Like a rolling stone, written and sung by Bob Dylan was released in July 1965 as part of the album Highway 61 Revisited. The time period this song was released heavily impacted on the construction of the song. According to Dylan the basis of the song came from an extended piece of verse. In 1966, Dylan described the genesis of "Like a Rolling Stone" to journalist Jules Siegel. “It was ten pages long. It wasn't called anything, just a rhythm thing on paper all about my steady hatred directed at some point that was honest. In the end it wasn't hatred, it was telling someone something they didn't know, telling them they were lucky.
Revenge, that's a better word. I had never thought of it as a song, until one day I was at the piano, and on the paper I was singing, "How does it feel? " in a slow motion pace, in the utmost of slow motion. ” Like a rolling stone was well out of the norm for a folk song in the 60’s and most radio stations were hesitant to play his song to the public. This was because firstly it was over six minutes long, which was which was very long at the time and because it had a heavy electric sound because he used an electric guitar. When he performed this song for the first time he was heavily booed because of this.
Bob Dylan’s life at the time had a massive influence on the song as it was based on that Edie Sedgwick and the nature of Dylan’s relationship with her at the time of its writing and recording. The song is about a rich girl that thought she could stay rich forever who went to the best school but wasted time doing drugs and partying but when she is faced with the harshness of poverty she is struggling to cope with her life because she had never been taught how to live on the street. The girl in the song is most likely Edie Sedgwick as Edie had come from a wealthy California family but a difficult home environment.
She went to Cambridge University, which was one of the best schools, but wasted her time doing drugs. She went through all her inherited money like mad and very quickly was broke. The bulk of the money was spent on clothes, drugs, and cosmetics. Her parents, who had been paying for her, now cut her off and she was left to fend for herself, stealing, pawning, and otherwise cadging what she needed to survive and maintain her lifestyle. Edie left Dylan for artist Andy Warhol which angered Dylan. There are also a variety of poetic devices used in ‘Like a rolling stone’. The most common one in most poems that is included in this one is rhyme.
The song one of the most popular rhyme scheme which is why the song was so popular. The rhyme scheme for the first verse and chorus was aaaab ccccb ddeefg gghhh. He then repeats it three more times, with different words with only minor deviations from the strict aaaa rhyming scheme of the first two lines. Another poetic device used is repetition. This is used as the chorus is repeated four times. Hyperbole is used a lot in this song as a lot of the things said aren’t meant to be taken seriously like when he says, ‘You used to ride on the chrome horse with your diplomat’.
The phrase ‘Like a rolling stone’ is a simile and is a metaphor. There is also a lot of irony as the song sounds like he is making fun of a girl who was once rich, who didn’t care about the poor, who is now a poor girl. Alliteration is used in the song when he says, ‘pretty people’. Stanza and rhythm are also used. Dylan has positioned the audience to not feel sorry for the girl as she has bought her poverty on herself. He does this because he dislikes Edie Sedgwick because she left him for Andy Warhol. This makes the listener view Edie as someone who deserves to be poor.