Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" is the greatest simile in rock 'n' roll

Because of the makeup of the school, I can bring music into the classroom and have students who just "get it." They are able to approach music with open ears. There are a handful of students in my classes who will go home and listen to Blonde on Blonde, or Blood on the Tracks, but when most of them plug in their iPods they are not listening to '60s folk icons. Even so, I don't get any backlash from playing this oldie in class. In fact, the students are excited about it. As I passed out the lyric sheet one student says "I've tried to figure this song out before, but I never could." My students want to build their English skills, but they also have a desire to expand their musical horizons.

There's only one more thing I need to cover.

"Is there a bridge to this song?"

"No," says a music major in the corner.

"Do the chords change from the verse to the chorus?"

"Not really," he says again.

"Right! The only thing that really changes is how fast he's singing the words!" There is a slight buzz in the room. We've moved away from looking only at the words to examining the piece as a whole. I can actually see students start thinking about the musical aspects. I then ask my last question.

"What is this song like?" Its a loaded question. There are many correct answers, but I'm looking for just one. There's some talking to neighbors, and eyes glance at friends across the room.

"Sad," says a girl in the back.

"Yes," I say, "but what else?"

"Gloomy" says another.

"Good, but what I'm looking for is right on your page, it's right in front of your eyes."

Wait time. Gears are turning. A light bulb is turned on above the music major's head.

"It's literally like a rolling stone!" he says.

"Yes!" I announce, "It starts with the snap of the snare drum and the organ buzzing in the first few seconds and it essentially drones on until it fades out. It's just like a literal rolling stone. It goes on and on. Does that make sense?" And I see everyone get it. Their concentration for the last twenty minutes is rewarded.


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