Ambiguity and Intertextuality in Bob Dylan's 'Like A Rolling Stone'

Essay, 2015

9 Pages, Grade: 1,7

Abstract or Introduction

It is beyond doubt that Bob Dylan is one of the most important and influential persons of 20th century popular music. His many songs are loved and renowned for their extraordinariness in terms of the lyrics, which are often ascribed a very high literary quality. Dylan has repeatedly been said to be one of the few persons who are able to combine music with poetry.

Dylan's song 'Like a Rolling Stone', recorded in 1965, certainly belongs to his most important pieces of work. It has been covered by countless artists such as Dylan's contemporaries Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix, but also by much younger and 'newer' artists like for example Green Day, a British 1990's and 2000's punkrock band. Another indicator for the quality and reputation of the song is the fact that the Rolling Stone – one of the world's most influential music magazines – voted it the best song ever in 2004.

The enormous popularity of the song is said to have several reasons; one of them surely is the fact that Like a Rolling Stone, respectively the album Highway 61 Revisited, marked a significant change in Dylan's music and career, moving away from the previously dominant folk music towards R'n'B and rock music.

This essay will concentrate on the lyrics of the song. There will be a close and detailed analysis of the most important passages of the song (mainly the chorus) with regard to their supposed meanings and implication. However, Dylan's lyrics usually tend to be very ambiguous and thus allow more than one 'right' or 'true' interpretation. This, of course, will be taken into account during the analysis. Another important element in Dylan's songtexts which can also be refound in Like a Rolling Stone is intertextuality; as a consequence, the lyrics of the song will be also put into context with Jack Kerouac's novel On The Road from 1957. At the end of this paper, there will be a short conclusion that sums up the previous analysis.


Ambiguity and Intertextuality in Bob Dylan's 'Like A Rolling Stone'
Justus-Liebig-University Giessen  (Institut für Anglistik)
Bob Dylan
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
460 KB
Bob Dylan, Like A Rolling Stone, Cultural Studies, Intertextuality, Beat
Quote paper
Felix Kästner (Author), 2015, Ambiguity and Intertextuality in Bob Dylan's 'Like A Rolling Stone', Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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