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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Roots of Bob Dylan (3): "Another Side of Bob Dylan" & "Bringing It All Back Home" (1964/65)

This is Vol. 3 of my series Roots of Bob Dylan 1962 - 1966. Here I will discuss the original songs from Another Side Of Bob Dylan and Bringing It All Back Home plus some important outtakes.

Please read the
that also includes the necessary credits and a list of the most important literature and online resources used here.

The complete series:

Another Side Of Bob Dylan

- All I Really Want To Do

Original melody, no known precursor

There is related song by Irving Berlin, "I Don't Want To Be Married", a quasi-feminist comical duet written in 1932 for Face The Music that also uses the phrase "to be friends" and challenges traditional gender stereotypes in a surprisingly provocative way. For more about this song see in this blog: "...Be Friends With You" - Questioning Stereotypes: Bob Dylan & Irving Berlin

- Black Crow Blues

This is a standard 12-bar-Blues with a generic melody.

- Spanish Harlem Incident

Original melody, no known precursor.

But of course the "gypsy" is a common motif in popular music. Dylan was not the first to write this kind of exoticist pseudo-erotica, songwriters long before him used to know about gypsy girls. A nice example from 1902 is "Little Gypsy Maid", written by Harry B. Smith, Cecil Mack (words) and Will Marion Cook (music) for the stage show The Wild Rose (sheet music c/o Lester S. Levy Collection). I presume she doesn't look much like the gypsy girl Bob Dylan was singing about. At least the lyricists were nearly as fond of alliterations as Dylan was when he wrote "Spanish Harlem Incident":
There's a charming dark-eyed little lassie that I know,
Who with tender teasing glances sets the heart aglow,
Lips as red as ripest cherries, eyes of dusky shade,
Sunburned as the leaves of Autumn is the gypsy maid.

She's no violet, she's no red, red rose,
And though the lily of the valley's sweet,
A sweeter flower grows.
She is no tulip rare in colors bright arrayed,
She's just a wild flow'r of the forrest shade,
This little gypsy maid.

- Chimes Of Freedom

This song was at least partly inspired by "Chimes Of Trinity" (Michael J. Fitzpatrick, 1895), see Dave van Ronk, The Mayor Of MacDougal Street, Da CapoPress, p. 4:
"Bob Dylan heard me fooling around with one of my grandmother’s favorites, “The Chimes Of Trinity,” a sentimental ballad about Trinity Church [...] He made me sing it for him a few times until he had the gist of it, then reworked it into the 'Chimes Of Freedom'. Her version was better".

The sheet music for this song is available at Jscholarship and the Lester S. Levy Collection. Here's an mp3 of a recording by the Peerless Quartet (1925, c/o The Internet Archive):

Dylan only retained a slightly reworked variant of the first four bars of the refrain:

For more about this song please check out an earlier post on this blog: Chimes of Trinity, Chimes of Freedom and the Girl on the Police Gazette.

- I Shall Be Free No. 10

See "I Shall Be Free" (on The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan)

- To Ramona

The melody is clearly derived from Rex Griffin's "The Last Letter" (1937). Here is an mp3 (c/o The Internet Archive) :

Why do you treat me as if I were only a friend,
What have I done that makes you so distant and cold,
Sometimes I wonder if you'll be contented again,
Will you be happy when you are withered and old.

I cannot offer you diamonds and mansions so fine
I cannot offer you clothes that your young body crave
But if you'll say that you long to forever be mine
Think of the heartaches all the tears and the sorrow you'll save.

When you are weary and tired of another man's gold
When you are lonely remember this letter my own
Don't try to answer me though I've suffered anguish untold
If you don't love me I just wish you would leave me alone.

While I am writing this letter I think of the past
And of the promises that you are breaking so free
But to this world I will soon say my farewell at last
I will be gone when you read this last letter from me.

The lyrics of “To Ramona” are surprisingly close to "My Melancholy Baby", a popular music standard by Ernie Burnett & George A. Norton first published in 1911. In 1915 this song was a hit for Walter van Brunt (mp3 at the Cylinder Preservation And Digitization Project), then in 1928 for Gene Austin (mp3) and in 1939 for Bing Crosby. Besides that it was performed and recorded by nearly everybody including Bob's favourite "girl from next door" Judy Garland who sang it in A Star Is Born (1954).

Come to me my melancholy baby,
Cuddle up and don't be blue
All your fears are foolish fancies, may be
You know dear, that I'm in love with you.
Ev'ry cloud must have a silver lining;
Wait until the sun shines through.
Smile my honey, dear, while I kiss away each tear,
Or else I shall be melancholy too.

This song could have easily have served as a starting-point and model for Bob Dylan when he set out to write “To Ramona”. The opening lines are very closely related, Dylan's read like a more “poetical” reshaping of the original words:
Come to my my melancholy baby
Cuddle up and don't feel blue
Wait until the sun shines through

Ramona, come closer,
Shut softly your watery eyes.
The pangs of your sadness
Shall pass as your senses will rise.

The idea that all her "fears are foolish fancy" is revived a couple of times in "To Ramona":
It's all just a dream, babe,
A vacuum, a scheme, babe [...]

You've been fooled into thinking [...]

If you really believe that [...]

And Dylan's final twist "I'll come and be crying to you" looks like an echo of "[...] or else I shall be melancholy, too".

[This is a shortened version of my article on that includes more information about these songs]

- Motorpsycho Nightmare

Original "melody" (but there ain't much melody in this song), no known precursor .

- My Back Pages

Original music, to my knowledge no precursor. Dylan later used a melody quite similar to this one for his version of "Belle Isle" (on Self Portrait).

- I Don't Believe You

I think this song is based on or inspired by the refrain of "You Forgot To Remember" (1925) by Irving Berlin (for more about this song see Philip Furia, Irving Berlin. A Life In Song, New York, p. 112 - 114). This may sound a little surprising and and it takes a lot of fantasy to find out about the relationship between these two songs only by listening to recordings of "Remember", for example by Cliff "Ukulele Ike" Edwards (1943, YouTube), John McCormack (1925, YouTube) and Franklyn Baur (1925, YouTube). I only noticed it when I learned to play it on guitar. Then the parallels became very obvious. In fact it's not that difficult to sing the lyrics of Berlin's song to the music of "I Don't Believe You" and vice versa.
Remember the night
The night you said, I love you

Remember you vowed
By all the stars above you

Remember we found a lonely spot
And after I learned to care a lot

You promised that you’d forget me not
But you forgot
To remember.

Both "Remember" and "I Don't Believe" are songs debunking one of our favourite romantic hyperboles. They are about a poor guy adressing a girl who had promised and vowed never to forget but now turns a cold shoulder towards him:
"you promised that you forget me not
[...] but you forgot to remember"

"she said she would never forget
[...] but she acts like we never have met"

Both songs have a similar structure. In fact "I Don't Believe You" is Bob Dylan's very first song using AABA', the so-called standard form of classic popular music since the 20s. Berlin's refrain has 32 bars in 3/4 time, Dylan's verses have 16 bars in 4/4 time. The A-parts are divided into three phrases:

I Don't Believe You


C/G -------G7'---------/
can't understand she let

go off my hand and

left me here facing the wall



member the night, the

night___you said___"I


In both songs also the harmonies are used in a very similar way. Berlin changes back and forth between Bb and F+ (the easiest way to play these chords on guitar on the top three strings: Bb - xxx331, F+ - xxx221): a part of the chord is moved a half step up and down. Dylan instead plays a Blues lick (that can be found for example in the introduction to Chuck Berry's version of "Worried Live Blues", 1960, mp3 of the intro) where he moves part of the chord two half steps up and down the fret (C/G - xxx053, G7' - xxx031).

