Tombstone Blues

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"Tombstone Blues"
Song by Bob Dylan
from the album Highway 61 Revisited
ReleasedAugust 30, 1965 (1965-08-30)
RecordedJuly 29, 1965
StudioColumbia, New York City
GenreGarage rock[1]
Songwriter(s)Bob Dylan
Producer(s)Bob Johnston

"Tombstone Blues" is the second song on Bob Dylan's 1965 album Highway 61 Revisited.[2] Musically it is influenced by the blues, while the lyrics are typical of Dylan's surreal style of the period, with such lines as "the sun's not yellow, it's chicken".


The lyrics fit the surreal style of the era, while being scathing of society and authority. The song contains several direct and indirect allusions to biblical characters as well as historical references.[3] For instance to John the Baptist, to which Dylan dedicates four lines:

John the Baptist after torturing a thief
Looks up at his hero the Commander-in-Chief
Saying, “Tell me great hero, but please make it brief
Is there a hole for me to get sick in?”".[4]

A live recording of the song, made for MTV in November 1994, was released on MTV Unplugged in 1995.

The song was performed by Marcus Carl Franklin and Richie Havens in I'm Not There, the film based on Dylan's life.[5] The soundtrack version is performed solely by Havens. Two lines from the song, spoken by the "Commander in Chief" – "Death to all those who would whimper and cry" and "The sun's not yellow; it's chicken" – are spoken by a digitally manipulated Lyndon B. Johnson in another scene in the film.

Stephen King quotes from the song at the end of his first published novel Carrie. He uses the lines:

Now I wish I could write you a melody so plain
That could hold you dear lady from going insane
That could ease you and cool you and cease the pain
Of your useless and pointless knowledge


And again quotes from the song with the line "You will not die, it's not poison" in chapter eleven of the novel Gerald's Game.[7]


  1. ^ Highway 61 Revisited review at AllMusic by Stephen Thomas Erlewine. Retrieved April 3, 2017.
  2. ^ Levy, Joe. "How Bob Dylan Made Rock History on 'Highway 61 Revisited'". Rolling Stone, LLC. Retrieved 23 June 2020.
  3. ^ "Bob Dylan – Tombstone Blues Lyrics". SongMeanings. Retrieved September 16, 2013.
  4. ^ "Tombstone Blues | The Official Bob Dylan Site". Retrieved April 3, 2017.
  5. ^ Perez, Rodrigo. "Clip: Richie Havens' "Tombstone Blues" Dylan Cover From 'I'm Not There'". Retrieved 23 June 2020.
  6. ^ King, Stephen (2000). Carrie. Simon & Schuster. p. 192.
  7. ^ King, Stephen (2016). Gerald's Game: A Novel. Simon & Schuster. p. 159.

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