Meaning of “Rainy Day Women ” by Bob Dylan

Written By Michael Miller

Michael is a music teacher and professional cellist. He loves uncovering the deeper meaning of popular songs.

Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35,” often remembered for its chorus “Everybody must get stoned,” is a fascinating mix of satire and social commentary. This song isn’t just about literal stoning or drug use; it’s a metaphor for the criticism and judgment society casts on individuals. Dylan uses the term “stoned” as a symbol for being attacked or condemned for one’s actions or beliefs. It’s not about a specific person but reflects a broader societal attitude. The message is clear: at some point, everyone faces judgment or criticism, but it’s a shared experience that shouldn’t make anyone feel isolated.

Curious about the hidden depths of Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35”? This article peels back the layers of this famously misinterpreted song. Read on!

“Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” Lyrics Meaning

Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” starts with “Well, they’ll stone you when you’re trying to be so good”. This line introduces the theme of societal judgment. “Trying to be so good” and still facing criticism is a common human experience, suggesting that judgment is often unfair and unfounded.

As the song progresses with “They’ll stone you just like they said they would”, Dylan implies a sense of inevitability in facing criticism. It’s almost as if society looks for reasons to criticize, regardless of one’s actions.

The repeated phrase “They’ll stone you” in different contexts – like going home, walking on the street, or at the breakfast table – underscores the idea that judgment can come anywhere, anytime. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing; society will always find a way to criticize or bring you down.

“But I would not feel so all alone / Everybody must get stoned” – these lines serve as a reminder that this experience is universal. The use of “stoned” metaphorically extends beyond its literal meaning, encompassing any form of social condemnation or ostracization. Dylan’s message is somewhat comforting: you’re not alone in this experience.

The verse “They’ll stone you when you’re tryin’ to make a buck / Then they’ll stone you and then they’ll say ‘good luck'” reflects the cynicism in society’s attitude towards success and struggle. It’s a commentary on the double-edged nature of pursuing ambitions and the mixed messages society sends.

Dylan continues this theme with “Well, they’ll stone you and say that it’s the end / Then they’ll stone you and then they’ll come back again”. This highlights the cyclical and relentless nature of judgment and criticism. It’s as if there’s no escape from societal scrutiny, and this scrutiny is often contradictory and relentless.

The line “They’ll stone you when you are set down in your grave” suggests that even in death, one cannot escape judgment. This stark imagery underlines the song’s dark humor and satirical edge.

The song, with its rollicking, carnival-like sound, contrasts sharply with the severity of its lyrics. This juxtaposition adds to the song’s satirical nature, emphasizing the absurdity of the constant judgment and criticism people face in their daily lives.

Why Was “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” Written?

Bob Dylan wrote “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” during a time of immense social and political upheaval. The 1960s were marked by cultural revolutions, political protests, and significant shifts in social norms. Dylan, known for his poignant and incisive commentary on society, often used his music to reflect and critique these changes.

In this context, “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” can be seen as a response to the judgment and hypocrisy Dylan observed in society. The song’s playful tone belies its serious commentary on the human tendency to judge and criticize. Dylan, perhaps feeling the weight of public scrutiny as a prominent figure in the music and counterculture movements, used this song to highlight and satirize the absurdity of societal judgment.

The state of mind Dylan was in while writing this song likely combined his trademark wit with a keen awareness of societal dynamics. He was observing a world quick to judge and slow to understand, and this song was his way of holding up a mirror to that world. By using humor and satire, Dylan effectively communicated a serious message about the human condition, making “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” a timeless piece that continues to resonate.