This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by professional essay writers.

The Impact Drugs Caused on Dylan and His Music

downloadDownload printPrint

Pssst… we can write an original essay just for you.

Any subject. Any type of essay. We’ll even meet a 3-hour deadline.

Get your price

121 writers online

The Impact Drugs Caused on Dylan and His Music essay
Download PDF

Bob Dylan on Drugs – Before, During, and After

Many people and events throughout Bob Dylan’s life influenced his song writing, performances, lifestyle, and personality. One of these influences, as it was to many musicians, was drug use. To many artists, musicians, and even fans of the time period, drug use was a huge influence and inspiration when creating or listening to their art of choice. In Bob Dylan’s case, it was his music.

From the first time Bob Dylan smoked marijuana in Minneapolis in 1960, to his cocaine usage in the 1970’s while on tour with The Band, drugs were always an influential factor in Dylan’s life (Williamson 62-63). Whether it was his low-energy performances or his electrifying live sets, there was almost always a certain kind of mind-altering substance behind the legendary songwriter that created these vibes. Although Dylan claimed that his drug usage never affected his song-writing, Marqusee outlines a few verses from different songs of Dylan’s from over the years that may sometimes hint subtly and other times nail down references to Dylan’s habits (Williamson 62)(198-199).

For instance Marqusee refers to “Mr. Tambourine Man” as some form of a beginning or prototype for psychedelic-themed anthems to come (198). Although Dylan would go on to claim the songs main character, Mr. Tambourine Man, wasn’t about some imaginary figure from a hallucinogenic experience but rather inspired by a fellow musician Bruce Langhorne (Unterberger). Regardless, Dylan’s songs would continue to be influenced by and in turn inspire future generations due to his experimentation with mind-altering substances.

In Dylan’s song “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” off of Highway 61 Revisited (1965), he outlines a sense of isolation and loneliness that much of the drug counterculture may not have always experienced:

I started out on burgundy but soon hit the harder stuff

Everybody said they’d stand behind me when the game got rough

But the joke was on me, there was nobody even there to bluff

I’m’ going back to New York City, I do believe I’ve had enough

Marqusee makes the observation that perhaps these feelings of isolation or loneliness spawn from his drug choice being amphetamine and speed as opposed to drugs that the hippies were more involved with such as LSD and other hallucinogenic substances (198).

Although some of Dylan’s songs such as “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” offer feelings of loneliness, Dylan himself explained that he “would not feel so all alone” when taking drugs. Much of the counterculture that was involved with drug usage felt a bond of togetherness, spawning from all being a part of an outlaw community. Being against the establishment was an attractive property to many people during the 1960’s and 1970’s, and certain pieces of Dylan’s music was able emulate that feeling and expand it into art form (Marqusee 198). The feeling previously described as loneliness, could in a way be taken as a desire to escape, which is why many were tempted to participate in recreational drug-use that normally wouldn’t have ever been exposed to it (Marqusee 197).

As Dylan believed himself, “Opium, hash, pot – now those things aren’t drugs, they just bend your mind a little” (Williamson 62). But the thing is, Dylan didn’t just experiment with these aforementioned mind-bending substances. As Williamson writes, according to singer Marianne Faithfull, Dylan’s drug of choice on his 1965 tour of Great Britain was methedrine (62). Additionally, in May of 1966, Dylan had created a habit of scratching himself which is a common sign among drug addicts and would even stay up for days on end with no sleep. In some instances on the Australian leg of his 1966 World Tour, Dylan would play his first set self-involved and almost shy or unenergetic. His second set he would emerge with a burst of energy, hurling his songs at the crowd. This was most likely due to heroin before the show, and cocaine in between sets (Heylin). This mixing of substances can be seen referenced in his song “Stuck Inside of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again” off of Blonde on Blonde (1966):

Now the rainman gave me two cures

Then he said, “Jump right in”

The one was Texas medicine

The other was just railroad gin

An’ like a fool I mixed them

An’ now people just get uglier

An’ I have no sense of time

Oh, Mama, can this really be the end

Once again we can see drug usage being mixed in with his lyrics, despite what he had to say about it only affecting his ability to perform at his concerts.

Eventually in 1966, Dylan would have to retreat to Woodstock, NY in order to, in a way, reset his body from the amount of drug use he had endured over the years (Williamson 63). This didn’t stop his drug use in the long run, still returning to cocaine use on his Rolling Thunder tour in 1975 and 1976. Although Dylan had used drugs throughout his career, he still claimed, “I never got hooked on any kind of drug,” in a Rolling Stone interview in 1984 (Williamson 63).

Regardless of what Dylan says to the media, and regardless of what Dylan specialists believe to be true, it was clear that in some form or another Bob Dylan had used mind-altering substances that overall influenced his music and the counterculture as a whole. Without his experimentation, many of his performances and songs would have come out in a different light. That light may have been a light that his listeners didn’t agree with, or maybe it would have been a more uptight performance or recording. Whichever way might have been the outcome, Bob Dylan had become one of the greatest singer and songwriters in history, and drugs undoubtedly had a massive influence on how that became true.

Remember: This is just a sample from a fellow student.

Your time is important. Let us write you an essay from scratch

experts 450+ experts on 30 subjects ready to help you just now

delivery Starting from 3 hours delivery

Find Free Essays

We provide you with original essay samples, perfect formatting and styling

Cite this Essay

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below:

The Impact Drugs Caused on Dylan and His Music. (2019, January 03). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 26, 2022, from
“The Impact Drugs Caused on Dylan and His Music.” GradesFixer, 03 Jan. 2019,
The Impact Drugs Caused on Dylan and His Music. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 26 Jan. 2022].
The Impact Drugs Caused on Dylan and His Music [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2019 Jan 03 [cited 2022 Jan 26]. Available from:
copy to clipboard

Sorry, copying is not allowed on our website. If you’d like this or any other sample, we’ll happily email it to you.

    By clicking “Send”, you agree to our Terms of service and Privacy statement. We will occasionally send you account related emails.


    Attention! This essay is not unique. You can get a 100% Plagiarism-FREE one in 30 sec

    Receive a 100% plagiarism-free essay on your email just for $4.99
    get unique paper
    *Public papers are open and may contain not unique content
    download public sample

    Sorry, we could not paraphrase this essay. Our professional writers can rewrite it and get you a unique paper.



    Please check your inbox.

    Want us to write one just for you? We can custom edit this essay into an original, 100% plagiarism free essay.

    thanks-icon Order now

    Hi there!

    Are you interested in getting a customized paper?

    Check it out!
    Having trouble finding the perfect essay? We’ve got you covered. Hire a writer

    Haven't found the right essay?

    Get an expert to write you the one you need!


    Professional writers and researchers


    Sources and citation are provided


    3 hour delivery