Was Bob Dylan depressed? (+What do his songs say)

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Page last updated: 10/11/2022

Was Bob Dylan depressed? (+What do his songs say)

This article will discuss if the songs written and performed by Bob Dylan showed that he was depressed. The article will take a look at the songs, and relate their feelings on them to symptoms of depression.

Was Bob Dylan depressed?

It seems that Bob Dylan has experienced moments in which he was overcome by depressive symptoms. And even though it is not possible to make a clinical diagnosis of someone based on interviews or on the songs they have written, some things can lead one to believe he was depressed.

The first matter that brings this thought to mind, is an interview that was given in 1965. While he was recording the documentary Don’t Look Back, which would show how his sold-out tour was going, he said he felt drained.

Even though people were loving his performance, he felt like he was done. Music didn’t interest him anymore. And in the backstage of his concert in London, he told his manager he would quit singing and writing songs and was moving to Woodstock, New York.

He had become annoyed with the press that kept asking him to make sense of his songs and explains what it all meant. As he would say, he was just writing. It wasn’t something he wanted or was able, to make sense of. 

All of that showed a more irritable, stressed, and even isolated Bob Dylan. It also made a case of how he may have lost interest in things he used to love, such as music. All of those clear-cut signs of depression. 

And even though later on, back in his Woodstock home he found a new passion for his music, this may have been a period of a depressive episode.

And as it has come to be, it may not have been the only one. Back in 1997, he released an album called “Time Out of Mind”. This work has been said to depict the depressive state he was in. 

And once again, even though it is not possible to affirm someone is depressed based on what they are writing, it surely raises the curiosity of people around him.

Some people have gone through the lyrics of the songs in this album, and have found astonishing references to depressed moods. In songs like Highland, he is talking about how he feels insanity coming back: “Insanity is smashing up against my soul…”

In another song, Tryin’ to Get to Heaven, he shows signs of hopelessness, which is extremely common in people with depression: “They tell me everything is gonna be all right, but I don’t know what ‘all right’ even means…”

What was unknown at the time, and became public knowledge a while after, is that during the period that Bob Dylan was working on this album, he was also going through a divorce. 

And going through a moment like that can be a traumatic experience that leads someone to depression. Making it even more possible that the theory that he was depressed was true.

Other songs in the album show how he felt. In Million Miles, he wrote: “There are voices in the night trying to be heard, I’m sitting here listening to every mind-polluting word.” Those could be related to the negative thoughts constantly going through his head. Something extremely common when one is depressed.

The presence of voices around him, even though he was completely alone, was also shown in Cold Irons Bound. In this song, he said: “I’m beginning to hear voices, and there’s no one around…”

When depicting the sense of emptiness and numbness that so often can happen to people that are going through depression, he said in Not Dark Yet: “Feel like my soul has turned into steel… Every nerve in my body is so vacant and numb.”

Was Bob Dylan depressed? (+What do his songs say)

With all this, it is possible to say that Bob Dylan may have experienced, or written about, some feelings that are extremely common to people with depression. And even though it is not possible to make a diagnosis based on that, such discussions help people get information about what depression is.

Feeling drained, like you have no interest in life anymore. Or dealing with a traumatic moment, such as a divorce, can all have an emotional impact on a person. So let’s learn a little more about what depression is, to have a better notion if someone is depressed or not.

What is depression?

Depression is a mental health condition that causes the person to experience intense sadness. But not only that, it can cause them to lose interest even in things they love, feel hopeless, and empty,  and lose their sense of purpose.

It can make the person feel less energetic, and cause the experience of intense fatigue. It changes the person’s eating and sleeping pattern, and they can become more irritable, feel guilty, and ashamed. Their self-esteem and sense of self-worth can go down.

Depression can make people isolated from the contact with others, and have less ability to focus. It can lead them to consider self-harm, and in some cases, they can have thoughts of death or even suicidal thoughts.

For a person to be considered depressed, they need to experience some of its symptoms persistently for more than two weeks. And even though these are the most common symptoms of depression, it is important to keep in mind that each person will experience it in a specific way.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): Do Bob Dylan’s songs show he was depressed? 

Does Bob Dylan have ADHD?

