Bob Dylan - Positively 4th Street - 1965


Welcome to the aiMOOC on Bob Dylan's classic song "Positively 4th Street" from 1965. In this course, you'll explore the history, significance, and lyrical depth of this iconic track. Get ready to dive deep into the world of Bob Dylan and one of his most memorable songs!


"Positively 4th Street" is a song by Bob Dylan, released in 1965. Unlike many of Dylan's other songs from this period, which feature topical or political themes, "Positively 4th Street" is known for its biting and cynical lyrics, which are directed at former friends and colleagues whom Dylan felt had betrayed him. The song was never included on one of Dylan's studio albums, making it a unique piece in his discography. However, it remains one of his most famous and beloved songs.

Composition and Release

The song features a typical folk-rock arrangement of the 1960s, with Dylan's voice accompanied by electric guitars, bass, piano, and drums. Its melody is memorable and has a slightly melancholic feel, typical of Dylan's work during this period. Released as a single, "Positively 4th Street" reached #7 on the Billboard Hot 100, showcasing Dylan's growing influence in the world of popular music.

Lyrics and Themes

The lyrics of "Positively 4th Street" are known for their scathing and direct nature. Dylan's words are often interpreted as an attack on the pretentiousness and insincerity he perceived in the Greenwich Village folk scene of the early 1960s. The song's title refers to West 4th Street in Manhattan, a central location in this folk scene. The lyrics do not hold back in their criticism, making the song a powerful expression of personal betrayal and artistic frustration.

Influence and Legacy

"Positively 4th Street" has had a lasting impact on both music and culture. It is often cited as an example of Dylan's ability to combine poetic lyrics with popular music forms. The song's frankness and emotional honesty have influenced countless artists and songwriters, and it remains a staple of Dylan's live performances.

Cultural References

The song has been referenced in various forms of media and has been covered by numerous artists, further cementing its place in popular culture. Its influence extends beyond music, impacting literature, film, and art.

Further Reading

  1. Bob Dylan: Explore more about Bob Dylan's life, career, and discography.
  2. Folk Music of the 1960s: Learn about the folk music scene in the 1960s, especially in Greenwich Village.
  3. Songwriting Techniques: Understand the art and craft of songwriting, as exemplified by Dylan.
  4. 1960s Pop Culture: Dive into the broader context of 1960s culture and how music played a role.


Interactive Tasks

Quiz: Questions on the song

What was unique about the release of "Positively 4th Street" compared to most of Bob Dylan's other songs? (It was released as a single and not included on a studio album) (!It was the first song Dylan recorded with electric instruments) (!It was released under a pseudonym) (!It was recorded live during a concert)

What is the predominant theme of "Positively 4th Street"? (Criticism of former friends and the folk music scene) (!A romantic relationship) (!Political protest) (!A road trip across America)

What musical style is "Positively 4th Street" primarily associated with? (Folk-rock) (!Blues) (!Country) (!Psychedelic rock)

In which part of Manhattan does the title "Positively 4th Street" refer to? (Greenwich Village) (!Harlem) (!Upper East Side) (!Soho)

Which chart position did "Positively 4th Street" reach on the Billboard Hot 100? (#7) (!#1) (!#15) (!#22)

Quiz: Questions on the Performer

What is Bob Dylan's birth name? (Robert Allen Zimmerman) (!Robert Dylan) (!Allen Robert Dylan) (!Bob Allen)

In which year was Bob Dylan awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature? (2016) (!2012) (!2018) (!2010)

Which famous event in 1965 marked Bob Dylan's controversial shift from acoustic folk to electric rock music? (Newport Folk Festival) (!Woodstock) (!Monterey Pop Festival) (!Isle of Wight Festival)

Which of the following albums is a famous release by Bob Dylan? ("Highway 61 Revisited") (!"Born to Run") (!"Dark Side of the Moon") (!"Abbey Road")

What instrument is Bob Dylan famously known for playing? (Harmonica) (!Saxophone) (!Drums) (!Violin)

Quiz: Questions on the lyrics

Which of the following lines is from "Positively 4th Street"? ("You’ve got a lot of nerve to say you are my friend") (!"The times they are a-changin'") (!"Like a rolling stone") (!"Blowin' in the wind")

The tone of the lyrics in "Positively 4th Street" can best be described as: (Cynical and biting) (!Optimistic and hopeful) (!Romantic and sentimental) (!Mysterious and ambiguous)

The lyrics of "Positively 4th Street" are often interpreted as a response to: (Betrayal and insincerity in the folk scene) (!A romantic breakup) (!Political unrest) (!Dylan's personal struggles)

What aspect of the folk scene does "Positively 4th Street" primarily criticize? (Pretentiousness and insincerity) (!Musical style) (!Commercialization) (!Lack of political engagement)

Which of the following is a recurring theme in the lyrics of "Positively 4th Street"? (Personal betrayal) (!Travel and adventure) (!Spiritual searching) (!Social justice)


Bob Dylan's Birth Name Robert Allen Zimmerman
Year of Nobel Prize 2016
"Positively 4th Street" Theme Criticism of friends and the folk scene
Dylan's Famous Instrument Harmonica
Location Referenced in Title Greenwich Village

Open Tasks


  1. Create a Playlist: Compile a playlist of songs that reflect the themes in "Positively 4th Street", such as betrayal or disillusionment.
  2. Write a Poem: Write a poem inspired by the lyrical style of Bob Dylan.
  3. Explore Folk Music: Listen to other folk songs from the 1960s and compare their themes with "Positively 4th Street".


  1. Research Bob Dylan's Influence: Research and write about how Bob Dylan influenced other musicians and songwriters.
  2. Analyze the Lyrics: Do a detailed lyrical analysis of "Positively 4th Street" and its themes.
  3. Greenwich Village in the 1960s: Create a presentation on the significance of Greenwich Village in the 1960s folk scene.


  1. Songwriting Challenge: Write and record your own song inspired by "Positively 4th Street".
  2. Dylan's Discography: Create a comprehensive guide to Bob Dylan's discography, highlighting key songs and albums.
  3. Debate: Organize a debate on the impact of electric instruments in folk music, referencing Dylan's career.

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Oral Exam

  1. Discussing Dylan's Lyrics: Discuss how Bob Dylan's lyrics in "Positively 4th Street" reflect the societal attitudes of the 1960s.
  2. Impact of Music on Culture: Explore how music, specifically songs like "Positively 4th Street", can influence cultural and social attitudes.
  3. Comparing Musical Eras: Compare the folk scene of the 1960s with today's music scene in terms of themes and artist roles.
  4. Evolution of Songwriting: Discuss the evolution of songwriting in popular music, using Bob Dylan as a key example.
  5. Analyzing Music and Emotions: Analyze how music can evoke emotions, using "Positively 4th Street" as a case study.

OERs on the Topic


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