The seventh song on Bob Dylan’s 1963 album “The Free Wheelin’ Bob Dylan” is an ode to lovers gone by. Titled Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright, the song tells the story of the ending of a long relationship between the narrator and an unnamed woman and their searches for a life outside of each other’s company. The narrator expresses his wishes for them to continue on with their lives, claiming that dwelling on their past can do them no good, and any attempt to fix the kinks in their relationship is simply a waste of energy.
Dylan conveys the couple’s past quarrels through the narrator’s reminiscing. The narrator seems to feel some kind of apathy toward his former lover, repeating the same phrase throughout the song.
It ain’t no use
Despite the repetition, the narrator changes the meat of each line to gradually convey the reasons behind the couple’s downfall. One instance of this is in the song’s second verse.
It ain’t no use in turnin’ on your light, babe
That light I never knowed
An’ it ain’t no use in turnin’ on your light, babe
I’m on the dark side of the road
Still I wish there was somethin’ you would do or say
To try and make me change my mind and stay
We never did too much talkin’ anyway
So don’t think twice, it’s all right
Dylan uses the woman’s light as a metaphor for their lack of communication as the narrator explains that trying to communicate now would make no difference. She never shared her thoughts with him or allowed him to understand her, leaving him not knowing her light. He remains on a dark path without her light and expresses a wish that she would ask him to stay, but remembers how poorly they communicated and decides they would be better off apart.
Dylan fills the narrator’s final words to his former lover with a sense of bitterness; the diction calmly calls her out for wronging him but also shows forgiveness that reflects the inner growth the narrator has undergone because of their relationship. Knowing that neither one of them is solely to blame, he consistently takes time to reassure her that their parting of ways should not cause any feelings of guilt or unhappiness. Not being right for someone does not make you wrong.
I’m walkin’ down that long, lonesome road, babe
Where I’m bound, I can’t tell
But goodbye’s too good a word, gal
So I’ll just say fare thee well
I ain’t sayin’ you treated me unkind
You could have done better but I don’t mind
You just kinda wasted my precious time
But don’t think twice, it’s all right
In a song of only 3 minutes and 41 seconds, Dylan manages to effortlessly build the story of two complicated individuals finding themselves at the end of their time together. The listener can absorb the simplistic beauty of their story, one that may have been rather mundane if it had been written by anyone else, and begin to see themselves in the character’s light. Forgiving themselves, absolving themselves of guilt, the two of them part ways cordially, returning their status to strangers. They move on and resume their lives without the weight of their past keeping them from further growth.
In 2016, Bob Dylan received a Nobel Prize in Literature for his revolutionary contributions to storytelling in American music.