Bob Dylan has talked about how he sees ADHD. He has said that he feels nowadays kids will be quickly diagnosed with ADHD, and go on medication. He thinks that this can be a problem. That nowadays a kid who is daydreaming in class, or is more impulsive or agitated, will quickly be diagnosed as having ADHD.

It is his thought that parents should be more attentive to the kids’ needs, instead of just putting them on medication. He says that when he was a kid, he also would daydream during classes and that he didn’t pay attention in classes, but he turned out alright.

Based on what he has said, it can be that he has ADHD, but since during his childhood there was no knowledge of this condition, it wasn’t possible to make the diagnosis. But based on what he said, and what was shown by Daniel Kramer, in a book called Bob Dylan it may be that he has ADHD.

In the book, Kramer has talked about how Bob Dylan was constantly on the move, and even when he was sitting down, he couldn’t stand still, he would keep beating his foot, or even jiggling nervously, which is often a sign of ADHD. 

What are Bob Dylan’s biggest influences?

Bob Dylan has some influences that go from music and literature. The four biggest influences are Woody Guthrie, who was a literary man. He was such an influence on Bob Dylan that he has written two songs about him and went to sing one of them to him “Song To Woody” when he was hospitalized.

Aside from him, Bob Dylan was also inspired by Dylan Thomas. The Welsh poet is what made Bob Dylan who he is. He brought many of Thomas’s traits to his music. The symbolism and the way he stood up strong during conflicts were all present in Bob Dylan’s songs.

Another of Bob Dylan’s inspirations is Odetta. Because he heard the African -American folk singer, and civil rights album, he changed his way to play. After that, he changed to acoustic folk music. In her case, the admiration went both ways, and she recorded an album called Odetta Sings Dylan in 1965, to praise the artist.

And finally, another great inspiration for Bob Dylan’s career is Arthur Rimbaud. The poet was part of the French symbolism and surrealism had a huge impact on Dylan. And many of his thoughts seem to have found their way into Bob Dylan’s lyrics. 

What factors can lead to depression?

Depression can happen because of genetic factors, which means that when you have a family history of depression, it can make it easier for you to get depressed. 

Aside from that, depression can happen when a person is going through a chemical imbalance in their brain. It is known that a low level of some neurotransmitters, and hormones, can often be related to depression.

Aside from that, depression seems to be a possible reaction to a traumatic situation. So if the person is going through one, such as a divorce, the loss of a loved one, or even an illness, they can develop depression.

What are the darkest of Bob Dylan’s songs?

One of the darkest Bob Dylan’s songs is “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”, which is used as the soundtrack in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. It is a piece of philosophical music, that leads you to think about death.

Another of his darkest songs is “Ring Them Bells”, from the album “On Mercy”. This song has, in a way, an apocalyptic view on it. It talks about how Bob Dylan sees the final days and the revelation that can come in them.

“Dark Eyes”, from the album, “Empire Burlesque” is another of Bob Dylan’s dark songs. This one also centers on the apocalypse, and it talks about the main character as he witnesses destruction and death. This music talks, in a mellow way, about emotions, death, and destruction.

“Dirge” from the album “Planet Waves” is another of his sad songs, but not only that, it is an angry song. In it, Dylan shows his rage, as the main character is angry because someone has died. 

Does depression have a cure?

No, depression doesn’t have a cure. Instead of that, mental health professionals will say that depression goes into remission. This is because it is impossible to say, once a person is better, that they won’t become depressed again in their lifetime.

But once a person goes into remission, it will be possible for them to experience joy, regain control of their emotions, and go back to being interested in things. What the person that is in remission needs to remember, is to keep caring for their mental health as a way to prevent a relapse.

Conclusion

This article explained, through the lyrics of his songs, how Bob Dylan may have been depressed. In the article, it is seen how many of his feelings, as said in his songs, can relate to symptoms of depression.

If you have any questions or comments about this article, feel free to write themem in the section below.

References

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2012/apr/06/neuroscience-bob-dylan-genius-creativity
https://www.christianpost.com/amp/did-bob-dylan-suffer-clinical-depression.html
https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/news/interview-reveals-dylan-was-suicidal-and-a-heroin-addict-2288339.html