Tox Tunes #46: Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 (Bob Dylan)

May 24, 2011, 6:20 pm

Bob Dylan celebrates his 70th birthday today.  “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” (from the album Blonde on Blonde), while certainly not one of his better songs, was in fact one of his biggest commercial hits and also one of his most controversial.  The song was banned by many radio stations — mostly because of the refrain “Everybody must get stoned” — causing Dylan to proclaim: “I never have and never will write a drug song”.  According to Sean Wilentz in his book Bob Dylan in America, Dylan also claimed at one time that the song was about “a minority of, you know, cripples and orientals and, uh, you know, and the world in which they live”. Whatever.

Time Magazine, for one, wasn’t buying any of these disclaimers: “In the shifting, multi-level jargon of teenagers, to ‘get stoned’ does not mean to get drunk, but to get high on drugs . . . a ‘rainy-day woman,’ as any junkie knows, is a marijuana cigarette.” (July 1, 1966)

[In a 1966 taped interview with journalist Robert Shelton that has just surfaced, Dylan confirmed the long-held rumor that in the 1960s he had been addicted to heroin and “very, very strung out for a while.“.]

By the way, the catchy hook that begins the song and recurs throughout can be traced back to The Rheumatism Blues (1931) by Gene Autry — yes, that Gene Autry, who later became known as The Singing Cowboy on radio and TV, and after that was owner of the California Angels baseball team.




  1. R. Chadwick D.O. Says:

    Interesting for a Tox journal

  2. Leon Says:

    Thank you, Dr. Chadwick. We try to cover tox in all its aspects — scientific, historical, and cultural.