The melodies are of course different but there are still some interesting parallels, especially the use of the rising 3rd as a key interval. Berlin's tune is pentatonic plus one dissonant note (the augmented 5th), Dylan's is - in the A-parts - purely pentatonic. In fact both songwriters were black key beer hall style piano players. Berlin surely developed his melody by playing around with the black keys of the piano and it's not that difficult - I've tried it myself - to start playing the melody line of his A-part and then arrive at the characteristic musical phrase Dylan created for his song.

Here are the first 8 bars of "Remember":

The first two bars of "I Don't Believe You" (in C) show that the melodic contours of both songs are very similar at the start. Only instead of going a 5th higher as in "Remember" on night Dylan simply returns to where he had started and then repeats this phrase.

In fact the melody and the harmonies of "I Don't Believe You" look like a simplified and much less sophisticated variant of what Berlin wrote for "Remember". Dylan built his new song around some of Berlin's musical ideas and adjusted them to his own style by replacing the original chords with an something most likely borrowed from the intro to Chuck Berry's "Worried life Blues". Of course I don't know if Dylan was unconsciously assimilating some ideas from a half-remembered song from the past or if he deliberately wrote a new song over this old classic. But it should come as no surprise that at this point in his career he was looking for inspiration outside the sphere of Folk and Blues.

- Ballad In Plain D

Based on "I Loved A Lass", Ewan MacColls version of a British ballad known since the 17th century ("The False Bride"/"The Forlorn Lover"/"A Week Before Easter", see the Traditional Ballad Index ; see a 17th century broadside: "The Forlorn Lover " ). I don't think the melody used by MacColl is that old as other versions seem to use different tunes (see f. ex. "Week Before Easter" at the Digital Tradition Song Database). He recorded it in 1961 for Classic Scots Ballads, Tradition TLP 1015 (see review ; a short snippett is available on and

The tune and the first verse c/o The Digital Tradition Song Database:

Carolyn Hester recorded the song in 1963 on This Life I'm Living, Columbia CL-2032 and Richard Farina used the melody for his "Birmingham Sunday" (see the Richard & Mimi Fariňa Fan Site ).

This is another example where Dylan not only adapted the tune but where also the lyrics served as a starting point and offered some inspiration. His first verse starts with the same motif: "I once loved a girl [...] but now she is gone" echoes "I once loved a lass [...] but now [...] she's gone". Also his last verse:
Ah, my friends from the prison, they ask unto me,
"How good, how good does it feel to be free?"
And I answer them most mysteriously,
"Are birds free from the chains of the skyway?"

is built like one verse in MacColl's version (also noted by Heylin, p. 196):
The men of yon forest, they ask it of me
"How many strawberries grow in the salt sea?"
And I ask of them back with a tear in my eye
"How many ships sail in the forest?"

- It Ain't Me Babe

This is an original song with a new melody. Dylan recycled some ideas for the lyrics from his own earlier song "Hero Blues" and the "No, no, no..." of the refrain may be an ironic reference to the Beatles' "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah..." (see Heylin, p. 189 )

Though the opening line may be taken from "Go Way From My Window" by John Jacob Niles there are no further musical parallels. Niles' song is no traditional. He wrote it in 1908, when he "was 16 years of age [...] The idea came from one line, sung over and over again by a ditch-digger employed by my father around the turn of the century":
Go 'way from my window,
Go 'way from my door,
Go 'way, 'way, 'way from my bedside,
And bother me no more.


Go on your way, be happy,
Go on your way, and rest,
Remember dear that you're the one,
I really did love the best,
I really did love the best.

Niles recorded this song a couple of times since 1941 (see discography on One version was included on John Jacob Niles Sings Folk Songs (Folkways FW02373, released 1964; the quote and the lyrics are taken from the liner notes for this collection). A live-recording from 1957 is at the moment available at YouTube. No Direction Home included a short clip of Niles performing "Go 'Way From My Window". Other Folk Revivalist have recorded this song, too (see a discography on Folk Music - An Index To Recorded Resources), for example Burl Ives (1959), Carolyn Hester (1961) and Joan Baez (1964, on her 5th Album, available at YouTube).

The phrase "go away from my window" has also been used in other songs, for example in Sleepy John Estes' "Drop Down Mama" (1935, on YouTube; also one of the "prototypes" for "From A Buick 6", thanks to Gray, Encyclopedia, p. 212 for pointing this out):
Go away from my window, quit scratchin' on my screen.
You's a dirty mistreater, I know just what you mean.

"Go 'Way From Mah Window", a "negro woodchopper's song" is included in Carl Sandburg's American Songbag, 1927, p. 377 (also in Lomax, American Ballads And Folk Songs, 1934, p. 198 ). This may be the kind of song John Jacob Niles had heard in his youth:
Go 'way f'om mah window,
Go 'way f'om mah do',
Go 'way f'om mah bedside,
Don' you tease me no mo'

There is also a much older British ballad called "Go From My Window" (see Digital Tradition Database, a recording by Shirley & Dolly Collins is available on YouTube) that is known at least since the 16th century, see Chappell/McFarren, The Ballad Literature And Popular Music Of The Olden Time, 1855, p. 140 - 142 .


- Mama, You've Been on My Mind

Original melody, no known precursor

During some RT shows in '75 Dylan said that this song had been inspired by a song by Bill Monroe but I have no idea which one it could be. To me it seems the biggest musical influence on "Mama..." was his own "Don't Think Twice".

Bringing It All Back Home

- Subterranean Homesick Blues

Dylan has credited - in an interview with Robert Hilburn in 2004 - Chuck Berry's "Too Much Monkey Business" (1956, here at YouTube) as a major inspiration for this song (see the interesting analysis at The Dylan Commentaries) . But it seems to me that Berry's "You Can't Catch Me" (also at YouTube) played a great role, too.

Chuck Berry's Rock'n Roll songs were based on the Hokum Blues of the late 20s and the 30s. "It's Tight Like That" by Tampa Red & Georgia Tom in 1928 was the key song of this genre and also one of the most influential and most often copied Blues recordings ever (mp3).

And this kind of Hokum Blues was in some way a simplified variant of the Ragtime dance music of the 1910s that had been created by black songwriters like Chris Smith and Shelton Brooks as well as Jewish immigrant songwriters, especially Irving Berlin. Someone once wrote about Berlin:
[He] was to use language itself as the medium of his self-invention. Language for him was not something fixed and traditional; it was an assemblage of exploitable accidents. [His] contribution to [American popular music] was the "ragged" rhyme", [...] the fusion of Yiddish rap and African-American ragtime. He had a genius for giving common American phrases the nervous musical impulse of the modern city. Over and over he discovered the syncopation in ordinary speech rhythms (David Schiff, For Everyman, by Everyman: ... Irving Berlin Helped to Create a National Identity, The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 277, March 1996).

These lines make me always think of the Bob Dylan of "Subterranean Homesick Blues".

- She Belongs To Me

The melody of "She Belongs To Me" sounds to me as if it was derived from or inspired by "Betty And Dupree" (or "Dupree Blues" or "Frank Dupree"), a murder ballad from the 20s based on a real story (see Traditional Ballad Index & The Originals for discographical data). This song was written and first recorded by Blind Andy Jenkins (i. e. Rev. Andrew Jenkins, a very profilic songwriter) in 1925, the same year also by Vernon Dalhart (I haven't been able to find these two recordings) and since then there have been many versions, for example this one by the legendary guitar player Willie Walker (1930):

Other recordings were for example by: Georgia White (1935), Woody Herman (1937, YouTube) Teddy Grace (1939, YouTube), Josh White (1946, now available on Free And Equal Blues, Folkways SFW40081), Brownie McGhee (1955, on Brownie McGhee Blues, Folkways FW02030), Chuck Willis (1957), Billy Lee Riley, Billy Adams (195? , YouTube), Dave van Ronk (1959) and Peter, Paul & Mary (1965).

Here is one version of the melody and the lyrics (c/o Digital Tradition Database):

Betty told Dupree, "I want a diamond ring." (2x)
Dupree told Betty, "l'Il give you most anything."

