Meaning of “Mississippi” by Bob Dylan

“Mississippi” finds Bob Dylan taking us on a personal journey through the US state of Mississippi. The lyrics talk about a challenging time in the artist’s life with phrases such as “your days are numbered” and “time is piling up”.

He describes feeling trapped, first in a city that feels like a ruthless jungle, then in a place of emotional turmoil and loss. Dylan refers to mistakes made and a sense of regret that lingers as he recalls staying in Mississippi “a day too long”.

The repeating line emphasizes a deep regret and a desire to turn back time, a theme many can relate to. The imagery in the lines paints a vivid picture of turmoil, with mentions of a “sky full of fire” and “pain pouring down.”

As we move further into the lyrics, there’s a sense of reflection and nostalgia where Dylan brings up memories of a person named Rosie, hinting at what seems like a lost relationship. He talks about feelings of isolation, with lines like “feeling like a stranger nobody sees”, yet also offers a sense of hope and a willingness to move forward despite the difficulties faced in the past.

The latter part of “Mississippi” touches on perseverance and holding onto hope, with a belief that “fortune is waiting to be kind”. Dylan showcases a rollercoaster of emotions through the song, portraying a journey of struggles, love, loss, and a longing for redemption, with the constant reminder of his one perceived mistake – staying in Mississippi a day too long.

“Well I got here followin’ the southern star
I crossed that river just to be where you are
Only one thing I did wrong
Stayed in Mississippi a day too long”

When was “Mississippi” released?

On 11th September, 2001, “Mississippi” was released in Dylan’s 31st album, “Love and Theft”. It was the second track of this 12-tracked album.

Who wrote and produced this track?

Bob Dylan is the sole credited writer and producer of this track.

Notable cover versions

  • American singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow released her version in her third album, “The Globe Sessions” on 21st September, 1998.
  • American country band The Chicks (formerly known as Dixie Chicks) included their cover version in many of their tours, such as Top of the World, Vote for Change, Accidents & Accusations, and MMXVI.
  • American rock and country singer-songwriter Ryan Adams also covered this track in his concerts between 2001-2002.
  • During the Dylan tribute show in 2022, American singer-songwriter Margaret Glaspy performed her cover version.

“Mississippi” earned a spot on Rolling Stone‘s roundup of the top 100 songs of the 21st century.

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