Bob Dylan on Friends

Welcome to From Insults to Respect. Today’s topic, friends.

Why are friends relevant to respect? Well, for a variety of reasons seeking to have at least one or two good friends that are respected in your community can serve to increase the respect community members have for you. The skills that led to why these respected people have become respected may very well rub off on you as you observe their actions. Moreover, when people find out that a respected individual is your friend, they might be more open to the idea that you have some valued qualities of your own that make it worthwhile for the respected person choosing to be your friend.

Today’s topic of “friends” is also related to respect because working on developing a group of friends who are respected for having a variety of complementary abilities is one of the great social intelligence skills. To get a sense of this, consider the value of having one friend who has knowhow about fixing things around the house and how this can save you a ton of money. Meanwhile, having another friend that is great at organizing fun activities can help you to meet a variety of people. With such a friend creating opportunities to network in this way, you may find that moving toward some of what you want to accomplish is well greased because of the pleasant familiarity that people within your community have with you.

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not suggesting that you should solely pick your friends because of some materialistic gains. It is equally important to pick friends simply because of your appreciation of the art of their being, be they salt of the Earth, or rich tycoon.

Although this is all true, when it comes to thinking about the nature of friends there are some subtleties vital to consider. To enrich our sense of this, I think it’s worthwhile to consider how Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan deals with this topic on his Theme Time Radio Hour episode, “Friends and Neighbors.” So, without further ado, here’s Bob’s take on friends.

Bob on Friends

Early in the show, Bob plays us a lively tune by Porter Wagoner and the Wagonmasters called “Howdie Neighbors.” Despite the title, it’s not just about greeting people who live next door or on your block. People from all over the community are invited to a grand party with music, dancing, and sharing a bite to eat. It sounds like a great way to meet some new friends and catch up a little with some old ones as well. Conjure up in your mind a lively fiddle, a frolicking banjo, and the following lyrics:

Howdy neighbor, howdy, get out and come right in
We’ll make a bowl of gravy to sop your biscuits in
So howdy neighbor howdy come in and sit right down
Come on and tell us all the news how are things in town

We’re so glad to see you,
Been a wonderin’ how you’ve been
Everybody’s feelin’ fine,
So let the fun begin

Get the banjo off the wall and tune it up in [the key of] A
Play some good ole country tunes like grandpa used to play

As the song winds down, Bob greets us listeners with a hearty, “I want you all to be my friends.”


And then he solemnly quotes Friedrich Nietzsche:

“Go up close to your friends, but do not go over to him. We should respect the enemy that is in our friends.”

Said another way, it is important to get close to good friends, but we should keep in mind that all have faults, including our friends. Therefore, we would be wise to find a way to remain close to our friends, but, at the same time, when we see our friend begin to do some unhealthy acts, we shouldn’t just go ahead and join along in these acts just to remain friends. If your friend takes out some heroin, perhaps you might want to politely refuse to partake.

Next, Bob tells us a little about Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the lead singer of the song he is about to play, “Don’t Take Everybody to Be Your Friend.”

“She’s a powerful force of nature, a guitar playin’, singin’ evangelist…Anything but ordinary and plain. She was a big, good lookin’ woman, and divine. Not to mention sublime and splendid, always dressed like she was on her way to church, with that electric guitar strung across her shoulder.”

Here’s a few of the lyrics from a mighty impressive performer:

Oooh don’t, don’t take everybody to be your friend.
You just bear this in mind
A true friend is hard to find.
Please don’t take everybody to be your friend.

Some will cause you to weep,
Some will cause you to moan,
Some will gain your confidence,
And cause you to lose your home.
You just bear this in mind
A true friend is hard to find.
Please, don’t take everybody to be your friend.

Choose your friends wisely is obviously the central message here.

Moving right along, Bob tells us about Moon Mullican, a Texan. Bob surmises the guy must be a friendly fellow from the song he sings, “Make Friends.”

Make friends with the rich,
Make friends with the poor,
Make friends with the high,
Make friends with the low.

Even a little child,
You oughta greet him with a smile.
While travelin’ through this world, try to make friends.

Wear a smile, not a frown,
Don’t you put your neighbour down.
While travelin’ through this world, try to make friends.

Sometimes you may be weak,
Sometimes you may be strong.
Sometimes talked about, sometimes treated wrong.
But you just can’t miss,
If you’ll remember this,

While travelin’ through this world,
Try to make friends.

The delightful interplay between the piano and guitar on that one offers us a metaphor for what beauty can come from two different folks doing their things together.

Next, Bob tells us about one of the wisest guys he ever got to know, Muhammad Ali, who once said, “Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything at all.”

As you can see, Bob likes to provide some relevant quotes throughout his show. Here’s one from Aristotle:

In poverty, and other misfortunes of life, true friends are a true refuge. To the young, they help to keep out of mischief, to the old, they are a comfort and aid, and those in the prime of life, they incite to noble deeds.

A little later in the show Bob tells us:

If you need a friend, here’s some things that makes a good friend: Good friends listen to each other. Good friends help each others solve problems. Friends are dependable. This one is very important, good friends never borrow money. Good friends never change the channel on your radio. Good friends will always tell you when you have food in your teeth. Good friends sometimes pay for dinner. And good friends sometimes let you have the last beer. And if you are doing all of those things, maybe you’ll have a friend, like Carol King sings about. Here’s Carol King. She’s going to brighten up even your darkest night.

From here, Bob launches into Carol’s classic song, “You got a Friend.” A few of the lyrics go:

When you’re down and troubled,
And you need some love and care,
And nothing, nothing is going right,
Close your eyes and think of me,
And soon I will be there
To brighten up even your darkest night.

You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I’ll come running to see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I’ll be there
You’ve got a friend

If the sky above you grows dark and full of clouds
And that old north wind begins to blow
Keep your head together and call my name out loud
Soon you’ll hear me knocking at your door…

Now, ain’t it good to know that you’ve got a friend
When people can be so cold?
They’ll hurt you, yes, and desert you
And take your soul if you let them,
Oh, but don’t you let them.

You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I’ll come running, running, yeah, yeah, yeah, to see you again.
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I’ll be there, yes I will.
You’ve got a friend.

Tapestry, the Carol King album this song appears on, was the most popular of the early 1970s era, remaining on the charts for over 6 years. So, on that series of notes, I think we’ll begin to fade out for this week. I hope you enjoyed our little meditation on friends, and I hope you’ll join us again right here at From Insults to Respect.


Some people will enjoy reading this blog by beginning with the first post and then moving forward to the next more recent one; then to the next one; and so on. This permits readers to catch up on some ideas that were presented earlier and to move through all of the ideas in a systematic fashion to develop their emotional and social intelligence. To begin at the very first post you can click HERE.






Should Dylan Accept Nobel Prize?

About the Author

Jeffrey Rubin grew up in Brooklyn, received his PhD from the University of Minnesota and has taught conflict resolution there as well as at a psychiatric clinic, a correctional facility and a number of public schools. He has published articles on anger and conflict resolution and has authored three novels.

1 Comment

  1. EXCELLENT. Please do post this on the site of World Peace thru Kindness and also World Peace thru Kindness: New Beginnings. Thank you so much!

Write Your Comment

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>