‘Just for fun,’ St. Paul honors Bob Dylan with Positively 4th Street

MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
City Council Member Dave Thune, left, and St. Paul Saints co-owner Mike Veeck speaking before the council during Wednesday's meeting.

Minneapolis may feel that it stole the legacy of Bob Dylan fair and square, based on his year-plus hanging in and around the University of Minnesota and Dinkytown in 1959 and 1960.

But St. Paul is having none of that. By a unanimous vote Wednesday, the City Council voted to rename — well, co-rename — a short stretch of its 4th Street E. to “Positively” 4th Street in honor of the Duluth-born and Hibbing-raised Dylan’s song of the same name.

Sponsored by City Council Member Dave Thune but inspired by St. Paul Saints co-owner Mike Veeck, the resolution directs that street signs be amended on 4th Street E. between the Saint’s new ballpark in Lowertown and Commercial Street.

Other than the coincidental street name — one that is hardly unique to the state capital — what connection does the city and that area have to Dylan? According to the resolution, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee performed in St. Paul numerous times, including three sold-out shows at the old Midway Stadium. Since the Saints used to play at Midway and now play at CHS Field, and since 4th Street abuts CHS Field and … well, if you can’t see the obvious connection …

Thune had this rationale for making the change: “just for fun.” Before he let Veeck speak before the council, he asked for approval of the measure first “just in case Mike says something to offend us.” Veeck, holding a placard with a picture of Dylan, thanked the council for supporting construction of CHS Field and said the team had already surpassed its attendance goals for it inaugural season there.

And he promised “not to come back and ask you to rename Prince Street, ‘a (symbol) formerly known as something,’ “ (OK, for non-Prince fans, that is a reference to how the Minneapolis artist renamed himself during a dispute with his record label.)

“Positively 4th Street” by Bob Dylan was released as a single by Columbia Records on September 7, 1965.

Veeck even tried a Dylan impersonation to have the former Robert Zimmerman thank the council as well.

Dylanophiles can argue for most of a day over which 4th Street might be the inspiration for the song’s lyrics. St. Paul’s is certainly not it. More likely it is the street in Greenwich Village where Dylan was living when the song was written and recorded, though there are some who will argue that 4th Street SE through Dinkytown where he hung out during his brief student days was the namesake.

Most fans, however, including those on the St. Paul City Council, will likely say, “Don’t you understand, it’s not my problem.”

Mayor Chris Coleman and St. Paul Saints co-owner Mike Veeck
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
Mayor Chris Coleman and St. Paul Saints co-owner Mike Veeck outside council chambers following the vote.

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Comments (12)

  1. Submitted by Linda Vanderwerf on 07/23/2015 - 10:25 am.

    You forgot the record store

    Back in the day (I was at the U in the late 1970s) there was a record store/head shop on 4th Street near Dinkytown called Positively 4th Street. I’m sure it is gone or renamed by now, though I don’t know why anyone would change that perfect name.

    It may be gone, but it should not be forgotten if we’re talking about Dylan and 4th Street references.

    Anyone else remember it?

  2. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 07/23/2015 - 11:24 am.

    Wasn’t Positively 4th Street a little store on 4th St. SE at 8th Ave.? I remember it, but can’t be sure whether the store’s name preceded the Dylan song, or came after (and for) it.

    With the Saint Paul Saints you have to figure that they really don’t care about historical exactitude, or any exactitude.

  3. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/23/2015 - 11:38 am.

    Coming Next?

    How about renaming Old Highway 61 for Bob?

  4. Submitted by Wes Sanford on 07/23/2015 - 12:24 pm.

    Great song, but a very negative one.

    Yes it is a great tune with a gripping melody (maybe even a top 100 all-time rock song), but I am not sure why you would name anything after this song? It is a very bitter song about backstabbing duplicity, the lyrics make this very clear. And if the song is actually about MN, not the village in NYC as has also been suggested, than it is even a worse name for our 4th street as the song is very negative towards the 4th Street it is talking about. For that reason I hope it is about NYC and not Dinkytown. To me Dylan is almost whining in this song. Is this the message you want your street to be named after? With a catalog of over 600+ songs they chose this Dylan tune, odd.

  5. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 07/23/2015 - 03:07 pm.

    Dylan

    Why not rename streets in tribute to people who seem to like us more?

  6. Submitted by Wes Sanford on 07/23/2015 - 03:32 pm.

    “Just for fun”

    So, if I called you a backstabber (or some other bitter phrase) and then said I was just having fun, that would be okay with you? That is what this song is doing.

    They are honoring a song that is very negative about Dinkytown, odd (though I believe the song is really about the village in NYC).

    If I called someone an inappropriate expletive and wrote a song about it I am sure they would not brag about it. That is what is happening here!

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/23/2015 - 04:40 pm.

      “Just for Fun”

      Naming the street was the city’s “just for fun.” In any event, the song was about Greenwich Village.

      The street name has as much to do with the song as the name of the record shop did.

  7. Submitted by Dan Emerson on 07/23/2015 - 03:47 pm.

    Positively 4th St.

    I still have one of their T-shirts. when I reach the age when I start shrinking I’ll be able to wear it again.

  8. Submitted by sara mars curwin on 07/23/2015 - 09:37 pm.

    positively 4th street

    There is a Positively 3rd Street Bakery in Duluth. hmmmm…. been around for ever. and ever. We are all waiting and watching, for the Armory, here in Duluth, for re-imagination and greatness. this too will happen.

  9. Submitted by Roy Everson on 07/24/2015 - 03:42 am.

    We are all whiners

    Whining is one of the charming traits that make us human. It separates us from the animals. Whining is a natural reaction to perceived bad behavior of others — rudeness, unfairness, abuse, backstabbing, whatever. It’s like the mental equivalent to passing gas, feels good but not welcomed by those within range. Some of us have more or less self control than others.

    To combine a great melody and great poetry while giving voice to our need and yearning to whine — that’s a song worthy of a street. And isn’t doing something “just for jun” an excellent antidote to whining?

    http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/bobdylan/positively4thstreet.html

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