I Am a Lonesome Hobo

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"I Am A Lonesome Hobo"
Song by Bob Dylan
from the album John Wesley Harding
Released December 27, 1967
Recorded November 6, 1967
Genre Folk rock, country rock
Length 3:21
Label Columbia
Songwriter(s) Bob Dylan
Producer(s) Bob Johnston
John Wesley Harding track listing

"I Am A Lonesome Hobo" is a song written and recorded by Bob Dylan, released in 1967 on his eighth studio album, John Wesley Harding.

The lyrics to "I Am A Lonesome Hobo" tells of the typical riches to rags tradition,[1] where a man openly admits to being a hobo having "tried my hand at bribery, Blackmail and deceit", yet has "served time for ev'rything 'cept beggin' on the street". Dylan's style of writing often leans towards writing ballads that present his listeners with a chance to get inside the minds of social outcasts, a perspective that everyday people may overlook or misunderstand. This "hobo" has seen it all, once being an affluent yet selfish man unable to trust anybody, including his own brother. The hobo's isolation began not with his loss of wealth but with the effect that wealth had upon him in the first place.[2] As the song reaches its final verse, the hobo offers advice to the common people as he plans to continue his misinterpreted wandering, asking them to, "stay free from petty jealousies, live by no man's code, and hold your judgment for yourself lest you wind up on this road". Within his solitariness, the hobo has found a certain philosophical stability, leaving him standing in the garb of a prophet rather than a beggar.[3] This hobo's warning before his departure holds true to the writing style Dylan approaches with the ending of many of his songs, offering a lyrically and vocally driven picture of a life that is not typically lived or even considered.

The haunting harmonica, assertive drum beat and acoustic guitar incorporates well with the clearly pronounced and elongated wordplay. The song features some of Dylan's most controlled singing,[4] most likely being a rhetorical decision on Dylan's part because hobos are typically known for being wanderers lacking any insight or socially acceptable manners. Dylan, however, seems to put this character on a level socially where one would not typically place a vagabond, providing the idea that a hobo can be a wise man rather than some socially awkward bum.


  1. ^ [1] Archived March 7, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ Mike Marqusee. Wicked Messenger: Bob Dylan and the 1960s. Page 246.
  3. ^ Andy Gill. Don't Think Twice It's Alright: Bob Dylan The Early Years. The Stories Behind Every Song. Published by Transition Vendor in 1998.
  4. ^ Oliver Trager. Keys To The Rain: The Definitive Bob Dylan Encyclopedia. Published in 2004 by Billboard Books. Page 269