The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #107573 Message #2231002
Posted By: catspaw49
08-Jan-08 - 07:03 AM
Thread Name: Stolen melodies/Bob Dylan
Subject: RE: Stolen melodies/Bob Dylan
As we sometimes lose links over the years, the following is from the "Expecting Rain" website linked above:
Traditional music will not die just so long as there are people to keep it alive. And to be truly alive, the traditions have to grow. Bob Dylan is one of those musicians who absorbed the old traditions, kept them alive, and extended them. What follows is an admittedly incomplete list of songs written by Dylan for which he took inspiration from other songs, traditional or otherwise. The amount of "inspiration" varies from song to song - it might be a tune, barely altered, or just a fragment from a tune; it might be a verse or a couplet, or just a distinctive turn of phrase. The borrowing might have been unknowing, a conscious tribute, or occasionally plain, outright theft. There is no (well, not much) intent to cast judgment on these matters here. In art, if not in law, the ends can often be said to justify the means.
The following survey of songs presents: the original song that formed the basis for a particular Dylan composition, with the writer of the song in parentheses; then the Dylan song in question, with the date of composition (as near as can be ascertained) in parentheses after the title.
1 Original song: 1913 Massacre (Woody Guthrie)
Dylan song: Song to Woody (February 1961)
Dylan arrived in New York City on January 24, 1961, at the age of 19. His first major composition was written on February 14, barely three weeks later. "I just thought about Woody," he commented a few years ago, looking back on the writing of this song. "I wondered about him, thought harder and wondered harder. I wrote this song in about five minutes." The tune of "Song to Woody" is identical to Woody Guthrie's "1913 Massacre" - but this appropriation is clearly intended as a tribute to his hero.
Woody Guthrie (Note 2) is reported to have said to Dylan (who visited the older singer often in hospital): "The words are the important thing. Don't worry about tunes. Take a tune - sing high when they sing low, sing fast when they sing slow, and you've got a new tune." As for the lyrics themselves, there is one couplet which has been adapted from Guthrie's "Pastures of Plenty":
Every state in this union, us migrants has been We come with the dust and we go with the wind.
Pastures of Plenty
Here's to the hearts and the hands of the men That come with the dust and are gone with the wind.
Song to Woody
It is worth noting that Dylan casts the second line in the past: unlike most of the folk community at this time, he realized that the world was now drastically different from the dustbowl and depression years that Guthrie had known, and it was going to need drastically different songs to change it. If this was one of the few direct borrowings from Guthrie's work, then the general debt Dylan owed him was immense. He said himself that he was a "walking Woody Guthrie jukebox" as this time, and he has performed a sizable number of Guthrie songs over the years:
"Car Car," "Come See," "Dear Mrs. Roosevelt," "Deportees (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)," "Don't You Push Me Down," "Goin' Down the Road Feelin' Bad," "Grand Coulee Dam," "The Great Divide," "The Great Historical Bum," "Hangknot, Slipknot," "Hard Traveling," "Howdido," "I Ain't Got No Home," "I Want It Now," "Jesus Christ," "1913 Massacre," "Pastures of Plenty," "Pretty Boy Floyd," "Ramblin' Through the World," "Ramblin' Round," "Ranger's Command," "Sally Girl," "Talkin; Columbia," "Talkin' Fish Blues," "Talkin' Merchant Marine," "This Land Is Your Land," "VD Blues," "VD City," "VD Gunner's Blues" and "VD Waltz," as well as a great many more traditional songs such as "Buffalo Skinners" that were in Guthrie's repertoire and are occasionally credited to him.
2 Original song: Penny's Farm (The Bently Boys)
Dylan song: Hard Times in New York (November 1961)
The words and music of this song are based on "Down on Penny's Farm" (a regionalized reworking of a still older traditional song, "Hard Times") by The Bently Boys, and originally recorded in 1929. It was included in Harry Smith's seminal Anthology of American Folk Music (Folkways, 1952) and has been recorded by (among others) Happy and Artie Traum on their fine album Hard Times in the Country.
