When Chester Arthur Burnett was a child, his grandfather told him stories about the wolves in Mississippi. He acquired the name “Howlin’ Wolf” from his maternal grandfather, who admonished him for killing his grandmother’s chicks by reckless squeezing them till they suffocated. His grandfather warned him that wolves in the area would come and get him if he didn’t stop this destructive behavior. This warning frightened him and he ran howling upstairs, which prompted his family to nickname him Howlin’ Wolf.
“Two riders were approaching, and the wind began to howl,” seems to indicate that something ominous is going to happen. A year after his motorcycle accident, Dylan made a radical turn toward cryptic, austere country-folk while hanging out with the Band in the basement of ‘Big Pink’ near Woodstock. In this Bob Dylan song ‘All Along the Watchtower’ which was made famous by Jimi Hendrix. there is a joker, a thief, Business men, a Plowman, Princes, the women, Barefoot servants and Two riders.
This song may be about the record industry, where the joker is a performer, a musician maybe Bob Dylan and he is speaking to his manager, the thief who at this time is Albert Grossman. The joker is looking for a way out, maybe he wants a new record deal because of the confusion and he is getting no relief. The businessmen drink his wine and the plowman digs his earth, which means that a lot of people in the record industry are riding on his coattails and benefiting from his success without making any contributions. He thinks that he is stuck in a bad contract saying that, “None were level on the mind, Nobody up at his word.” Next the thief tries to calm down the joker, telling him not to take things so seriously, as this is just a job and they are both in it together to make money. The musician and his manager have been through a lot of stuff and the manager tells the musician that it is not their fate to go up against the record companies, they must just keep doing their thing as the hour is getting late.
The watchtower is the record company and it is run by record moguls, who are the Princes that watch over everything. They were known for having their women coming and going, “While all the women came and went.” The barefoot servants are the workers that are stuck in their jobs, doing all the work to make their superiors look good. They can’t leave as they have no shoes. Dylan wanted to shake things up, and he came up with a wildcat that growls, like a lion that roars. Then he made a link between the wind and a wolf, since wolves’ hunt in packs, they are known to have viciousness appetites, they are fast, strong and beautiful, thus we see the wind as being vicious and fast and strong, and beautiful in its own way. There is a lot of cruelty, and pain in nature, especially between predators and their prey, so the wind is also cruel, painful, predatory, but it is part of the natural world. “A wildcat did growl, two riders were approaching and the wind began to howl.”
Written for Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie Saturday Mix Mad About Metaphor hosted by weejars aka Sarah where the metaphor is, “The wind was a howling wolf.”