Bob Dylan – It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)

A great song that sounds like a giant statement. It still rings true today and it’s just an incredible piece of work. Dylan sings this song as if every word has a purpose to it and it does. I’ve seen Bob eight times and he has played this song twice and it was one of the highlights when he did perform it.

The song was included on the album Bringing It All Back Home released in 1965. The song was not released as a single but the album peaked at #6 in the Billboard Album Charts. The song on the album to make it into the top 40 was “Subterranean Homesick Blues” which peaked at #39.

I haven’t posted many Bob Dylan songs because the original songs on youtube were almost impossible to find but observationblogger posted Tuesday that Dylan has released his songs on youtube. You can find almost everything now. 

From Songfacts

Dylan vents about subjects such as commercialism, hypocrisy and warmongering in this song. In the book, Bob Dylan, Performing Artist, author Paul Williams states this song sees Dylan acknowledge “the possibility that the most important (and least articulated) political issue of our times is that we are all being fed a false picture of reality, and it’s coming at us from every direction.”

Williams adds that Dylan portrays an “alienated individual identifying the characteristics of the world around him and thus declaring his freedom from its ‘rules’.”

This song is one of Dylan’s personal favorites. In 1980, he stated: “I don’t think I could sit down now and write ‘It’s Alright, Ma’ again. I wouldn’t even know where to begin, but I can still sing it.”

The opening line, “Darkness at the break of noon,” is referring to a nuclear explosion. After a nuclear explosion, the sky turns black and the sun disappears. >>

The line, “He who is not busy being born in busy dying” is popular with politicians. Jimmy Carter used the line in his acceptance speech at the 1976 Democratic National convention, and while campaigning for President in 2000, Al Gore told talk show host, Oprah Winfrey, that it was his favorite quote. Ironically, the song also contains the line, “But even the President of the United States sometimes must have to stand naked,” which is Dylan alluding to the fact even the most powerful people will be ultimately judged.

The album cover shows a woman lounging by a fireplace with Dylan in the foreground holding a cat. She is Sally Grossman, the wife of Dylan’s manager Albert Grossman. The photo was taken in Grossman’s house, and the cat belonged to Sally.

Bob Dylan – It’s Alright Ma I’m Only Bleeding

Darkness at the break of noon
Shadows even the silver spoon
The handmade blade, the child’s balloon
Eclipses both the sun and moon
To understand you know too soon
There is no sense in trying

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’s not busy being born
Is busy dying

Temptation’s page flies out the door
You follow, find yourself at war
Watch waterfalls of pity roar
You feel to moan but unlike before
You discover that you’d just be
One more person crying

So don’t fear if you hear
A foreign sound to your ear
It’s alright ma, I’m only sighing

As some warn victory, some downfall
Private reasons great or small
Can be seen in the eyes of those that call
To make all that should be killed to crawl
While others say don’t hate nothing at all
Except hatred

Disillusioned words like bullets bark
As human gods aim for their mark
Made everything from toy guns that spark
To flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark
It’s easy to see without looking too far
That not much is really sacred

While preachers preach of evil fates
Teachers teach that knowledge waits
Can lead to hundred-dollar plates
Goodness hides behind its gates
But even the president of the United States
Sometimes must have to stand naked

An’ though the rules of the road have been lodged
It’s only people’s games that you got to dodge
And it’s alright ma, I can make it

Advertising signs that con you
Into thinking you’re the one
That can do what’s never been done
That can win what’s never been won
Meantime life outside goes on 
All around you

You lose yourself, you reappear
You suddenly find you got nothing to fear
Alone you stand with nobody near
When a trembling distant voice, unclear
Startles your sleeping ears to hear
That somebody thinks they really found you

A question in your nerves is lit
Yet you know there is no answer fit to satisfy
Insure you not to quit
To keep it in your mind and not forget
That it is not he or she or them or it
That you belong to

Although the masters make the rules
For the wise men and the fools
I got nothing ma, to live up to

For them that must obey authority
That they do not respect in any degree
Who despise their jobs, their destinies
Speak jealously of them that are free
Do what they do just to be nothing more than something they invest in

While some on principles baptized
To strict party platform ties
Social clubs in drag disguise
Outsiders they can freely criticize
Tell nothing except who to idolize
And then say “God bless him”

While one who sings with his tongue on fire
Gargles in the rat race choir
Bent out of shape from society’s pliers
Cares not to come up any higher
But rather get you down in the hole that he’s in

But I mean no harm nor put fault
On anyone that lives in a vault
But it’s alright ma, if I can’t please him

Old lady judges watch people in pairs
Limited in sex, they dare
To push fake morals, insult and stare
While money doesn’t talk, it swears
Obscenity, who really cares
Propaganda, all is phony

While them that defend what they cannot see
With a killer’s pride, security
It blows the minds most bitterly
For them that think death’s honesty
Won’t fall upon them naturally
Life sometimes must get lonely

My eyes collide head-on with stuffed graveyards
False gods, I scuff
At pettiness which plays so rough
Walk upside-down inside handcuffs
Kick my legs to crash it off
Say okay, I have had enough
What else can you show me?

And if my thought-dreams could be seen
They’d probably put my head in a guillotine
But it’s alright ma, it’s life, and life only

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

20 thoughts on “Bob Dylan – It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”

  1. I passed a protest by about forty primary school children, with posters and banners, protesting against the greed that was destroying their futures, and they raised their voices i tell you, little bobs the lot of them, happy days

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The youtube thing is great…That is why you saw the Spongebob video last time lol. I’m glad he did it.
      I just get lost in the words and how relevant it is today. It took a while for me to warm up to the song but when I did it stuck.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The song will always be relevant, imo. The Spongebob video was a hoot, knowing how reluctant you must have been to use it. It’s great that Bob is on board with Youtube now.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Don’t get me wrong…I’ve watched Spongebob plenty of times…my son is that age…I had to laugh because seeing Spongebob against “All Along The Watchtower” was odd to say the least. It will be always be relevant…you are right.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the shout-out Bad!
    I’m still undecided about which has the better opening sequence in a Bob song:
    ‘Darkness at the break of noon, Shadows even the silver spoon’
    ‘Jonny’s in the basement, mixing up the medicine’
    Those two openings are just mindblowing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. No problem… that was the best news I had all week

      You can’t lose either way with those openings.
      This song just amazes me every time I listen to it. He sums up society so well

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m just listening to it again on your blog. I always found it his most anti-establishment/materialism diatribe. I always found it hard to my hang onto something even the POTUS line. Maggie’s Farm eluded me that way as well. I’m not dismissing it, on the contrary, lyrically both are outstanding. I just prefer his more melodic songs in conjunction with his lyrical impetus.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I just get caught up in the meaning of it. No you don’t listen to this for the melody that is for sure. It’s just a quick blues run and stream of conscious.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. So many of his songs are saturated with meanings aside from the words. He is a masterful artist and a great poet. I love this song as I do most of his songs. Glad his videos without Sponge Bob are now available again.

    Liked by 1 person

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