He said, "Lie down, little Betty, see what tomorrow brings," (2x)
It may bring sunshine, may bring you that diamond ring."

Then he got his pistol, went to the jewelry store,(2x)
Killed a policeman and he wounded four or five more.

Then he went to the post office to get the evening mail (2x)
Sheriff caught poor Dupree and put him in that old Atlanta jail.

Dupree's mother said to Betty, "Looka' here what you done done."(2x)
"Made my boy rob and steal, now he is gonna be hung"

Betty went to the jailhouse, she could not see Dupree (2x)
She told the jailer, "Tell him these words for me."

"I come to see you, baby, I could not see your face." (2x)
"You know I love you, but I cannot take your place."

Sail on, sail on, sail on, Dupree, sail on. (2x)
You don't mind sailing, you'll be gone so doggone long.

- Maggie's Farm

Heylin (p. 231) claims that this is "an electric reworking of the traditional 'Down On Penny's Farm'". But the only thing these two songs have in common is the "farm". Apart from that they are completely different. "Maggie's Farm" has an original melody and to my knowledge there are no musical parallels to other songs.

- Love Minus Zero/No Limit

Original song with a new melody.

- Outlaw Blues
- On The Road Again

Generic Blues melodies without any specific precedent.Please see The Dylan Commentaries for an interesting discussion of "Outlaw Blues"

- Bob Dylan's 115th Dream

Recycles the melody of "Motorpsycho Nightmare"

- Mr. Tambourine Man

Original song with a new melody.

Enough has been written about this great song but it should be noted that it was Bob Dylan who introduced the "Tambourine Man" to popular culture. Before him there were only "Tambourine Girls". For example Irving Berlin wrote a song called "My Tambourine Girl" for the Ziegfeld Follies of 1919 (performed by John Reed with a couple of girls as the "Salvation Lassies", see Kimball/Emmett, The Complete Lyrics of Irving Berlin, 2005, p. 187). It's a WWI song about a fellow who falls in love with a girl from the salvation army he had first seen
in the city's mad whirl;
Ere we thought of goin' to war

I met her on Broadway
With a tambourine in her hand
"Follow on, follow on"
Was her solemn cry
To the passersby

Later, when he's a soldier in Europe he meets her again "out in no-man's land":
Out in Flanders she came to my aid

In fact songs about the Salvation Army, especially about the girls with the tambourine were very popular in these years. One example is "My Salvation Army Girl" by Al Piantadosi & Jack Mason (1918, sheet music at the Lester S. Levy Collection) and another from before the war is "Salvation Nell" (1913) by Grant Clarke, Edgar Leslie & Theodore Morse (sheet music c/o The Lester S. Levy Collection, an mp3 of a recording by Henry Burr & The Peerless Quartet, 1913, c/o The Internet Archive). In this song all the men in town follow the "swell" girl from the Salvation Army with her "cute" tambourine:
There's a girl of sweet seventeen,
Always has a cute tambourine
Heavenly grace, heavenly face
Neath a bonnet, with 'Salvation' written on it,
Every fellow living in town
Thinks she's mighty swell,
Ev'ry night they gather around
Sweet Salvation Nell

She keeps on saying "Follow Onward! Brothers!"
And they always follow Salvation Nell.
She gets them shouting
"Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!"
Doctors, lawyers, butchers and bakers,
And some sporty old fellows as well.
They've been sinners for years
Yet they burst out in tears,
And join the army, join the army
Just to be around Salvation Nell

- Gates Of Eden

Original song with a new melody.

- It's Alright, Ma

The guitar riff Dylan plays between the verses is borrowed from the Everly Brothers' "Wake Up Little Suzie" (1957). Dylan had used it before on "Highway 51" (on Bob Dylan, see Harvey, p. 42). The descending bass-line played during the verse is similar to the one used in the third line of "Ballad Of Hollis Brown".

- It's All Over Now, Baby Blue

Original song with a new melody. Dylan has mentioned Gene Vincent's "Baby Blue" (YouTube) as an inspiration but Matthew Zuckerman correctly notes that "there is no relationship between the songs beyond the name, Baby Blue".


- Farewell Angelina

The melody of "Farewell Angelina" is borrowed from "Farewell To Tarwathie", the song of a whaler from Tarwathie (Aberdeenshire) who is about to set out for Greenland. It is easy to see that the lyrics also offered Dylan a good starting point for his own surreal Farewell song (melody & lyrics c/o Digital Tradition Database):

Farewell to Tarwathie, adieu Mormond Hill
And the dear land o' Crimond, I'll bid you fareweel
I'm bound out for Greenland and ready to sail
In hopes to find riches in hunting the whale

Adieu to my comrades, for awhile we must part
And likewise the dear lass that fair won my heart
The cold ice of Greenland, my love will not chill
And the longer my absence, more loving she'll feel

Our ship is well rigged and she's ready to sail
Our crew, they are anxious to follow the whale
Where the icebergs do float and the stormy winds blow
Where the land and the ocean are covered with snow

The cold coast of Greenland is barren and bare
No seed time nor harvest is ever known there
And the birds here sing sweetly on mountain and dale
But there isn't a birdie to sing tae the whale

There is no habitation for a man to live there
And the king of that country is the fierce Greenland bear
And there will be no temptation to tarry long there
Wi' our ship bumper full, we will homeward repair

"Farewell To Tarwathie" was first recorded by A. L. Lloyd for the LP Thar She Blows! (Riverside RLP 12-635, 1956) which was reissued in the 60s in the USA on Whaling Ballads (Washington WLP 724). At the moment the song is available on A.L. Lloyd, Leviathan! - Ballads And Songs Of The Wailing Trade (Topic TSCD 497, 1967 &1998; here on Ewan McColl and Peggy Seeger printed it in 1960 in their important and influential collection The Singing Island. A Collection of English and Scots Folksongs and it was also included in MacColls Folk Songs and Ballads of Scotland (Oak Publication, 1965) although the latter obviously postdates Dylan's recording. A fine recent performance by Raymond Crooke is available at YouTube

For more about this song's history see my article on .

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Roots of Bob Dylan (2): "The Times They Are A-Changin'" (1963)

This is Vol. 2 of my series Roots of Bob Dylan 1962 - 1966. Here I will discuss the original songs from The Times They Are A-Changin' plus some important outtakes.

Please read the
that also includes the necessary credits and a list of the most important literature and online resources used here.

The complete series:

- The Times They Are A-Changin' (& Paths Of Victory)

Harvey (p. 112) claims that the melody is derived from "Deliverance Will Come" although he also writes (p. 119) that "the distance in terms of melodic development from 'Deliverance Will Come' to 'The Times...' is considerable" . This is a 19th century hymn most likely written in 1836 by The Reverend John B. Mathias. It has also been recorded by Uncle Dave Macon (1926, as "Palms Of Victory") and the Carter Family (1936, as "The Wayworn Traveler").

For more information about the song's history see, Manfred Helfert's, Wikipedia and Harvey, p. 84. Here's a printed version from the Church and Sunday school hymnal : a collection of hymns and sacred songs, appropriate for church services, Sunday schools and general devotional exercises, 1902, p. 132 (c/o The Internet Archive):

Dylan had already used this song as a blueprint for his own "Paths Of Victory" (see Harvey, p. 84-86) but I must admit I can't hear any musical relationship to "The Times They Are A-Changin'".

Recently Dylan himself revealed the source for the melody of "The Times They Are A-Changin'" (see this article on the website of Tour Scotland. Thanks to Stew for bringing it to my attention and sending me some more information including some of the links used here): "51st (Highland) Division's Farewell To Sicily" (lyrics: Hamish Henderson (194?), music: "Farewell To The Creeks" by Pipe Major James Robertson (1915). About " Farewell To The Creeks", quoted from: Andrew Kuntz, The Fiddler's Companion:
Scottish, English, American; Pipe March and Jig. D Major. Standard tuning. AABB. “Farewell to the Creeks” is a well-known north country tune composed by Pipe Major James ‘Pipie’ Robertson of Boyne, Banffshire, in 1915 when he was a prisoner of war in Germany[...] It is the vehicle for Hamish Henderson’s popular song "The Highland Division’s Farewell to Sicily,” also called “Banks of Sicily,” composed while he was Intelligence Officer for the Highland Division in World War II. G. W. Lockhart (in Fiddles and Folk, 1998) relates that Henderson had been viewing the smoke curling from Mt. Etna’s crater in the distance behind the Pipes and Drums of the division’s 153 Brigade, when the band launched into “Farewell to the Creeks.” “Without hindrance,” said Henderson, “the words came flowing to me.”