3 Original song: Honey Just Allow Me One More Chance (Henry Thomas)
Dylan song: Honey Just Allow Me One More Chance (April 1962)
"Honey Just Allow Me One More Chance" is a rewrite of a song by late-19th century singer Henry Thomas. On The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, the song is credited jointly to Thomas and Dylan. In fact, almost all the words to Dylan's version are different (and probably written by Dylan) except for the title, and the tune has also undergone some modifications. The introductory verse to Thomas' version is a clear indication that this is a "composed" as opposed to a "folk" song. Thomas was born in 1874 or 75 (he died in 1930) and although he was not among the first blues singers to record, he is probably the oldest "professional" blues singer to have been captured on disc. Like many such singers, he was actually a songster (Note 3), blues being just one of many styles that he performed.
4 Original song: Corrina Corrine (trad)
Dylan song: Corrina Corrina (April 1962)
"Corrina Corrine" (also known as "Corrina Corrina") is a black American folksong that was often played by Mississippi John Hurt, Mance Lipscomb, Sleepy John Estes and others. However, Dylan's version is more than just an "arrangement," the melody and whole mood of the song being totally different - from a happy-go-lucky jug band song, it becomes a wistful evocation of the memory of a woman. The verse beginning: "I have a bird to whistle" is actually adapted from Robert Johnson's "Stones in My Passway."
5 Original song: No More Auction Blues (trad)
Dylan song: Blowin' in the Wind (April 1962)
The tune of "Blowin' in the Wind" was (according to Dylan) based loosely on the traditional "No More Auction Blues," found on The Bootleg Series 1-3 (Note 4). The guitar part is certainly very similar, though I had listened to both songs many times without noticing the resemblance. The song, also known as "Many Thousands Gone," originated in Canada, where many blacks fled after Britain abolished slavery there in 1833, 30 years ahead of the United States. Dylan probably learned this one from Odetta, who sang it on her live Carnegie Hall album which was recorded on April 8, 1960. Paul Robson also recorded it in 1958.
6 Original song: O Western Wind (trad)
Dylan song: Tomorrow is a Long Time (August 1962)
There is a definite connection between the chorus of Dylan's "Tomorrow Is a Long Time" and "Westron Winde" (Western Wind,) dated c1530.
Westron winde, when will thou blow The smalle raine downe can raine Christ, if my love were in my armes And I in my bed againe
Yes, and only if my own true love was waitin', Yes, and if I could hear her heart a-softly poundin', Only if she was lyin' by me, Then I'd lie in my bed once again.
Tomorrow Is a Long Time
According to Timothy J. Lundgren, "This is one of the most famous early English lyrics. It is usually dated as "early 16th century" although these things are notoriously difficult to date with much confidence. This poem is widely anthologized, and it is not too surprising that Dylan ran across it."
7 Original song: Lord Randal (trad)
Dylan song: A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall (September 1962)
The lyrical structure of "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" was based on "Lord Randal" (Child ballad No. 12) (Note 5) which he learnt from Martin Carthy. (For more on Carthy, see below.)
"Oh, where ha' you been, Lord Randal my son? And where ha' you been, my handsome young man?" "I ha' been at the greenwood, mother, make my bed soon For I'm wearied wi' hunting, and fain was lie down."
Oh, where have you been,my blue-eyed son? And where have you been, my darling young one?
A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall
There are many versions of this song (15 alone collected in Child's English and Scottish Popular Ballads), but all follow the same basic question/answer structure. The surrealistic flood of images that makes up the "blue-eyed" son's reply to the inquiry has no connection to "Lord Randal." In fact, is probably owes more to Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" than to anything that might be found in song.(Note 6)
8 Original song: Scarlet Ribbons For Her Hair (trad),
Who'll Buy You Ribbons When I'm Gone (Paul Clayton)
Dylan song: Don't Think Twice, It's Alright (October 1962)
Paul Clayton based his own composition on the traditional song "Scarlet Ribbons For Her Hair," and Dylan's song could have been based on either or both. Clayton obviously felt that his song was where Dylan had got it, and had his lawyers make inquiries. According to Robert Shelton, "Clayton and Dylan had an amicable legal tiff, settling without rancor out of court." (No Direction Home by Robert Shelton, page 156).
Johnny Cash's "Understand Your Man" is sometimes cited as an influence on "Don't Think Twice," but actually that song was also based on "Scarlet Ribbons For Her Hair," hence the similarities.
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.
Who's Goin' Buy You Ribbons When I'm Gone?
It ain't no use to sit and wonder why, babe It don't matter, anyhow An' it ain't no use to sit and wonder why, babe If you don't know by now
Don't Think Twice, It's Alright
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?
