This has been eating me for few years now:

When I listened for the first time to Bob Dylan's: "The Times They Are A-Changin'" I heard

The times Lee Harvey changin'

And I always hear it like this. I do some research, the song was written about half to one year before Oswald shot JFK. So my question is:

Is there a possibility, that later on Dylan was performing this line on purpose like this?

1 Answer 1


Bob Dylan's poor diction is legendary (it is said that he patterned his singing style after Woody Guthrie, who was suffering from Huntington's disease by the time Dylan met him, resulting in Guthrie uncontrollably slurring his words). This makes Dylan easy to mishear and misunderstand.

In addition, people frequently mishear lyrics, sometimes consistently. Consistently misheard lyrics are known as mondegreens.

It would seem out of character for Dylan to change one of his songs in this way --the name doesn't make any sense in that context, and why would he need to hide it? He frequently references the names of real people in his songs, when he wants to, and doesn't hide it at all, so fitting it into an existing song for no reason seems unlikely. So, I don't know if I can convince you of this fact, but you're almost certainly just mishearing this.

  • While not necessarily accurate in this case, some artists/bands have been known to alter lyrics after they've played the song, bending them around people/places. Journey famously would alter the lyric in "Don't Stop Believing" for the line "Born and raised in South Detroit" to match the city they were performing in. Metallica sporadically changes the lyric in Master of Puppets from "Dedicated to how I'm killing you" to "Dedicated to how I'm f**king you". I'm not saying Dylan changed the lyrics, but it's not beyond reason that he might. Commented Jul 10, 2019 at 19:24
  • The thing about your examples is that they all make sense. "The times, Lee Harvey changing" is just nonsense. I'm sure Dylan sometimes does improv changes to his lyrics, but he's too good a lyricist to do something junky for no reason. Commented Jul 10, 2019 at 21:10

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