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Maggie's Farm

(„Bringing It All Back Home”, 1965 Columbia)
słowa i muzyka: Bob Dylan

I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.
No, I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.
Well, I wake in the morning,
Fold my hands and pray for rain.
I got a head full of ideas
That are drivin' me insane.
It's a shame the way she makes me scrub the floor.
I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.



I ain't gonna work for Maggie's brother no more.
No, I ain't gonna work for Maggie's brother no more.
Well, he hands you a nickel,
He hands you a dime,
He asks you with a grin
If you're havin' a good time,
Then he fines you every time you slam the door.
I ain't gonna work for Maggie's brother no more.



I ain't gonna work for Maggie's pa no more.
No, I ain't gonna work for Maggie's pa no more.
Well, he puts his cigar
Out in your face just for kicks.
His bedroom window
It is made out of bricks.
The National Guard stands around his door.
Ah, I ain't gonna work for Maggie's pa no more.



I ain't gonna work for Maggie's ma no more.
No, I ain't gonna work for Maggie's ma no more.
Well, she talks to all the servants
About man and God and law.
Everybody says
She's the brains behind pa.
She's sixty-eight, but she says she's twenty-four.
I ain't gonna work for Maggie's ma no more.



I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.
No, I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.
Well, I try my best
To be just like I am,
But everybody wants you
To be just like them.
They sing while you slave and I just get bored.
I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.

Maggie's Farm” is a song written by Bob Dylan, recorded on January 15, 1965, and released on the album Bringing It All Back Home on March 22 of that year. Like many other Dylan songs of the 1965-66 period, „Maggie's Farm” is based in electric blues.
The lyrics of the song follow a straightforward blues structure, with the opening line of each verse (”I ain't gonna work…”) sung twice, then reiterated at the end of the verse. The third to fifth lines of each verse elaborate on and explain the sentiment expressed in the verse's opening/closing lines.
Maggie's Farm is best read as Dylan's declaration of independence from the protest folk movement. Punning on Silas McGee's Farm, where he had performed „Only a Pawn in Their Game” at a civil rights protest in 1963 (featured in the film Dont Look Back), Maggie's Farm recasts Dylan as the pawn and the folk music scene as the oppressor. The middle stanzas ridicule various types in the folk scene, the promoter who tries to control your art (fining you when you slam the door), the paranoid militant (whose window is bricked over), and the condescending activist who is more uptight than she claims (”She's 68 but she says she's 54”). The first and last stanzas detail how Dylan feels strait-jacketed by the expectations of the folk scene (”It's a shame the way she makes me scrub the floor” and „they say sing while you slave”), needing room to express his „head full of ideas,” and complains that, even though he tries his best to be just like he is, „everybody wants you to be just like them”.
The song, essentially a protest song against protest folk, represents Dylan's transition from a folk singer who sought authenticity in traditional song-forms and activist politics to an innovative stylist whose self-exploration made him a cultural muse for a generation. (See „Like a Rolling Stone” and influence on The Beatles, etc.)
On the other hand, this biographical context provides only one of many lenses through which to interpret the text. While some may see „Maggie's Farm” as a repudiation of the protest-song tradition associated with folk music, it can also (ironically) be seen as itself a deeply political protest song. We are told, for example, that the „National Guard” stands around the farm door, and that Maggie's mother talks of „Man and God and Law.” The „farm” that Dylan sings of can in this case easily represent racism, state oppression and capitalist exploitation.

Critical responses are ambivalent. The common thread is that Dylan is pointing the finger of refusal and declaring his self-possession.
For example, „Maggie's Farm” is described by critic Bill Wyman as „a loping, laconic look at the service industry.” National Public Radio's Tim Riley described it as the „counterculture's war cry,” but he also notes that the song has been interpreted as „a rock star's gripe to his record company, a songwriter's gripe to his publisher, and a singer-as-commodity's gripe to his audience-as-market.” However, Allmusic's William Ruhlmann also notes that „in between the absurdities, the songwriter describes what sound like real problems. 'I got a head full of ideas/That are drivin' me insane,' he sings in the first verse, and given Dylan's prolific writing at the time, that's not hard to believe. In the last verse, he sings, 'I try my best/To be just like I am/But everybody wants you/To be just like them,' another comment that sounds sincere.” One of the critical responses to the song, favored by many contemporary fans, is Todd Haynes'. In his Dylan biopic „I'm Not There,” the song debuts at the Newport Folk Festival, with Dylan and his band firing machine guns at the crowd. At the conclusion of the performance, Haynes' Dylan declares to a cartoonish folk-protest audience: „I'm sorry for everything I've done, and I hope to remedy it soon.”
”Maggie's Farm” is well-known for being at the center of the fervor that surrounded Dylan after his electric set at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival; it was that set's performance of „Maggie's Farm,” much faster and more aggressive than on the Bringing It All Back Home recording and featuring prominent lead electric guitar by Mike Bloomfield, that caused the most controversy. The festival's production manager Joe Boyd claimed that „that first note of 'Maggie's Farm' was the loudest thing anybody had ever heard.” It is still unknown what exactly was the biggest source of the controversy, with accounts of the event differing from individual to individual. Though Dylan's move from acoustic folk to electric rock had been extremely controversial, many accounts suggest the problem was largely due to poor sound. Pete Seeger, who is often cited as one of the main opponents to Dylan at Newport 1965, claimed in 2005:
There are reports of me being anti-him going electric at the '65 Newport Folk festival, but that's wrong. I was the MC that night. He was singing 'Maggie's Farm' and you couldn't understand a word because the mic was distorting his voice. I ran to the mixing desk and said, 'Fix the sound, it's terrible!' The guy said 'No, this is what the young people want.' And I did say that if I had an axe I'd cut the cable! But I wanted to hear the words. I didn't mind him going electric.
Singer Eric Von Schmidt has a similar recollection of the event: „Whoever was controlling the mics messed it up. You couldn't hear Dylan. It looked like he was singing with the volume off.”
Also, Al Kooper, Dylan's organist at the concert, claims:
The reason they booed is because he only played for 15 minutes and everybody else played for 45 minutes to an hour, and he was the headliner of the festival. […] The fact that he was playing electric…I don't know. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band (who had played earlier) had played electric and the crowd didn't seem too incensed.
However, the style of the music features heavily in several accounts such as that of Elektra Records founder Jac Holzman - „Backstage, Alan Lomax was bellowing that this was a folk festival, you just didn't have amplified instruments.”
The „Maggie's Farm” performance from Newport was featured and discussed extensively in the 2005 Martin Scorsese documentary No Direction Home and released on its accompanying album, The Bootleg Series Vol. 7: No Direction Home: The Soundtrack. Media reviews of the soundtrack were overwhelmingly positive towards the „Maggie's Farm” performance, yielding such descriptions as „blistering” and „remarkably tight, and downright spine-tingling. You can sense Dylan and the band feeding off their collective nervous energy.” However, Al Kooper has claimed to be very unsatisfied with the performance:
In 'Maggie's Farm,' the beat got turned around, so instead of playing and two and four, (drummer) Sam Lay was playing on one and three. That's an accident that can happen, and it did, so it was sort of a disaster.


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