Who's Goin' Buy You Ribbons When I'm Gone?
I'm walkin' down that long, lonesome road, babe Where I'm bound, I can't tell But good-bye's too good a word, gal So I'll just say fare thee well
Don't Think Twice, It's Alright
While Dylan's debt is clear here, the actual achievement of "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" far outstrips its precursors. This is one of the finest examples of the kind of song in which the narrator is lying to himself and unknowingly telling far more of his emotional struggles than he himself is aware of. Other notable examples of this type of song would include Hoagy Carmichael's "I Get Along Without You Very Well (Except Sometimes)," Loudon Waiwright III's "I'm Alright," Dylan's own "Most of the Time," and almost the entire output of Randy Newman.(Note 7)
9 Original song: Scarborough Fair (trad. arr. Martin Carthy)
Dylan song: Girl From the North Country (January 1963)
Dylan mentioned Martin Carthy in the sleeve notes to The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, and also said in 1984: "Martin Carthy's incredible. I learned a lot of stuff from Martin. 'Girl From the North Country' is based on a song I learned from him."
The song that "Girl From the North Country" was based on is "Scarborough Fair," and Carthy's arrangement is found on his eponymous debut album. Martin Carthy has expressed bitterness about Paul Simon's lifting the song since Simon failed to acknowledge or credit Carthy for the arrangement, but none towards Dylan for his more "creative" adaptation.
I had the opportunity to talk to Martin Carthy (who visited Tokyo in 1995), and he spoke at length about Paul Simon's appropriation - Simon had even gone so far as to release "Scarborough Fair" with words and music credited to himself at one point.
Concerning the similarity between "Scarborough Fair" and Dylan's "Girl From the North Country," Carthy stated: "That was completely different, completely legitimate. Bob never hid anything. And he made his own song from it. That's what folk music is all about. He'd always be asking me, 'Martin, play 'Scarborough Fair,' play 'Scarborough Fair.' He was in England to appear in a TV play, Madhouse On Castle Street, for the BBC, and he was over for a few months, I think. He went over to Portugal or somewhere for a few days, and when he came back he said he had a new song. He played me this thing, and when he got to 'She was once a true friend of mine,' he burst into laughter and said something like 'Oh I can't do that one in front of you!' and then he started playing something else."
10 Original song: Nottamun Town (trad)
Dylan song: Masters of War (January 1963)
The tune of "Masters of War" is based on the traditional "Nottamun Town," believed to be an old magic song from an English mummers' play. The great Scottish folk singer Jean Ritchie affixed the copyright of her Geordie Music Publishing Company on "Nottamun" in 1964. Geordie made claims against Dylan for use of the melody but he successfully maintained that his variant and his totally original words made a new song.
11 Original song: The Leaving of Liverpool (trad)
Dylan song: Farewell (January 1963)
Dylan's song is so similar in tune and many of the words that it should be considered more as an adaptation than an original song. A number of performances by Dylan of this song exist, but it has never been officially released.
I'm bound off for California By the way of stormy Cape Horn And I'm bound to write you a letter, love When I am homeward bound So fare thee well, my own true love When I return united we will be It's not the leaving of Liverpool that's grieving me But my darling when I think of thee
The Leaving of Liverpool
Oh it's fare thee well my darlin' true, I'm leavin' in the first hour of the morn. I'm bound off for the bay of Mexico Or maybe the coast of Californ. So it's fare thee well my own true love, We'll meet another day, another time. It ain't the leavin' that's a-grievin' me But my true love who's bound to stay behind.
12 Original song: Lord Franklin (trad)
Dylan song: Bob Dylan's Dream (February 1963)
The tune and words of "Bob Dylan's Dream" come from "Lord Franklin," another song which he learnt from Carthy during his first visit to England. Dylan had been brought over from the U.S. by the B.B.C. to sing a few songs and have a bit part in Madhouse On Castle Street, a TV play that unfortunately was not preserved, BBC having a bad habit of wiping historically invaluable tape. (They also wiped the two 1965 performances that Albert Grossman can be seen negotiating in the documentary Don't Look Back.) Dylan sang his own "Blowin' in the Wind," as well as the traditional songs "Ballad of the Gliding Swan," "Hang Me, Oh Hang Me," "Cuckoo Bird" and an untitled instrumental. Only the first two of these are known to exist on audio tape.
