said about the album, “there aren’t any finger-pointin’ songs” here. Indeed, if he’s pointing his finger at anybody it’s himself.

The line on this album that best sums up Dylan’s turn away from protest music is this one from the chorus of the classic ‘My Back Pages’: “Oh, but I was so much older then; I’m younger than that now.” Indeed, Dylan would never again seem as earnest as he did on those first few albums.

Another Side of Bob Dylan doesn’t rank among Dylan’s best albums, but it might be his most important. Over the course of a 50-year career, he has proven to be the ultimate moving target… offering up more sides than we can count. This record was his first step in that direction.

‘It Ain’t Me Babe’ is one of those classic album closers I referenced during the first Dylan Weekend. This is one of the first Dylan songs I remember hearing as a kid and it remains one of my all-time favorites.

This is a break-up song tinged with such sorrow and regret that you kind of feel more sorry for the singer than for the woman he’s addressing. Much of that has to do with Dylan’s delivery, one of his finest and most passionate.

Go ‘way from my window,
Leave at your own chosen speed.
I’m not the one you want, babe,
I’m not the one you need.
You say you’re lookin’ for someone
Never weak but always strong,
To protect you an’ defend you
Whether you are right or wrong,
Someone to open each and every door,
But it ain’t me, babe,
No, no, no, it ain’t me, babe,
It ain’t me you’re lookin’ for, babe.

Go lightly from the ledge, babe,
Go lightly on the ground.
I’m not the one you want, babe,
I will only let you down.
You say you’re lookin’ for someone
Who will promise never to part,
Someone to close his eyes for you,
Someone to close his heart,
Someone who will die for you an’ more,
But it ain’t me, babe,
No, no, no, it ain’t me, babe,
It ain’t me you’re lookin’ for, babe.

Go melt back into the night, babe,
Everything inside is made of stone.
There’s nothing in here moving
An’ anyway I’m not alone.
You say you’re looking for someone
Who’ll pick you up each time you fall,
To gather flowers constantly
An’ to come each time you call,
A lover for your life an’ nothing more,
But it ain’t me, babe,
No, no, no, it ain’t me, babe,
It ain’t me you’re lookin’ for, babe.

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8 thoughts on “Song of the Day #577: ‘It Ain’t Me Babe’ – Bob Dylan

  1. Dana says:

    Well, I guess I’m not entirely unfamiliar with this album, as I do know this song quite well, and like it a great deal. I seem to recall my sister singing this song back when I was about 6 or 7 years old. So perhaps it was one of the first Dylan songs I knew as well.

  2. Amy says:

    I was thinking the same thing. This is definitely one of the earliest songs I remember – maybe it made such a strong impression on all of us, because young kids are always quick to point the finger at someone else to take the blame ;)

    I find your commentary today so surprising, as I never realized “folkies” were opposed to the notion of intimate and introspective songs. It would seem challenging to put on an entire album’s worth of protest songs, followed by another of similar material. Wouldn’t that become almost material for a punchline after a bit? Do you know when folk music started to change? Was it with this album? Today’s acoustic singer songwriters are certainly known for writing songs just like this SOTD, so I’m curious about that evolution.

    Regardless, this is a great song. I don’t know that I agree that Dylan has too many sides to count, but this is the side I sure do love.

  3. Dana says:

    I think the peace and civil rights movement were so important to a solid block of the folkies (and a number of others of course) that they annointed Dylan to be their leader and expected that his music would keep serving the function of the anthem of their cause. I have heard Dylan say years later that he was, at best, a reluctant person to fill that role, and so i suspect he made a very conscious decision to give up the throne.

    By the way, I think it also bears mentioning that our familiarity with this song also comes through the cover performed by Johnny Cash. I’m not a fan of his interpretation as it is not only country-fied, but also far too fast, but here it is:

  4. Amy says:

    I doubt I was ever exposed to the Cash version, as my parents banished country music from our home :)

  5. Amy says:

    Here is a great cover of the song by the fabulous Fleet Foxes:

  6. Clay says:

    I’m not a big fan of Fleet Foxes (or at least their one and only album) but that is a great cover. Maybe they should stick to other people’s songs.

  7. darylbecker says:

    Great album. Every Dylan album has it’s specific positive points. This one, obviously, is the romantic element. Fantastic, nice post!

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