More info about this song is available on TheSessionOrg : Farewell To The Creeks (including sheet music). It's not so much Henderson who deserves the credit but Major Robertson for his beautiful melody. But Dylan didn't use the whole tune but only a very distinctive musical phrase that he turned into a kind of leitmotif for "The Times They Are A-Changin'"

Henderson's "Farewell To Sicily" was recorded by Ewan MacColl on Barrack Room Ballads (Topic 10T26, ca. 1958?). and then reissued on The Real MacColl (Topic, 1993, see for 30 seconds of this song). Hamish Henderson's own recording is now available on A' The Bairns O Adam (Greentrax CDTRAX244, 2003, hear a 30-second snippet at

Richard Farina recorded it with Carolyn Hester and the McEwens on the Scottish EP Four For Fun (1962) and later used the tune as part of his Dulcimer instrumental "Hamish" (on Celebrations For A Gray Day, 1965, see the Richard and Mimi Farina Fan Site). The song was also printed in SingOut! in 1959 and in Norman Buchan, 101 Scottish Songs (1962). Unfortunately I can't use any these recordings here. But there are some more recent performances available at YouTube:

- Ballad Of Hollis Brown

Based on "Pretty Polly". For the history of this song see the Traditional Ballad Index. It's a simplified variant of the older British ballad "The Cruel Ship's Carpenter" or "The Gosport Tragedy" (printed since 1767 , see also the Traditional Ballad Index). Pretty Polly was first printed in the USA in Loraine Wyman and Howard Brockway, Lonesome Tunes: Folk Songs from the Kentucky Mountains, Volume I (1916), p. 79-81 and first recorded by B.F. Shelton in 1927 (mp3 )

Most later versions seem to derive from Shelton's recording. Dylan himself performed that song in 1961 (mp3: Bonnie Beechers Apartment, May '61) and here the melody already sounds very close to the one used for "Hollis Brown". Harvey (p.13 ) thinks Jean Ritchie's version may have been Dylan's source (although Dylan surely knew Shelton's recording). She has recorded the song in 1959 for Jean Ritchie, Oscar Brand & David Sear, A Folk Concert at Town Hall, New York (Folkways FW 02428) and then later in 1963 for Jean Ritchie And Doc Watson at Folk City (Folkways FW 40005). But of course it could also have been Pete Seeger's recording (on American Ballads, Folkways FW 02319, 1957).

- With God on Our Side

Based on Dominic Behan, "The Patriot Game" (see Wikipedia; Behan's own recording is at the moment available at YouTube). Dylan may have learned it from the Clancy Brothers, who used to perform this song; a live version was released in 1963 . In the USA "The Patriot Game" was also recorded by the Kingston Trio (YouTube) so I presume it was well known among Folk Revivalists. According to Heylin (p. 138) Dylan heard it first from British singer Nigel Denver.

The melody is older ("The Bold Grenadier"/"The Nightingale"/"One Morning In May", "The Lady And The Soldier") and variants have been collected since 1903 (see the Traditional Ballad Index, see also "Song To Woody"). There is also an undated 19th-century broadside in the collection of the Bodleian Library. Behan may have borrowed the tune from a recording of "The Nightingale" by Jo Stafford (1948, YouTube) that seems to be derived from a printed version in Loraine Wyman and Howard Brockway, Lonesome Tunes: Folk Songs from the Kentucky Mountains, Volume I (1916), p. 68-72.

But it also could have been Burl Ives' version of this ballad: "Hear A Nightingale Sing", recorded 1952, issued 1956 on In The Quiet Of The Night , Decca, now available on The Singing Wayfarer, Proper Records. See Harvey, p. 123 for a discussion of this two songs' relationship to "The Patriot Game".

- One Too Many Mornings

According to Harvey (p. 77) Dylan "once again uses 'Deliverance Will Come' as a point of departure [...] He maintains some aspects of [that song] but significantly alters the form and phrase structure [...] the result is unique and fresh, the mark of a maturing composer".

- North Country Blues

[...] the melody derives from the late 19th century Great Lakes ballad 'Red Iron Ore' [...] The song was printed in Franz Rickaby's 'Ballads And Songs Of The Shanty Boy' (1926, p. 161 [here as a Google book , a short comment is on p. 225 ]) from the singing of Michael Cassius Dean of Virginia, Minnesota, 15 miles east of Hibbing [...] Dylan drops the [...] refrain, while retaining the meter, phrase structure, and much of the melodic contour from 'Red Iron Ore'" (Harvey, p. 76f).

This lyrics of "Red Iron Ore" were first printed in Dean's own book Flying cloud, and one hundred and fifty other old time songs and ballads of outdoor men, sailors, lumber jacks, soldiers, men of the great lakes, railroad men, miners, etc (1922, p. 12) Via Rickaby's book - who combined it with a tune, I wonder if that one really was the melody used by Dean - the song found its way into Carl Sandburg's American Songbag (1927, p. 176) and John Lomax, American Ballads And Folk Songs (1934, p. 477):

See also the Digital Tradition Database for a set of lyrics and the melody.

The earliest recordings:
  • Bob Gibson, There's A Meetin' Here Tonight, Riverside RLP 111, 1958 (a snippet of this version can be found on )
  • Vivien Richman, Sings Folk Songs of West Pennsylvania, FW03568 , 1959
  • Alan Mills, Canada's Story In Song, Folkways FW0300 (as "Iron Ore by 'Fifty-Four'" same melody with a new set of lyrics about the building of a railway written in 1954)

- Only A Pawn In Their Game

Original melody, no known precedent. One of the major motifs in "Only A Pawn In Their Game" is the idea that the people are taught racism ("He's taught in his school...", "And he's taught how to walk in a pack..."). The same idea - only expressed in a more universal way - can be found "You've Got To Be Carefully Taught" (from South Pacific, 1949) by Oscar Hammerstein and Richard Rodgers:
You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught!

- Boots Of Spanish Leather

See "Girl From The North Country" that has exactly the same melody.

The lyrics are typical Dylanesque patchwork. The "lonesome ocean" may have been borrowed from "Golden Vanity", the "diamonds from the deepest ocean" make me think of Irving Berlin's great classic "How Deep Is The Ocean", "[...] stormy weather" may also be a reference to the famous song by Harold Arlen & Ted Koehler and the "spanish leather" is surely derived from the "Gipsy Laddie/Gipsy Davy" song family where it was an important textual hook that has survived from the earliest 18th century broadsides until today:
She pulled off her high heel'd shoes,
They were made of Spanish Leather.

"My Ship" by Kurt Weill & Ira Gershwin from the 1941 musical Lady In The Dark shares with "Boots Of Spanish Leather" the major motif: all the material things don't mean nothing if I don't get my "own true love" back
My ship has sails that are made of silk
The decks are trimmed with gold
And of jam and spice
There's a paradise in the hold.

My ship's aglow with a million pearls
And rubies fill each bin
The sun sits high in a sapphire sky
When my ship comes in

I can wait the years till it appears
One fine day one spring
But the pearls and such
They don't mean much
If there's missing just one thing

I do not care if that day arrives
That dream need never be
If the ship I sing
Doesn't also bring
My own true love to me

Another closely related 20th century song is "Something To Remember You By" by Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz, written in 1930 for the revue Three's A Crowd where Libby Holman sang it to a sailor. This song later became a standard, it was recorded and performed by many singers. In the 40s it was a hit for Dinah Shore, see YouTube for Vera Lynn's version, 1941:
Oh, give me something to remember you by
When you are far away from me, dear;
Some little something, meaning love can not die,
No matter where you chance to be.
Though Ill pray for you, night and day for you;
It will see me through like a charm,
Till youre returning.
So give me something to remember you by
When you are far away from me.