12 Original song: The Patriot Game (words: Dominic Behan, music: trad)
Dylan song: With God on Our Side (April 1963)
Talking about the genesis of this song on a radio broadcast some years ago, Liam Clancy (of The Clancy Brothers) said:
"'The Patriot Game' was written by Dominic Behan, but it was originally a song from the Appalachian Mountains ('The Merry Month Of May'). Then it became a popular song, slightly adapted by a popular singer of the day named Joe Stafford who called it the - What was it called? 'The Bold Grenadier,' or something.
And it was from that popular recording that Dominic Behan took the tune and he made it into 'The Patriot Game.' And of course we used to sing this with great passion at the folk clubs in the (Greenwich) Village. And among the patrons was a young singer/songwriter who came into town named Bob Dylan. And he transformed it, of course, into 'With God on Our Side.'" Actually Dominic Behan chided Dylan publicly for lifting Behan's melody until he was reminded that he himself had "borrowed" the tune. As for the phrase "God on our side," it might have come from Robert Southey ("The laws are with us and God's on our side") or from George Bernard Shaw's play Saint Joan.
13 Original song: Who Killed Cock Robin (trad)
Dylan song: Who Killed Davey Moore (April 1963)
"Who Killed Cock Robin" is a haunting children's song that can be found in many versions stretching back to antiquity. Dylan directly adapted the structure for this song on the death of Davey Moore, a boxer who was knocked out by Sugar Ramos on March 23, 1963 and died two days later without having regained consciousness. Dylan's first performance of this song was on April 12, just 18 days later.
14 Original song: The Wind and the Rain (trad)
Dylan song: Percy's Song (August 1963)
According to Dylan, the beautiful melody line of this song came from Paul Clayton. "Paul was just an incredible songwriter and singer," said Dylan in 1985. "He must have known a thousand songs. I learned 'Pay Day at Coal Creek' and a bunch of other songs from him. We played on the same circuit and I traveled with him part of the time. When you're listening to songs night after night, some of them rub off on you. 'Don't Think Twice' was a riff that Paul had. [See above.] And so was 'Percy's Song.'
Something I might have written might have been a take off on 'Hiram Hubbard,' a civil war song he used to sing, but I don't know. A song like that would come to me because people were talking about the incident. A lot of folk songs are written from a character's point of view. 'House of the Rising Sun' is actually from a woman's point of view. A lot of Irish ballads would be the same thing. A song like Percy's Song, you'd just assume another character's point of view. I did a few like that."
As for the words, Dylan has clearly borrowed the structure from "The Wind and the Rain" (also known as "Two Sisters"), though the stories in the two songs are unrelated. The first verses of the two songs share a similar refrain:
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 Wind and the Rain
Bad news, bad news come to me where I sleep, Turn, turn, turn again. Sayin' one of your friends is in trouble deep, Turn, turn to the rain and the wind.
Percy's Song while the final verses are even more closely related:
The only tune that my fiddle would play, Was, "Oh, the wind and the rain." The only tune that my fiddle would play, was Was, "The dreadful wind and rain."
The Wind and the Rain
And I played my guitar through the night to the day, Turn, turn, turn again. And the only tune my guitar could play Was, "Oh the cruel rain and the wind."
15 Original song: Anathea (words: Neil Roth, music: Lydia Wood)
Dylan song: Seven Curses (August 1963)
The song "Anathea" tells a similar story to "Seven Curses." To quote the late John Bauldie: "The song's story is as old as the hills - the tale used by Shakespeare for Measure for Measure is an obvious variant - and it's been told in folk song many times down the years, under such titles as 'The Prickley Bush,' 'The Briery Bush,' and 'The Prickle Holly Bush.' Perhaps the earliest version is the Child Ballad number 95, 'The Maid Freed From the Gallows,' but it seems likely that Dylan's direct source was a song called "Anathea," often performed by Judy Collins, whom Dylan knew well at this time." (From Bauldie's notes for The Bootleg Series, Vols. 1-3)
When asked about this, Judy Collins agreed: "Absolutely, the seven curses are related to Anathea. There are old themes, world themes, centuries' old dramas that get worked out in the creative process by artist after artist. I see what Dylan has always done is to connect with this inner, subterranean river of the subconscious."
