Bob Dylan – Maggie’s Farm (Newport, 1965): Happy October 15, 2011!

I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more
No, I aint gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more
Well, I wake up 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 aint 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 more.

I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s pa no more
No, I aint 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, when 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
I aint 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 say sing while you slave and I just get bored
I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more.
[ Lyrics from: http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/b/bob_dylan/maggies_farm.htm

More lyrics: http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/b/bob_dylan/#share

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 frequently interpreted as Dylan‘s declaration of independence from the protest folk movement.[1] 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.

In fact this theme of capitalist exploitation came to be seen by some as the major theme of the song. In this interpretation, Maggie’s Farm is the military industrial complex, and Dylan is singing for the youth of his time, urging them to reject society.
(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maggie%27s_Farm)

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