Here the woman asks her sailor to give her a token "to remember you by", "some little something" that should help her during the time when he's away. But - unlike Dylan's song - it's only one side of the story and the listener somehow knows that the sailor won't be back. This is a song that Dylan surely knew well. "Something To Remember You By" may have also been an influence on "Girl From The North Country" where a variant of the line "pray for you, night and day for you" was used. Other related sailor songs from this era are "I Cover The Waterfront" and "Red Sails In The Sunset", both torch songs where a lonesome lover is waiting for a ship to return with the lost love.

Even more songs from this song family were published during the 19th century: a sailor leaves his girl and sails away, she is usually waiting patiently at home, sometimes he comes back, sometimes not. Examples are ballads like: "Sailor and His Bride", "The Gallant Sailor", "Sweet Jenny On The Moor", "Bid Me Good-bye", "Sailor's Bride", "Sailor And His True Love", "Phoebe And Her Dark-Eyed Sailor", Robert Burns' "The Soldier's Return", "Black-Eyed Susan" and many more. Many of them were later collected from oral tradition by 20th century Folklorists, so they must have been really popular.

A very interesting song from this family is "Sailor's Love Letter" (or "The Letter"). The lyrics share some motifs with "Boots Of Spanish Leather". I wonder if Dylan was aware of this one at that time. This ballad (first published ca. 1800) was very popular during the 19th century. There were a lot of broadsides printed in Britain and also some in the USA.

Some examples from Britain (c/o the Allegro Catalogue of Ballads, Bodleian Library):

From the USA:
This is a compilation of all verses used for this song. The versions I know are either missing the first two stanzas or the last two.
Dearest maiden I must leave thee,
Far to sail on the raging sea,
I'll return when Fortune waves me
Back again my love, to thee.
I'll return, and then we'll marry;
-Oh, how happy then we'll be!-
But if I am forced to tarry,
I'll send a long letter back to thee.

Morn is broke and they are parted
Still the bark's in sight of home;
She walks the beach quite broken-hearted;
She can but view the bark alone.
"Adieu," she cried, "let fortune guide thee
O'er the wide and trackless sea;
Pray forget not those behind thee,
And send a letter back to me."

Fare thee well, love, now thou art going,
Over the wild and trackless sea;
Smooth be its waves, and fair the wind blowing,
Though it's to bear thee far from me.
But when on the western ocean,
Some happy home-bound bark you see,
Swear by the truth of your heart's devotion,
To send a letter back to me.

Think of the shore thou'st left behind thee,
Even when reaching a brighter strand,
Let not the golden glories blind thee,
Of that glorious Indian land.
Send me not its diamond treasures,
Nor pearls from the depths of its sandy sea,
But tell me of all your woes and pleasures,
In a long letter back to me.

But while dwelling in lands of pleasure,
Think as you bask in the bright sunshine,
That while the lingering time I measure,
Sad and wintry hours are mine.
Lonely by my taper weeping,
And watching the spark of promise to see,
All for that bright spark my night watch keeping,
For, oh! 'tis a letter back from thee.

To say that soon thy sail will be flowing,
Homeward to bear thee over the sea,
Calm be the waves, and swift the wind blowing.
For, oh! thou art coming back to me.
To say thy heart is as true as ever
Though many fair ones thou hast seen,
But from love's pledge you ne'er shall siver
Till death his dart does pierce so keen.

I can't leave out Irving Berlin's "Kiss Your Sailor Boy Goodbye" (1913, see the sheet music), an amusing parody of these kind of songs. At this time Berlin was experimenting with ballads and he regularly made fun of Victorian values and the romantic ideology in general:
My honey dear, my honey dear
You hear the steamboat whistle blowin'
My honey dear, my honey dear
The whistle means I must be going
Far across the sea
Hear them calling me
It's the Captain's orders
I must go

Kiss your sailor boy goodbye
Now don't you cry
Just dry that tear from your eye, my honey
Don't feel so blue
I'll write to you
If I don't I hope to die
When I'm away
You bet I'll stay
All by my "own-some," real lonesome for you
Sweet letters I'll be sending
With crosses on the ending
Kiss your sailor boy goodbye

[2nd verse:]
My honey dear, my honey dear
You better save up all your lovin'
Remember dear, remember dear
My heart'll be just like an oven
When my ship comes in
Honey, we'll begin
To make up for lost time
Don't forget

Most important in "Boots Of Spanish Leather" is the reversal of the gender roles. The song starts with a male voice singing "Oh I'm sailin' away my own true love" and seems to take the typical path of these kind of stories. But with verse 2 we hear that it is a dialogue between two lovers and only with verse 7 it becomes clear that it is the woman who has left to sail "across the lonesome ocean". This skillful dramartugy gives the song most of its effectivity.

In 19th century songs it was usually the man - a "real" sailor or soldier - who had to leave. 20th century songs like "Something To Remember You By" and "I Cover The Waterfront" had originally been writen for female performers. But when male singers recorded them they already anticipated the reversal of gender roles. One of the major developments in 20th century popular songs was change of female role models. Now the girls became more active and more self-confident and it is often enough the man who has to wait patiently for lost lover.

- When The Ship Comes In

Original melody, no known precursor ("no specific melodic precedent" - Harvey, p. 118).

- The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll

Heylin (p. 166) claims that Dylan has set his lyrics "to the tune of Child Ballad 173 [see also the Traditional Ballad Index], 'Mary Hamilton'". I presume he means one of the melodies (see for example the different tune printed in Child, The English And Scottish Popular Ballads, Vol. 5, 1898, p. 421) used for this ancient ballad, the one that is common today (c/o : Digital Tradition Database):

This is the melody used for example by Joan Baez, who recorded the song in 1960 (here is an early live performance at YouTube; check out a fine recent performance by Raymond Crooke, also at YouTube ). Heylin (p. 168) mentions Jeannie Robertson's "deathless rendition" (first released on The Folk Songs Of Britain: Child Ballads 2, Caedmon TC1146) as a possible inspiration. But I only hear very few echoes of the melody of Joan Baez' version in the refrain of Dylan's song.

Dylan himself once claimed (in the liner notes to Biograph) that "Pirate Jenny" (also called "The Black Freighter", original German title: "Seeräuber Jenny") from the Dreigroschenoper by Brecht & Weill (1928) had served as a model for "Hattie Carroll". Harvey (p. 64) sees "structural, melodic, and lyric connections" to "Hattie Carroll". But I must admit that his analysis doesn't convince me. Here's Lotte Lenya singing the original German version in the movie Die Dreigroschenoper (1931):

In 1962 she performed the English version for the BBC:

I think "Hattie Carroll" owes very little to those two songs and the melody is for the most part Dylan's own work.

But maybe it was another ballad by Brecht that gave Dylan some ideas for the structure of "Hattie Carroll": ín his "Von der Kindesmörderin Marie Farrar" (written 1922, first published 1926 in the "Hauspostille"; engl. "Of The Infanticide Marie Farrar"; see Gray, Encyclopedia, p. 86) the verses close with a short refrain that directly adresses the listener:
[1st verse in German]
Marie Farrar, geboren im April
Unmündig, merkmallos, rachitisch, Waise
Bislang angeblich unbescholten, will
Ein Kind ermordet haben in der Weise:
Sie sagt, sie habe schon im zweiten Monat
Bei einer Frau in einem Kellerhaus
Versucht, es abzutreiben mit zwei Spritzen
Angeblich schmerzhaft, doch ging's nicht heraus.

