It’s a difficult thing, to choose a favorite. And, coming from a long line of music fanatics, — and being one myself, I guess you could say — it’s even more unpleasant to choose a favorite song. So, like every challenge I do with this question, I pick a song that I love at the moment, because it is ever-changing.
Right now, my favorite song is Spanish Harlem Incident by Bob Dylan. I love everything about this song — each word breathes its own meaning; it has life, and it also has an entire different interpretation and life as a whole — a whole song; a whole title; everything!
Spanish would get me right away. Anything to do with the language or ways of the Spanish already has me interested.
Harlem is another word and idea that would make me look or listen closer. Harlem, as many people know is located in the Northern part of Manhattan. Ever since I began listening to Bob a few years ago, I’ve been completely enthralled with New York (and yes, also that ‘Amish’ upstate). And Bob describes it so well, he says it like it is — like you’re really there yourself.
And that’s something else I love about this song (and most of Robert’s compositions): it takes you to somewhere you’ve never been. I’ve never been to Manhattan, but I can picture it so vividly now through his songs, especially this one.
“Gypsy girl, the hands of Harlem
Cannot hold you to its heat.
Your temperature is too hot for taming,
Your flaming feet are burning up the street.”
And yes, more gypsies. Like I said before, I don’t consider myself to be any sort of gypsy, walking a dangerous line — but I do love the idea of them; wandering around, having nothing tying you down…it’s a dream; a colorful reverie with a certain darkness to it that makes it all light up.
And yes, I like to imagine Bob Dylan writing about me. I like to imagine anyone writing about me. It’s a very wonderful thing and a pleasant thing to dream about.
The imagery in this song is what really captured me. I just picture a Harlem night, staring down at the Manhattan lights from a darkened rooftop where everything can be seen. The lights glistening on the black Atlantic Channels around Roosevelt and Queens. And Bob…the young poet with the lights in his cold, blue eyes (I really romanticize Bob Dylan, by the way — just everything about him…). It’d be a chilly night too, and you’d be able to see your breath hanging in front of your eyes. Of course, it’d be back then, when there wasn’t so much technology and society to deal with.
And he talks about this burning, dark gypsy. And, in my head, the chilly night and the flaming gypsy create a great contrast.
I don’t know….here’s the song: