Ron Rosenbaum

New Dylan Mystery: What Happened in "Mississippi" Anyway?

Okay, he’s put no less than 3 (!) versions of this song on the new bootleg series. Three versions! I’ll admit I have only the two on the two-disc CD set because the third, as most fans know costs upward of a hundred dollars, and I just don’t feel comfortable asking for a press freebie. (“An’ here I sit so patiently tryng to find out what price/You have to pay to get outta/Goin’ through all these things thrice”).

Maybe those of you who have the third version are in on the secret. Maybe it’s all explained on the magic Third Disc. And maybe you want to to keep it a scret having paid so dearly for it. I don’t blame you, I guess.

But what I want to know is why this song above all others. Yeah, I like it, I’d even call it a neglected classic. (originally recorded for 1997’s Time Out of Mind. But more importantly what’s the metaphoric resonance of that haunting line: “Only one thing I did wrong/Stayed in Mississippi a day too long.”

It’s kind of rueful, a wry acceptance of fate, not a lot of regret, or wishing he weren’t the kind of guy who’d have done whatever “stayed in Mississippi a day too long” means to him. Mississippi could refer to the political engagement of his early civil rights work, or to the swampy romantic entnaglements of his later songs.

One way or another he got in too deep. But he wouldn’t necessarily do it differenty. At least that’s how I hear it.

But I wonder what “it” is. Any thoughts?