Doch ihr, ich bitte euch, wollt nicht in Zorn verfallen
Denn alle Kreatur braucht Hilf von allen.

An English translation:
Marie Farrar, born in April,
No marks, a minor, rachitic, both parents dead,
Allegedly, up to now without police record,
Committed infanticide, it is said,
As follows: in her second month, she says,
With the aid of a barmaid she did her best
To get rid of her child with two douches,
Allegedly painful but without success.

But you, I beg you, check your wrath and scorn
For man needs help from every creature born.

- Restless Farewell

This song is of course based on the Clancy Brother's version of "The Parting Glass" (or: "Good Night and Joy Be With You All"). They brought it to America, it was in their live repertoire in the early 60s and they released a live version in 1964 on The Clancy Brothers with Tommy Makem, In Person At Carnegie Hall (see


- Lay Down Your Weary Tune
"I had heard a Scottish ballad on an old 78 record that I was trying to really capture the feeling of, that was haunting me [...] There were no lyrics or anything. It was just a melody [...] I wanted lyrics that would feel the same way" (Bob Dylan, liner notes to Biograph)

Now it is not known what recording Dylan was listening to but the melody he wrote for "Lay Down Your Weary Tune" is surely related to the one used for the Folk revival standard "The Water Is Wide" (see also Harvey, p. 60/61). Here is one variant (thanks to the Digital Tradition Database, from a recording by the Beers Family that is available at the website of the State Archives Of Florida):

Please see my attempt at reconstructing the history of this song that is now available on my website:

- Percy's Song

This song is based on "The Wind And The Rain", an obscure and very rare variant of "The Two Sisters" (Child No. 10) collected a couple of times in southwestern Virginia (1937, 1941, 1962). Dylan may have learned it from Paul Clayton who "performed three variants of 'The Two Sisters' for the 1963 Newport Folk Festival Saturday morning (June 27) Ballad Workshop" where he was present (Harvey, p. 87, see also Heylin, p. 159)

Melody and lyrics for a version by Dan Tate recorded in 1962 are available at the Digital Tradition Database:

Two loving sisters was a-walking side by side,
Oh the wind and rain.
One pushed the other off in the waters, waters deep.
And she cried, "The dreadful wind and rain."


The only tune that my fiddle would play,
was Oh the wind and the rain.
The only tune that my fiddle would play, was
And she cried, "The dreadful wind and rain."

Another version of this variant was recorded in 1969 and is available on Kilby Snow, Country Songs And Tunes With Autoharp (Folkways FW 03902)

Roots of Bob Dylan 1962 - 1966: Introduction


It is widely known a lot of Bob Dylan's songs are in some way based on or derived from or influenced by earlier songs. Discussing these influences is a favourite subject among Dylan fans and professional "Dylanologists". Unfortunately these days Dylan is often enough smeared as a plagiarist who has stolen "everything". That's of course laughable.

There is also the opposite attitude: everything is justified because it is the so-called "Folk process". But this term often only serves as an excuse for blatant plagiarism and a songwriters inability or unwillingness to come up with something original. The truth is somewhere in between. Every songwriter borrows and "steals". Musicologist Charles Hamm for example once wrote about Irving Berlin:
"[he] more effectively than any of his peers, drew on the collective knowledge and memory of his audience to fashion dramatic situations and musical phrases similar to those found in songs they already knew, [but] shaped in slightly unexpected ways. His best songs were almost - but not quite - already known to his listeners when heard for the first time. They were old stories with a new twist [...] Berlin [...] deliberately and routinely used rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic patterns similar to those found in other pieces, as well as direct quotations of lyrics and music from other songwriters, for associative and expressive effect" (quoted from Professor Hamm's great book Irving Berlin, Songs From The Melting Pot: The Formative Years 1907 - 1914, New York & Oxford 1997, p. 108/9).

Writing a popular song often means using bits and pieces from very disparate sources and then turn it into something new. It is important to understand how Dylan used this bits and pieces because it helps to understand the songwriting technique. At first it's always necessary to explain exactly the relationship to the song used as a source:
  • sometimes the melody is lifted completely, as for example in "Song To Woody", "Masters Of War", "Bob Dylan's Dream" or "Farewell Angelina".
  • then there are Dylan songs that are in one way or another based upon on songs: sometimes the melody is still very close to the original (as in "North Country" Blues"), sometimes it's partly changed and only retains some elements but is still recognizable (as for example in "Lay Down Your Weary Tune"), often it's very different, in fact a new melody (as in "Girl From The North Country" or in "I Don't Believe You")
  • then there are many examples where Dylan only uses an idea, a musical phrase, a motif, a structural device etc. from an older song and reshapes it to serve his purposes.

I tried to put together what is known today and sometimes tried to dig a little deeper (and added some of my own research). For the early songs I will regularly refer to and quote from Todd Harvey's great book The Formative Dylan (2001). Unfortunately Clinton Heylin's Revolution In The Air. The Songs of Bob Dylan, 1957-1973 (2009) is often very disappointing.

I will write mostly about possible sources and influences for the music but will occasionally also discuss the lyrics. I'm also interested in Dylan's relationship to mainstream popular music, a question that is rarely approached by other researchers and writers. Too often they only refer to Folk & Blues. But I think that Bob Dylan was from the start (and especially since "Another Side of Bob Dylan", 1964) also influenced and inspired by the songs and writers of this genre (even though he rarely acknowledged them).

I have included all the songs from the regular LP's as well as a few important outtakes. Maybe I'll add some more later. An earlier version of this work as well as some individual parts have been used by me in Bob Dylan forums (especially the ExpectingRain discussion board).


I wish to thank Stew in Scotland with whom I have discussed some of these songs, who has always supported me with additional information and who has written some articles for my website some years ago.

The research for the sources of Dylan's songs started long time ago and much information was unearthed in groundbreaking articles in Dylan-fanzines in the 80s & 90s. Especially Matthew Zuckermann's article If There's An Original Thought Out There, I Could Use It Right Now: The Folk Roots of Bob Dylan (in Isis magazine ca. 1996, an expanded version is available online at Expectingrain) is still inspiring. I am also indebted to Manfred Helfert's great site Bob Dylan's Musical Roots & Influences.

Literature & the most important online resources used here

  • Todd Harvey, The Formative Dylan. Transmissions And Stylistic Influences, 1961 - 1963, Lanham, Maryland & London 2001 (indispensable).
  • Clinton Heylin, Revolution In The Air. The Songs Of Bob Dylan, 1957 - 1973, Chicago 2009
  • Michael Gray, The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia, New York & London 2006.

Many thanks also to all the uploaders at YouTube and the Internet Archive and to Google Books

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Roots of Bob Dylan (1): "Bob Dylan" & "Freewheelin'" (1962/63)

This is Vol. 1 of my series Roots of Bob Dylan 1962 - 1966. Here I will discuss the original songs from "Bob Dylan" and "Freewheelin'" plus some important outtakes.

Please read the
that also includes credits and a list of the most important literature and online resources used.

The complete series:

Bob Dylan (1962)

- Song To Woody

Dylan borrowed the melody from Woody Guthrie's "1913 Massacre" (1945, here at YouTube ). Of course the melody used by Guthrie is a variant of an older tune. Harvey (p. 99/100 ) discusses two possibilities: "One Morning In May" (or "The Soldier And The Lady", see the Traditional Ballad Index) and "Sweet Betsy From The Pike". Neither of them is completely identical to "1913 Massacre" but he decides for "One Morning In May".

To my ears "Sweet Betsy From Pike" sounds equally close. Maybe Guthrie simply conflated both melodies. "Sweet Betsy" was written by John A. Stone and first printed in 1858 (see the Traditional Ballad Index). It can be found in a lot of Folk song collections (here for example in Carl Sandburgs American Songbag,1927, p. 108 and John Lomax, American Ballad And Folk Songs,1934, p. 424, see also the Digital Tradition Database). The earliest recordings were by Crockett's Kentucky Mountaineers (1931), Harry McClintock (1932) and Bradley Kincaid (1934). "Sweet Betsy From The Pike" uses the tune of a British music hall song known at least since the 1820s: "Vilikens And His Dinah", (see the Traditional Ballad Index).

