A Bob Dylan classic was
stolen from a Scottish songwriter.

Bob Dylan has revealed that his famous protest song, The Times They Are A-Changin, was inspired by a Scottish folk tune.

Following its release in 1964, the song quickly became an anthem for the counter-culture movement.

Forty years later, it has emerged the song was influenced by Hamish Henderson, the Scottish former army intelligence officer who later became a left-wing peace campaigner and poet.

The songwriter, who rarely talks about his songwriting, admitted last week that the song came from folklorist Hamish Henderson’s The 51st (Highland) Division’s Farewell to Sicily.

Dylan said: "You use what’s been handed down. The Times They Are A-Changin’ is from an old Scottish folk song.

"I’ll take a song I know and start playing it in my head. At a certain point, some of the words will change and I’ll start writing a song."

Although Dylan has acknowledged the influence of British folk music on his song writing before, it is the first time he has directly linked one of his songs to another artist’s work.

Hamish Henderson is considered one of Scotland’s most important poets and drew on his army experience during the Second World War for the song about soldiers returning from Italy.

The singer-songwriter and producer Rab Noakes, who has studied Dylan’s Scottish influences in detail, said: "When I studied the song I realised that the phrasing is identical to Henderson’s piece and you could sing Dylan’s words on top of either tune.

"Although there are differences in the main melodies, the chorus tune that became The Times Are A-Changin’ is almost identical. Songwriters often sing a song that they are writing on top of a song that exists, and it’s fascinating to study the archaeology of Dylan because he was so well informed."

Noakes believes Dylan would have been exposed to the tune through musician and novelist Richard Farina, a friend who was part of Dylan’s Greenwich Village set in the 1960s, with the Baez sisters.


Hamish Henderson


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