John Brown

 - John Brown

The idea for the melody is borrowed from the "Reuben's Train/Nine Hundred Miles" family of songs (see Traditional Ballad Index for more about this song, also Harvey, p. 55-57). "Train 45" by Grayson & Whitter (1927, available on YouTube) was the first recording. But Dylan surely was familiar with Woody Guthrie's "Nine Hundred Miles" (1944, YouTube). The melody (c/o) the

The lyrics of have some parallels both with "Reuben's Train/Nine Hundred Miles" (the train and the letter) and with the Irish anti-War song "Mrs. McGrath" (see the Traditional Ballad Index and the Digital Tradition Database, see Harvey, p. 54/55; recorded at that time for example by Tommy Makem, Pete Seeger, Burl Ives and Theodore Bikel)

But a cannon ball, on the fifth of May,
Tore my two fine legs from the knees away

But I wonder if Dylan also knew Irving Berlin's "They Are All Out Of Step But Jim" (1918), a spoof on parents boasting proudly about the soldier son.
Jimmy's mother went to see her son
Marching along on parade
In his uniform and with his gun
What a lovely picture he made
She came home that ev'ning
Filled up with delight
And to all the neighbors
She would yell with all her might

This free website was made using Yola.

No HTML skills required. Build your website in minutes.

Go to and sign up today!

Make a free website with Yola