16 Original song: The Parting Glass (trad)
Dylan song: Restless Farewell (October 1963)
The tune and lyrics to "Restless Farewell" were both based on "The Parting Glass," a traditional Irish song that he probably learnt from The Clancy Brothers.
O, all the money e'er I had I spent it in good company And all the harm I've ever done Alas! it was to none but me.
The Parting Glass
Oh all the money that in my whole life I did spend, Be it mine right or wrongfully, I let it slip gladly past the hands of my friends To tie up the time most forcefully.
Dylan reportedly wrote this song hastily in the studio as a suitable closer to his 1964 album, The Times They Are A-Changin' album and did not perform it again until 1995 when Frank Sinatra requested it as the closing song in his 80th Birthday Concert. Although some of the lines are clumsy (particularly when compared to the graceful original), it still made for a far more touching declaration of independence than "My Way."
17 Original song: Jack O'Diamonds (Mance Lipscomb)
Dylan song: Jack O'Diamonds (1964)
"Jack O'Diamonds" was one of the "some other kind of songs" poems printed on the sleeve of Another Side of Bob Dylan and set to music by Fairport Convention, though Fairport's music has little connection with the original Mance Lipscomb version.
Mance Lipscomb wrote "Baby, Let Me Follow You Down" (also known as "Baby, Let Me Lay It on You") which Dylan sang on his debut album. Lipscomb claims to have taught the song to Dylan while Dylan states (in a spoken introduction on the album) that he learnt it from Rick von Schmidt.
For more information on Mance Lipscomb, go to his marvellous autobiography (published by Norton) I Say Me For A Parable, or to any of his recordings released on CD by Arhoolie.
18 Original song: Too Much Monkey Business (Chuck Berry)
Dylan song: Subterranean Homesick Blues (January 1965)
By 1965, Dylan had absorbed an enormous amount of traditional and quasi-traditional material, but it is from this time that we see him start to incorporate the influence of more contemporary works. Chuck Berry has, with good reason, been called the first poet of rock and roll, and his "Too Much Monkey Business" (1957) is a perfect example of his mastery of colloquial American English. Dylan takes Berry's rapid-fire approach to the language and ups the stakes:
Workin' in the fillin' station Too many tasks Wipe the windows Check the tires Check the oil Dollar gas!
Too Much Monkey Business
Ah get born, keep warm, Short pants, romance. Learn to dance, get dressed, get blessed Try to be a success. Please her, please him, buy gifts Don't steal, don't lift - Twenty years of schoolin' And they put you on the day shift
Subterranean Homesick Blues
19 Original song: Nine Below Zero (Sonny Boy Williamson)
Dylan song: Outlaw Blues (January 1965)
The only direct connection here is the phrase "nine below zero," but Dylan almost certainly got this from Williamson. Why? Listen to what else he got from him. Although the tune to "Pledging My Time" is related (as noted below) to Robert Johnson's "Come On In My Kitchen," the feel of it (and of many of Dylan's electric blues songs) definitely comes from "Nine Below Zero," and other songs recorded by Williamson from the early 1950s to 1963.
20 Original song: Baby Blue (Gene Vincent)
Dylan song: It's All Over Now, Baby Blue (January 1965)
"I had carried that song around in my head for a long time," said Dylan, "and I remember that when I was writing it, I'd remembered a Gene Vincent song. It had always been one of my favorites, Baby Blue...`when first I met my baby, she said how do you do, she looked into my eyes and said... my name is Baby Blue.' It was one of the songs I used to sing back in High School. Of course, I was singing about a different Baby Blue." Apart from the inspiration that the song might have given to Dylan, there is no relationship between the songs beyond the name, Baby Blue.
21 Original songs: La Bamba (trad. arr. Richie Valens), Rolling Stone (Muddy Waters), Lost Highway (Leon Payne)
Dylan song: Like a Rolling Stone (June 1965)
Dylan can be seen singing Hank Williams' "Lost Highway" - which begins "I'm a rolling stone" - in the documentary Don't Look Back on May 3rd or 4th, only weeks before writing "Like a Rolling Stone." (Although "Lost Highway" is always associated with Hank Williams, it was actually written by Leon Payne.)
Dylan says he based "Like a Rolling Stone" on "La Bamba" and you can feel it in the chorus, though the Richie Valens influence could not really be called profound! (Of course, "La Bamba" is a lot older than Valens, who had a hit with a rocking arrangement of the tune in 1958. It is a traditional Mexican dance tune that has been around for centuries.)
