"Tangled Up in Blue" is a song by Bob Dylan. It appeared on his album Blood on the Tracks in 1975. Released as a single, it reached #31 on the Billboard Hot 100. Rolling Stone ranked it #68 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
The Telegraph has described the song as, "The most dazzling lyric ever written, an abstract narrative of relationships told in an amorphous blend of first and third person, rolling past, present and future together, spilling out in tripping cadences and audacious internal rhymes, ripe with sharply turned images and observations and filled with a painfully desperate longing."
"Tangled Up in Blue" is one of the clearest examples of Dylan's attempts to write "multi-dimensional" songs which defied a fixed notion of time and space. Dylan was influenced by his recent study of painting and the Cubist school of artists, who sought to incorporate multiple perspectives within a single plane of view. As Neil McCormick remarked in 2003: "A truly extraordinary epic of the personal, an unreliable narrative carved out of shifting memories like a five-and-a-half-minute musical Proust." In a 1978 interview Dylan explained this style of songwriting: "What's different about it is that there's a code in the lyrics, and there's also no sense of time. There's no respect for it. You've got yesterday, today and tomorrow all in the same room, and there's very little you can't imagine not happening".
The lyrics are at times opaque, but the song seems to be (like most of the songs on the album) the tale of a love that has, for the time being, ended, although not by choice; the last verse begins:
- So now I'm goin' back again,
- I got to get to her somehow...
- We always did feel the same,
- We just saw it from a different point of view,
- Tangled up in blue.
Dylan continually re-worked the lyrics even after the album was released; the version on his live album Real Live (and throughout the '84 Europe tour) has radically different lyrics. In the first studio version (NYC sessions, September '74) and often in live performances he has sung some of the verses from a third-person perspective (usually "he was laying in bed," but sometimes even "she was laying in bed"), as opposed to the first-person point of view in the Blood on the Tracks version. Dylan has said that the version recorded on the 1984 Real Live album is the best. Dylan has often stated that the song took "ten years to live and two years to write".
The song has been covered by various artists, including Great White, Jerry Garcia, Dickey Betts and Great Southern, Mike McClure, Half Japanese, Robyn Hitchcock, the Indigo Girls, Kim Larsen,KT Tunstall, Ani Difranco, The String Cheese Incident, Jennifer Charles and The Whitlams on their Eternal Nightcap album of 1997.
In the Hootie & the Blowfish song "Only Wanna Be with You", Darius Rucker sings: Yeah I'm tangled up in blue / Only wanna be with you / You can call me your fool / Only wanna be with you. The reference extends a string of mentions of Bob Dylan in the song, beginning at the start of the second verse: Putting on a little Dylan .... The song's rhythm itself seems to be inspired by Dylan's original track.
The Belgian TV-host Bart Peeters, who is also a singer-songwriter, made a Dutch version of the song. The lyrics are modified by him, and as a result he tells a more personal story about how he met his wife. The Dutch title is "Prachtig in het blauw" ([looking] beautiful in blue).
Texas Country artist Hayes Carll includes the lyics You was openly frustrated / you said Dylan's overrated / while singing Tangled Up In Blue in his 2011 song "Another Like You".
The song is a playable track on Rock Band 2, as the most difficult song in the vocal section, and the final song for the player to complete in the "Impossible Vocal Challenge".
Former Dublin Gaelic Football player Dessie Farrell titled his autobiography Tangled Up in Blue.