Monday, April 11, 2011

Song lesson - 'It's All Over Now Baby Blue' by Bob Dylan

This song has to be one of the all-time greats. Recorded by Dylan in 1965, and covered by many others including notably, Them (with Van Morrison), the Animals (with Eric Burdon), the Byrds and the Grateful Dead.
The meaning of the song has been highly debated. All people seem to really agree on is that Dylan is saying goodbye to someone (a woman perhaps), or to some people (his folk fans maybe), or to something, perhaps to a part of his life (his accoustic folk days?).
This song is from the time when he was changing from being an accoustic folk singer to being part of the new (electric) rock mainstream, and not all his fans appreciated that. (See Wikipedia link below)
  1. Vocabulary matching exercise
  2. Song lyrics gap fill exercise
  3. Extra activity on relative clauses, reduced relatives and nominal relatives

Click and Drop - where you see this symbol ? mouse over it for instructions

It's All Over Now, Baby Blue by Bob Dylan

For this matching exercise, look at the words in context (they are marked in red in the song lyrics) and first decide what part of speech (word type) they are. Then try to match them to their definitions (taken mainly from, Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary. ?
The language of the song is highly influenced by the Symbolist poets, such as Rimbaud, so I have kept this gap fill exercise to fairly simple verbs only. Use the language around the gaps, such as auxiliary verbs, to help you. Note that there is one imperative. ?
drawing   ·   taken   ·   use   ·   going   ·   stands   ·   calls
keep   ·   strike   ·   gathered   ·   walked   ·   standing   ·   need
You must leave now, take what you , (what) you think will last.
But whatever you wish to , you better grab it fast.
Yonder your orphan with his gun,
Crying like a fire in the sun.
Look out the saints are comin' through
And it's all over now, Baby Blue.
The highway is for gamblers, better your sense.
Take what you have from coincidence.
The empty-handed painter from your streets
Is crazy patterns on your sheets.
This sky, too, is folding under you
And it's all over now, Baby Blue.
All your seasick sailors, they are rowing home.
Your empty-handed army, is all home.
Your lover who just out the door
Has all his blankets from the floor.
The carpet, too, is moving under you
And it's all over now, Baby Blue.
Leave your stepping stones behind, there's something that for you.
Forget the dead you've left, they will not follow you.
The vagabond who's rapping at your door
Is in the clothes that you once wore.
another match, go start anew
And it's all over now, Baby Blue.

Supplementary activity - relative clauses, reduced relatives, nominal relatives

Mouse over the terms in blue to get a brief reminder. There are grammar links below if you need more information. English in Valencia gives very good clear explanations.
Look at the lyrics
  1. Find and note down four defining (restrictive) relative clauses (they are all in the same verse)
  2. Why does one of the defining relative clauses have no relative pronoun?
  3. Which of the other defining relative clauses could also lose its relative pronoun?
  4. Find and note down one non-defining relative clause. Look for a relative pronoun, but careful, there are no commas.
  5. Find and note down one reduced relative clause. Look for a present participle.
  6. Find and note down four nominal relative clauses (two share the same main verb)
For the answers to this question see 'Show suggested answers' below.


  1. l,g,k,f,i,c,j,e,d,a,h,b
  2. need,keep,stands,use,gathered,drawing,going,walked,taken,calls,standing,Strike

Suggested answers to the supplementary exercise

1. Defining relative clauses

  1. there's something that calls for you
  2. Forget the dead you've left
  3. The vagabond who's rapping at your door
  4. ... the clothes that you once wore

2. No relative pronoun

  • Forget the dead (who / that) you've left - the dead are the object of you've left

3. Could also lose its relative pronoun

  • ... in the clothes (that) you once wore - the clothes are the object of you once wore. So that could be left out

4. Non-defining relative clause

  • your lover who just walked out the door (we know who he is - her lover)

5. Reduced relative clause

  • .. your orphan with his gun, (who is) crying like a fire in the sun.

5. Nominal relative clauses

  1. take what you need
  2. (take) (what) you think will last
  3. But whatever you wish to take, you better grab it fast
  4. Take what you have gathered from coincidence.

Printer friendly post

When you print, the page after the song and any exercises will show the answers.
Alternatively, you can make a teacher copy with answers filled in by clicking on 'Show All'. Make sure you 'Clear All' before printing student copies.
I strongly recommend doing a Print Preview first. You might want to change your margins and you probably won't want to print every page.
The song with exercises goes from Pages 2-4, answers are on Page 5.

Legal stuff

These lyrics are Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music, and are used here for educational purposes only.
Unfortunately the Dylan original on YouTube is only available in certain countries, but you could try Spike, which has a live version from the legendary documentary film 'Don't look back'.

Different versions

Not all versions use exactly the same lyrics as Dylan's original. Them's version, for example, combines the third and fourth verses.

It's all over now Baby Blue on YouTube

Other links

Grammar links

Relative clauses

Reduced relative clauses

Nominal relative clauses

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