Bob Dylan – Neighborhood Bully- – 30th Anniversary



Well, the neighborhood bully, he’s just one man
His enemies say he’s on their land
They got him outnumbered about a million to one
He got no place to escape to, no place to run
He’s the neighborhood bully

The neighborhood bully just lives to survive
He’s criticized and condemned for being alive
He’s not supposed to fight back, he’s supposed to have thick skin
He’s supposed to lay down and die when his door is kicked in
He’s the neighborhood bully

The neighborhood bully been driven out of every land
He’s wandered the earth an exiled man
Seen his family scattered, his people hounded and torn
He’s always on trial for just being born
He’s the neighborhood bully

Well, he knocked out a lynch mob, he was criticized
Old women condemned him, said he should apologize.
Then he destroyed a bomb factory, nobody was glad
The bombs were meant for him. He was supposed to feel bad
He’s the neighborhood bully

Well, the chances are against it and the odds are slim
That he’ll live by the rules that the world makes for him
’Cause there’s a noose at his neck and a gun at his back
And a license to kill him is given out to every maniac
He’s the neighborhood bully

He got no allies to really speak of
What he gets he must pay for, he don’t get it out of love
He buys obsolete weapons and he won’t be denied
But no one sends flesh and blood to fight by his side
He’s the neighborhood bully

Well, he’s surrounded by pacifists who all want peace
They pray for it nightly that the bloodshed must cease
Now, they wouldn’t hurt a fly. To hurt one they would weep
They lay and they wait for this bully to fall asleep
He’s the neighborhood bully

Every empire that’s enslaved him is gone
Egypt and Rome, even the great Babylon
He’s made a garden of paradise in the desert sand
In bed with nobody, under no one’s command
He’s the neighborhood bully

Now his holiest books have been trampled upon
No contract he signed was worth what it was written on
He took the crumbs of the world and he turned it into wealth
Took sickness and disease and he turned it into health
He’s the neighborhood bully

What’s anybody indebted to him for?
Nothin’, they say. He just likes to cause war
Pride and prejudice and superstition indeed
They wait for this bully like a dog waits to feed
He’s the neighborhood bully

What has he done to wear so many scars?
Does he change the course of rivers? Does he pollute the moon and stars?
Neighborhood bully, standing on the hill
Running out the clock, time standing still
Neighborhood bully


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Bob Dylan Fact Sheet


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  1. Although the song sounds like a sledge hammer, and the message is a bit one-sided to say the least, for me there’s no denying its force, the lyrics do get the black and white defence accross in poetic words and images that any fire and brimstone preacher would be proud of, just like he did with the better song Slow Train Coming, which is the only one together with When He Returns of the first Christian album which in terms of art reach his level of greatest song writer of our times, and Neighborhood Bully fits in that category, it won’t be denied, even if you oppose it. Still it is for me the weak point of Infidels, more so than the hilarious and in retrospect prophetic Union Sundown which swings along fine. Boy, my prayers are: not a Bootleg Series heaping of outtakes, but a serious double album of the original Infidels together with the best of the rest, and if it were possible, with side one and two consisting of the setlist which Mark Knopfler intended, the way it was done on Outfidels, a vinyl bootlegalbum from 1984 I have and that ranks in the top ten of my Dylan collection.

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