- Talkin' New York

For Dylan's use of the Talkin Blues see Harvey, pp. 102-105 and Manfred Helfert,John Greenway - Obvious Source for Dylan's Talkin' Blues. See also Wikipedia: Talking Blues and Chris Bouchillon - The Original Talking Blues Man (


- Hard Times In New York Town

This song is derived from "Down On Penny's Farm" a song recorded by the Bently Boys in 1929. This recording was also included on Harry Smith's Anthology Of American Folk Music. (see Harvey, p. 37 and the Traditional Ballad Index) . One variant ("On Tanner's Farm") was recorded in 1934 by Gid Tanner & Riley Puckett (available at The Internet Archive):

The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (1962/63)

- Blowin' In The Wind

This is an original melody that is loosely based on or inspired by "No More Auction Block/Many Thousands Gone": "If the melody for 'Blowin' In The Wind' does derive from 'No More Auction Block', it represents a significant reworking [...] Melodically, the two share only a few fragments: the opening and final measures" (Harvey, p. 15). That song was first printed in William Francis Allen, Slave Songs Of The United States, 1867 (no. 64). John Lomax included this version in his influential collection American Ballads And Folk Songs, 1934, p. 577:

In the early 1960s recordings of this song were easily available. Folkways alone offered at least five recordings: by Bill Bonyun (1950), Alan Mills (1956), Ella Jenkins (1960), The Harvesters (1960) and Pete Seeger (1961, on American Favourite Ballads, Vol. 4, Folkways FW 02323). Paul Robeson had recorded it too in the 50s (reissued on On My Journey. Paul Robeson's Independant Recordings, Folkways SFW 40178). Most closely related to both Dylan's own performance of "No More Auction Block" (Gerde's Folk City 1962, rel. on Bootleg Series Vol. 1-3) and to "Blowin' In The Wind" seems to me Seeger's version.

- Girl From The North Country

This is also an original melody that is loosely based on Martin Carthy's version of "Scarborough Fair". Carthy knew it from Ewan MacColl. See Digital Tradition Song Database for melody and lyrics:

It's no ancient Public Domain melody, this variant was first recorded in 1956 by Audrey Coppard on English Folksongs (Folkways FW 06917). Her source was also MacColl who recorded it in 1957 & I presume he has written the melody himself. In fact it looks like a very simplified version of a variant of "Scarborough Fair" in Cecil Sharp's One Hundred English Folk Songs, 1916, p. 167). See this article on this blog for an extensive discussion of "Girl From The North Country" and its relation to "Scarborough Fair" and other songs, especially Scott Wiseman's "Remember Me (When The Candle Lights Are Gleaming".

- Down The Highway

"[...] is Dylan's most original blues to date [...] signals Dylan's arrival as a Bluesman. He [...] is now capable of generating original material. His other 1962 blues were built around existing songs [...] 'Down The Highway' is wholly original" (Harvey, p. 26f). This one has nothing to do with Charlie Picket's "Down The Highway" (1937, available at YouTube).

- Masters Of War

This one is of course based on the Ritchie family's version of "Nottamun Town" . An mp3 of this song can be found on the website of the State Archives Of Florida.

Melody and lyrics are available in the new edition (1997, first publ 1965) of Jean Ritchie, Folk Songs Of The Southern Appalachians, p. 5 and at the Digital Tradition Song Database:

This version was released in 1960 and in 1963 on the LPs Jean Ritchie, Elektra 125 resp. Jean Ritchie: A Time For Singing, Warner W 1592 (discographical data from Harvey, p. 192). It was available in print in Jean Ritchie, Singing Family Of The Cumberlands (Oak Publ. 1955). The song itself - though with different melodies and titles - is of course a little older, see the Traditional Ballad Index . One version ("Fair Nottiman Town", collected in Knotts County Kentucky) was printed in an arrangement for piano and voice in Lorraine Wyman/Howard Brockway, Twenty Kentucky Mountain Songs, 1920, p. 6. Cecil Sharp collected a version from members of the Ritchie family in 1917. Jean Ritchie's comments (from: Mudcat Cafe discussion board , 2000):
Lorraine Wyman collected "Fair Nottamun Town" in Knott County, in our community. "Uncle" Jason Ritchie (actually Dad's first cousin, but all called him uncle) took her around to find singers, and sang several for her, himself. It was Uncle Jason who supplied his daughter Sabrina and her cousin (my sister Una- students atHindman Settlement School where Sharp and Karpeles were 'headquartering-') with all the lyrics and melody to, "Fair Nottamun Town," and, "The Little Devils."[...] As to, Masters of War, I wanted only to ask Bob Dylan (then my friend, in the Greenwich Village folk group of those days )to honor the source of the melody, with something like, "Trad.Ritchie Family, KY." But lawyers take things out of one's hands...however, the "royalties" were a small out-of-court settlement- I never got any royalties since. And "words and music by Bob Dylan" was dropped in connection with the song (where the music should have a credit is left blank). I was satisfied with that, and I believe that Bob acted honorably with me.

Already in the 19th century a precursor of this song with different words (the melody used for this variant is not known) was performed in the USA, see this broadside: "The Gray Mare - As sung by Bob Hart at the American Concert Hall, 444 Broadway, N.Y." (undated, ca. 1860s). It was filed as "Ethiopian. Coloured", that means the song was used by black or black-face performers. Bob Hart was obviously a popular artist in that genre as there was even a songster with his repertoire available (published as Bob Hart s Plantation Songster, ca. 1862).

It's not unreasonable to assume that the so-called "Folk" versions collected in the 20th century were in fact heavily edited relics of a 19th century popular Minstrel Song. It may also be possible that "The Gray Mare" is related to or derived from an English popular song from the early 19th century ("Paddy's Ramble To London"), see the discussion about "Paddy Backwards" in the Traditional Ballad Index .

I don't want to discuss the lyrics of "Masters Of War" here but it seems to me that Dylan's last verse (especially the last line: "stand over your grave 'til I'm sure that you're dead") is a nod to Lonnie Johnson's version of "Careless Love" (first recorded in 1928). The last lines of that song are:
Now damn you, I'm goin' to shoot you
And shoot you four five times
And stand over you until you finish dyin'

- Bob Dylan's Blues

"[...] doesn't draw from any specific song or artist" (Harvey, p. 17)

- A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall

This one was of course partly inspired by Lord Randall (Child No. 12, see also the Traditional Ballad Index):
Oh, where have you been, Lord Randal, my son?
Oh, where have you been, my handsome young man?

Dylan wrote an original melody that has "no connection" (Harvey, p. 4) to the tunes used for this old ballad (see for example the two printed in Child, The English And Scottish Popular Ballads, Vol. 5, 1898, p. 412/13 and the many variants available at the Digital Tradition Database). But on the other hand on recordings for example by Ewan MacColl (YouTube) or especially by Jimmy Driftwood (1959, available at the Wolf Folklore Collection and at YouTube) the melodies sound not that far away from the one Dylan created for the opening lines of his song and Raymond Crooke in a fine recording from June 2007 (also available on YouTube) actually uses parts of the melody of "Hard Rain".

- Don't Think Twice It's All Right

Inspired by "Who's Gonna Buy Your Ribbons When I'm Gone" by Paul Clayton, released first as a single on Monument 45-416, 1959, b/w "This Land Is Your Land", then in 1961 on the LP Homemade Songs & Ballads, Monument M 4001 (reissued on CD in 2008 on Paul Clayton, Sings Homemade Songs And Ballads/Folk Singer , Omni 120). The original lyrics are (c/o Manfred Helfert's site):
It ain't no use to sit and sigh now, darlin,
And it ain't no use to sit and cry now,
T'ain't no use to sit and wonder why, darlin,
Just wonder who's gonna buy you ribbons when I'm gone.

