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The Weight - Meaning

19 Apr 99 - 05:57 PM (#72132)
Subject: The Weight - Meaning

Anybody know the meaning/symbollism/background, etc. the lyrics for The Weight by Bob Dylan. I love singing this song, but realized recently that I'm not very strong on its intention and would like to be.


19 Apr 99 - 06:12 PM (#72138)
Subject: RE: The Weight - Meaning
From: Joe Offer

Hmmmm. The Book of Bob tries to be a comprehensive collection of Dylan lyrics, but I can't find the song there. Can anybody help?
-Joe Offer-

19 Apr 99 - 06:15 PM (#72139)
Subject: RE: The Weight - Meaning
From: DonMeixner


I have always been under the impression that The Weight was written by J. Robbie Robertson of The Band. Have I been mistaken for low these many years?


19 Apr 99 - 06:17 PM (#72141)
Subject: RE: The Weight - Meaning
From: Mark Roffe

When the enigmatic Mr. Dylan was asked what some of his songs were about, he said something like "That one's about two and a half minutes...I have others that are three minutes and one that's about four minutes 20 seconds."
Still, I'd guess The Weight relates to Jesus' heavy load. For example the beginning: 'I pulled into Nazareth, I was feeling bout half past dead..'

19 Apr 99 - 06:28 PM (#72146)
Subject: RE: The Weight - Meaning
From: Joe Offer

the Weight
(as recorded by the Band - songwriter uncertain)

I pulled into Nazareth, was feeling 'bout half past dead
I just need some place where I can lay my head
Hey, mister, can you tell me, where a man might find a bed
He just grinned and shook my hand, "No" was all he said.

Take a load off Fanny, take a load for free
Take a load off Fanny, and you put the load right on me

I picked up my bags, I went looking for a place to hide
Then I saw old Carmen and the devil walking side by side
I said, "Hey, Carmen, c'mon, let's go downtown"
She said, "I gotta go, but my friend can stick around"


Go down, miss Moses, ain't nothin' you can say
It's just old Luke, and Luke's waiting on the judgement day
Well, Luke, my friend, what about young Annalee
He said, "Do me a favor, son, won't you stay and keep Annalee company"


Crazy Chester followed me, and he caught me in the fog
Said, "I will fix your rag, if you'll take Jack, my dog"
I said, "Wait a minute Chester - you know, I'm a peaceful man"
He said, "That's ok, boy, won't you feed him when you can"


Get your cannonball, now to take me down the line
My bag is sinking low, and I do believe it's time
To get back to Miss Fanny, you know she's the only one
Who sent me here, with her regards for everyone


Oh, OK - I knew the song, just not the title. I have a book that says a song called "The Weight" was written in 1968 by Jaime Robbie Robertson, which sounds plausible. However, it says the song was recorded by Jackie DeShannon, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Temptations, and by the Band. I'll buy the contention that it was recorded by the Band and written by Robertson - but those other recordings????

19 Apr 99 - 06:29 PM (#72147)
Subject: RE: The Weight - Meaning
From: The Shambles

Click here The Band. For words, chords and an article on the meaning of the song.

19 Apr 99 - 06:32 PM (#72150)
Subject: RE: The Weight - Meaning
From: The Shambles


Joe your post wasn't there when I posted mine.

19 Apr 99 - 06:42 PM (#72156)
Subject: RE: The Weight - Meaning
From: Mark Roffe

But Shambles - I learned a lot about The Band from your reference...thank you!

20 Apr 99 - 08:34 PM (#72302)
Subject: RE: The Weight - Meaning
From: Dave T

Interesting link Shambles. This is probably one of the most requested songs I run into (along with Paul Simon's The Boxer). I've always looked at the song as a collection of "image bites" on some trek through Americana. Connecting it all is the chorus. I figured "Take the weight of Fanny" referred to taking the sins of Fanny (and the world ??) onto one's self, like Christ. This kind of fits with the overall religious feel to the song. Funny, I've never really discussed the meaning of this song with anyone before; we've always just played. Anyway, like many songs and stories, the most important meaning may be the one we develop for ourselves from our own situation, experiences and beliefs.

Dave T

20 Apr 99 - 08:39 PM (#72306)
Subject: RE: The Weight - Meaning
From: bbelle

Jackie DeShannon definitely recorded it. moonchild

20 Apr 99 - 10:40 PM (#72327)
Subject: RE: The Weight - Meaning
From: Rick Fielding

The Band (mostly Canadians) was strongly influenced by the writing and playing styles of Happy and Artie Traum, who like Dylan, all lived near Woodstock. Not sure which came first but if you listen to the Traums' album "Double Back" you'll hear a lot of "the Band" in it. Lots of literate but very obscure lyrics. According to all the books written about those times and folks,they were all pretty stoned most of the time. Is it possible that there ain't no meaning to the lyrics? Just a lot of stream of consciousness.

