Bob Dylan and F. Scott Fitzgerald

One thing that I want to do on this site is look at how modern artists have made reference to or been influenced by members of the Lost Generation. A couple months ago we delved into a silly Katy Perry song that made reference to Ernest Hemingway, today let’s look at F. Scott Fitzgerald and two Bob Dylan songs – “Ballad of a Thin Man” from 1965’s Highway 61 Revisited and “Summer Days” from 2001’s Love and Theft.

First, a quick look at the two men. Both call Minnesota home – Fitzgerald was born on September 24, 1896 in St. Paul, while Dylan was born on May 24, 1941 in Duluth, just five months after Fitzgerald died. Both had very early success and found themselves skyrocketed to fame, and both have been called the voice of their generation. Fitzgerald famously died young while Dylan is still going strong. Interestingly, Fitzgerald won no major literary awards during his lifetime, while Dylan won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016. Both men have fascinating stories to tell, but for now let’s get into the songs.

Ballad of a Thin Man

The fifth track on Highway 61 Revisited, “Ballad of a Thin Man” deals with a Mr. Jones, who keeps asking questions but understands the world less and less. It includes the following reference to Fitzgerald:

You’ve been through all of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books
You’re very well read
It’s well known
Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

Here’s a great video of Dylan performing the song in 1966 –

Summer Days

The third song on Love and Theft, “Summer Days” has been interpreted as dealing with a wedding and a divorce. The lyrics quote directly from Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby:

She’s looking into my eyes, she’s holding my hand
She’s looking into my eyes, she’s holding my hand
She says, “You can’t repeat the past.”
I say, “You can’t? What do you mean, you can’t? Of course you can.”

Here is a live performance of this one from 2002 –

Have any ideas relating to modern artists referencing or using the works of the Lost Generation in some context? Drop us a comment below or send an email to onehundredfalsestarts@gmail.com

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