Ithaca Blog

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Senor Wences Versus Ennui, Via Dylan

Somehow, in the past few weeks, we've twice been asked about the meaning of the Bob Dylan song title, "It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry."

Maybe this is not so unusual when one works in a music environment. Certainly it will be much less usual outside such an environ, so it will not exactly be a red-hot service to clarify this matter publicly, but we will do so anyway, as it happens to be raining, and a little slow in this music environment at the moment.

Here's what we wrote on our friend Mike Hanson's "Facebook" page about it. Mike plays banjo, and occasionally puzzles over Bob Dylan.

"It takes a lot to laugh, it takes a train to cry" means that life is essentially sad. How much in life reliably makes us laugh and feel joy? Not much. Senor Wences, and that's about it. But all it takes is something as mundane as a train (lonesome whistle; going away) to make us sad.

So, the more explicit song title would be, "It Takes A Lot To Make One Laugh, Or Feel Life's Joy, But It Takes No More Than the Mere Thought Of an Ordinary Transportation Vehicle, For One Example, To Make Us Feel, Quite Disproportionately, the Fundamental Tragedy of Life"; but that would be too long.

(P.S. Senor Wences was a big guy in my hometown, NYC. The block of 54th Street where he lived is named for him. He died in 1999 at age 103.)


Steve Burke
for Ithaca NY Blog

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