21 Apr 99 - 02:32 AM (#72366)
Subject: RE: The Weight - Meaning
From: The Shambles

Yes I see the point you make but is not more a stream of semi-consciousness?

When I wake up some mornings and I can recall a dream or a state of mind induced by the dream, it is very clear to me what I mean and if I write it at that point I am usually happy with it then. When I look at it later, I'm not so sure, I think I know what I meant to say but I am not sure anyone else will.

By the way a note of thanks here to Happy Truam for the transcriptions he did for the Incredible String Band Songbook.

21 Apr 99 - 02:35 AM (#72369)
Subject: RE: The Weight - Meaning
From: Rick Fielding

Good point "Shambles", gotta sleep on that one.

21 Apr 99 - 03:18 AM (#72373)
Subject: RE: The Weight - Meaning
From: catspaw49

If I were in a more humorous mood, I'd suggest that it was about a fat biker "chick" and a tale told by a motorcycle...I could go on, but not tonite, and you get the idea anyway.


21 Apr 99 - 03:31 AM (#72379)
Subject: RE: The Weight - Meaning
From: Steve Parkes

Is it my imagination, or ...
It's a good many years since I thought there was much point in extracting meaning from BD's lyrics, so I haven't taken much notice of the actual words for a long time. But I seem to remember the chorus percolating down as "Take a load off Mary". Now, bearing in mind that "Fanny" has a very different, if physiologically close, meaning over here in the UK, did they record a cleaned-up British version, or is it time I gave my tired old ears a rest?


21 Apr 99 - 09:49 AM (#72417)
Subject: RE: The Weight - Meaning
From: The Shambles


I'm not too sure I said that as well as I could. I'll try again.

In a dream state, things make perfect sense, resulting sometimes in a very intense feeling, which lasts in to the semiconscious state that we are in, on being woken up, usually in the process of dreaming. In that semiconscious state, you can capture some of that certainty, if you record it quick enough. The longer you leave it, the less intense the feeling and the less sense it makes to your now logical examination of what you can remember.

An example is the way in dreams that individuals will change quite seamlessly in to someone else, or places will do the same. It make perfect sense at the time.

I think you are right about those people being in a 'different' condition most of the time and creating in that condition. It probably explains why in the article, Robbie Robertson seems to know exactly what the song meant at the time, but seems less sure the more he thinks (logically) about it.

The other point of course is that if he could have explained it, he wouldn't have needed to write the song.

21 Apr 99 - 11:15 AM (#72430)
Subject: RE: The Weight - Meaning


I had no idea that my request would start what I consider a brief but rich conversation on lyrics, etc.

First of all, I'm chagrined to realize(remember, rather) that the Weight was not a Dylan song. Actually knew that and it was in one of the brain cells that died a while back. So thanks for straigtening me out on that.

Thanks to you all but a special thanks to Shambles for the point the website with the essay.

I want to clarify that I actually was not looking for the "real" meaning of the song. I find this song a wonderful rich piece, much like Raglan Road, or much of Ian Anderson's stuff, that evokes all kinds of stuff, much of which changes from time to time, much of which always shows up in my heart & head when I sing it.

I have no problem sharing those thoughts with audiences, or even leading some discussion about that in performances. What I wanted to make sure of was that there was no INTENTION on the part of the songwriter that I was violating or distorting by taking the song where it takes me.

I'm not sure even if there was a songwriter intention that that should preclude a performer from working the images that come to the performers mind(and that would be an interesting continuation of this discussion. I just know I feel more ethical if I have some idea of what the songwriter intended and can honor that in my performance.

Again thanks. Marc Bridgham

21 Apr 99 - 03:37 PM (#72496)
Subject: RE: The Weight - Meaning
From: Wayne Hampton

Dylan didn't write it. It was the Band (Robbie Robertson or one of those guys?)

It has Biblical overtones to me.

22 Apr 99 - 12:30 AM (#72616)
Subject: RE: The Weight - Meaning
From: rich r

I recently obtained a recording of this song by Greg Brown & "friends". Some of the friends sound suspiciously like Robin and Linda Williams.

rich r

22 Apr 99 - 01:38 PM (#72755)
Subject: RE: The Weight - Meaning
From: The Shambles

On the subject mentioned in the article, of 'a load' being a sexually transmitted desease.

I was listening to Richard Thompson's, wonderful song, Bee's Wing and the line about running 'with the rambling itch' took on a whole new meaning too?