So times on the railroad gettin' hard, babe,
I woke up last night and saw it snow,
Remember what you said to me last summer
When you saw me walkin' down that road.

So I'm walkin' down that long, lonesome road,
You're the one that made me travel on,
But still I can't help wonderin' on my way,
Who's gonna buy you ribbons when I'm gone?

The melodic similarities between "Who's Gonna Buy Your Ribbons" (a fine song and a beautiful performance by Paul Clayton; he was really a great singer) and "Don't Think Twice" are obvious and the lyrics also were an major inspiration for Dylan.

It has been claimed that Clayton's song is derived from an earlier "traditional" called "Who's Gon Bring Your Chickens" or "Who's Gonna Buy Your Chickens" but surviving songs with these or similar titles are very different (Harvey, p. 25). Heylin (p. 102) calls it a "bastardized variant drawn from the 'Who's Gonna Shoe Your Horse' family of songs" but fails to present any evidence. According to another theory "Who's Gonna Buy Your Ribbons" is based on "Scarlet Ribbons". But that's a folkified popular song(in fact many thought it was an ancient Folk ballad) written in 1949 by Jack Segal & Evelyn Danzig that was recorded in the 50s by everybody from Jo Stafford to Joan Baez (YouTube), from Jim Reeves to Harry Belafonte and a great hit for The Browns in 1959. But that one also sounds completely different.

I rather think that "Who's Gonna Buy Your Ribbons" is an original work by Clayton, in fact another folkified Pop song. Maybe these stories were simply made up, at first to save Paul Clayton from embarassment (because a Folk singer isn't supposed to write Pop song, he needs folkloristic credibility) and then to save Bob Dylan from even more embarassment (because Dylan isn't supposed to borrow from original songs, only from ancient traditionals).

By the way, another important influence on the lyrics of "Don't Think Twice" may have been "It Doesn't Matter Anymore" (1958), written by Paul Anka and recorded by Buddy Holly:
There you go and baby here am I
Well you left me here so I could sit and cry
Golly gee what have you done to me
Well I guess it doesn't matter anymore


There's no use in me a-crying
I've done everything now I'm sick of trying
I've thrown away my nights
Wasted all my days over you

Now you go your way baby and I'll go mine
Now and forever till the end of time
I'll find somebody new and baby
We'll say we're through
And you won't matter anymore

- Bob Dylan's Dream

Dylan took the melody and some ideas for the lyrics from Martin Carthy's version of "Lord Franklin/Lady Franklin's Lament" (Carthy recorded it in 1966 for his Second Album; this version is at the moment available at YouTube). This ballad (see the Traditional Ballad Index) was printed on broadsides since the 1850s (see one example: Glasgow Broadside Ballads) . The first British recording was by A. L. Lloyd (ca. 1956, The Singing Sailor ,Topic). Some American and Canadian Folk singers like Wade Hemsworth (Folk Songs Of The Canadian North Woods, Folkways FW06821, 1955) and Alan Mills (O' Canada. A History In Song, Folkways SW03001, 1956) have recorded it too. They all took and most of the lyrics from Greenleaf/Mansfield, Ballads And Sea-Songs of Newfoundland, (1933) p. 308:

Paul Clayton included it on Whaling & Sailing Songs from the Days of Moby Dick, 1956, also at the moment available on YouTube:

Dylan may have known any of these versions. The tune is a variant of one of the melodies used for "The Croppy Boy" (see the Traditional Ballad Index), an Irish song printed on broadsides and songsheets in Britain and the USA since 1813 (c/o The Digital Tradition Database):

This melody was first collected by Edward Bunting in Ireland in 1803 ("The Robber - or Charles Reilly", published in: Bunting, The Ancient Music of Ireland, Dublin 1840, No. 65, p. 48). For more about the history of "Lady Franklin's Lament" see this text my website:

- Oxford Town

Based on "Cumberland Gap" (the "old banjo tune" Dylan once claimed as his source). For the history of this song see The Traditional Ballad Index. and Wikipedia. The first recording was in 1924 by Uncle "Am" Stuart, then the same year also by Gid Tanner and Riley Puckett. Here is the melody from Lomax, American Ballads And Folk Songs (1934):

Pete Seeger recorded this song for Frontier Ballads (Folkways FW 05003, 1954) and for my ears that version sounds as if it was Dylan's source. Many variants of Cumberland Gap have a verse like this:
Me and my wife and my wife's pap.
We all live down in the Cumberland Gap
Bob Dylan turned it into:
Me and my girl, my girl's son
We gotta met with a tear gas bomb

- Talkin' World War III Blues

A Talking Blues don't need no new melody.

- Corrina, Corrina

This adaption of a Blues- and Pop standard is a rather drastic rewrite that leaves not much of the song's original mood and content: " from a happy-go-lucky jug band song, it becomes a wistful evocation of the memory of a woman" (Matthew Zuckermna). It is so different from the precursors that he could have copyrighted it for himself. Dylan's "Corrina" is more or less a new song and not a rearranged "traditional". In fact the real "Corrina" never was a traditional, by all accounts it was written by Bo Chatmon. For more about the history of this song see Roots of Bob Dylan: "Corrina, Corrina" on this blog.

- Honey, Just Allow Me one More Chance

This is Dylan's adaption of "Honey, Won't You Allow Me One More Chance" by Texas songster Henry Thomas (1929, available on YouTube). For more about this song's history and it's relationship to Dylan's version see Harvey (p. 43/44).

- I Shall Be Free

This is derived from Woody Guthrie & Co., "We Shall Be Free", 1944 (available on YouTube) But that song has a longer prehistory, it ultimately derives from a 19th century spiritual (see Harvey, p. 51-53)


- Tomorrow Is A Long Time

Original melody, no known precursor.

As is widely known (see f. ex. Heylin, p. 87) the refrain refers to an ancient song: "Westron Wynde".
Westron wynde, when wilt thou blow,
The small raine down can raine.
Cryst, if my love were in my armes
And I in my bedde again!

It first appears in a manuscript from ca. 1530 (British Museum Royal Appendix 56) but it could be a relic of an older song. The words and the original melody were reprinted for example in Ritson/Frank, Ancient Songs And Ballads, From The Reign Of King Henry The Second To The Revolution, Vol. 1 (1829), p. lxxvi/vii and in William Chappell's very influential Popular Music Of The Olden Time (1853 & 1859), p. 57/58.

The lyrics found their way into the Oxford Book Of English Verse (as "The Lover In Winter Plaineth For The Spring", here from 1901) and the song was also well known among Folk Revivalists. Richard Dyer Bennett recorded it in 1947 as a single (as "Westryn Wynde", reissued in 1958 on No. 5: Requests, now available on Folkways SFW 40143). It was also recorded by both Cynthia Gooding and Ed McCurdy in 1956 and Alfred Deller in 1958 (see the discography at Folk Music - An Index to Recorded Resources)

- 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 Digital Tradition Database:

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

- Walls Of Red Wing

Dylan used the melody of "The Road And Miles To Dundee" as recorded by Ewan MacColl on Bothy Ballads of Scotland (Folkways FW 08759, 1961). For more about this song see the Traditional Ballad Index and Stewart Grant on morerootsofbob. The melody and lyrics are available at the Digital Tradition Database.

- Ramblin' Gamblin' Willie

Based on the Clancy Brother' version of "Brennan On The Moor" (see an Australian TV recording from 1963 on YouTube):

Brennan hadbeen a popular highwayman in Ireland in the early years of the 19th century. This ballad was printed on broadsides since the 1840s (see this one from the Bodleian's allegro Catalogue: "Brennan On The Moor") and was well known in Ireland, England and the USA.

For more about this song see: Some Notes On The History Of "Brennan On The Moor" ( and check out Liam Clancy's performance of "Ramblin' Gamblin' Willie" at a Dylan Tribute in 2005.
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