During the time of COVID, the prices of cars surged. We needed a little larger car than our sporty little Volvo. We ended up with a well taken care of used Chrysler Pacifica. We had a mechanic check it out. He replaced the brakes, tuned up the engine with new spark plugs, a few cables here and there, and a new battery. The only problem was a missing antenna, and a radio/CD player that didn’t seem to work. I ordered a new ten dollar antenna from eBay and screwed it in after it arrived. Still no news and music. I went to the kitchen and checked out the CDs on the counter for our under-the-cupboard player. I ended up with a Greatest Hits set of Bob Dylan.
I took the CD out to the Pacifica and slid in the #1 CD. My system came alive with both radio and CD. The next time I dropped Peg off at her exercise class I shoved in the Bob Dylan disc and stopped at #9. It was vaguely familiar, but the more I listened and replayed, the more I enjoyed the song, the lyrics, the phrasing, the humor, and quirky combination of orchestration and lyrics.
The song “Positively 4th Street” has a driving beat, but the lyrics are simply a tirade about a one-time friend who must have stabbed Dylan in the back. Although the upbraiding takes this someone to task, the lilting flute sound counteracts the venom of the harangue and stream of abuse and makes it kind of funny.
“Positively 4th Street” was written by Bob Dylan in 1965 at the same time I was Positively Ponders Corner. My parents owned a motel in Ponders. In 1965 I had my own apartment at the motel with a stereo and a pool table and was a teenager at the time. Rolling Stone magazine ranks the song as No. 203 in their 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Joni Mitchell has cited the song as one of her biggest inspirations at the dawn of her career: “There came a point when I heard a Dylan song called ‘Positively Fourth Street’ and I thought ‘oh my God, you can write about anything in songs’. It was like a revelation to me”.
Joni was correct, you can write a song about anything, just like you can with a poem, a Limerick, a story, a book, or a political speech. They can be funny, morose, or deadly serious. In writing, you can take on the world’s leaders, share your love, talk about a used car, or get back at a one-time friend. Writing opens up the world or closes it down. It’s all up to the author . . . and that’s really positive.