Muddy Waters' "Rolling Stone" may or may not have been an influence on "Like a Rolling Stone," but when you listen to "Rolling Stone," "Lost Highway" and "La Bamba" back to back to back, you really can hear "Like a Rolling Stone" emerging. In 1991, the first take of "Like a Rolling Stone" was issued on the Bootleg Series, Vol. 1-3, and is was rather a surprise to hear that it was originally in waltz time and bore absolutely no resemblance to "La Bamba," so any influence from the song must have either appeared in the studio or in hindsight.
22 Original song: Milk Cow Blues (Sleepy John Estes)
Dylan song: From A Buick 6 (June 1965)
"From A Buick 6" takes its tune and rhythmic feel from "Milk Cow Blues," recorded by Sleepy John Estes in 1930. The first verse contains the phrase "keep it hid," which also appears in the Dylan song. Estes recorded an impressive version of "Broken-Hearted, Ragged and Dirty Too"- which Dylan recorded as "Ragged and Dirty" on World Gone Wrong - back in 1929.
23 Original song: Poor Me (Charlie Patton), Milkcow Blues (Kokomo Arnold)
Dylan song: It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry (July 1965)
Interestingly, another Highway 61 Revisited song could have been influenced by another bovine blues - "It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry," from one of Kokomo Arnold's many versions of "Milkcow Blues," though the couplet in question first appeared on Charlie Patton's "Poor Me" in 1934: "Don't the moon look pretty shinin' down through the tree."
Dylan is undoubtedly familiar with both singers. In 1985, an interviewer asked Dylan if his comparatively modern-sounding Empire Burlesque was an attempt to keep up with the times, and he answered: "What do I know about keeping up with the times? I still listen to Charlie Patton."
24 Original song: I Believe to My Soul (Ray Charles)
Dylan song: Ballad of a Thin Man (July 1965)
"I Believe to My Soul" by Ray Charles contributed only the piano phrase between verses to "Ballad of a Thin Man," the two songs themselves being completely different. However, the phrase is distinctive enough to be a definite link between the two songs.
25 Original song: Norwegian Wood (Lennon/McCartney)
Dylan song: 4th Time Around (February 1966)
The first obviously Dylan-influenced song that John Lennon (Note 8) wrote was "I'm a Loser" in the summer of 1964. With the following year's "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" and "Ticket to Ride," the influence was even more apparent, and by the end of the year, Lennon was composing the Dylan-drenched wordplay of "Norwegian Wood" - and being teased about it by the other Beatles, if Alan Price of The Animals can be believed.
Just two months after the song's release, Dylan wrote "4th Time Around," setting Lennon's distinctive melody to a convoluted love story that was even more impenetrable than the original. Lennon is supposed to have been more than a little "paranoid" about the song's intentions. Was it a playful compliment or an ironic insult? With Dylan's closing couplet - "I never asked for your crutch, now don't ask for mine" - it could be taken either way.
26 Original song: Automobile Blues (Lightnin' Hopkins)
Dylan song: Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat (February 1966)
I saw you riding 'round in your brand new automobile Yes I saw you ridin' around, babe, in your brand new automobile You was sitting there happy With your handsome driver at the wheel In your brand new automobile
Well, I see you got your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat Yes, I see you got your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat Well, you must tell me, baby How your head feels under somethin' like that Under your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat
Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat
The connection between the two songs is clear and probably intended. The sly humour that Dylan employs is a distinctive feature of many of Hopkins' songs.
27 Original song: Come on in My Kitchen (Robert Johnson)
Dylan song: Pledging My Time (March 1966)
Blues melodies tend to be so formulaic that it's often difficult to say that one particular song came from another. However, "Pledging My Time" is very similar to "Come On In My Kitchen." Dylan is known to be a big Robert Johnson fan (Note 9), and the two songs also share one striking similarity in their lyrics, both lines being sung to the same melodic phrase:
Some joker got lucky, stole her back again.
Come On in My Kitchen
Somebody got lucky, but it was an accident.
Pledging My Time
28 Original song: James Alley Blues (Richard "Rabbit" Brown)
Dylan song: Down in the Flood (between April and October 1967)
I been giving sugar for sugar, let you get salt for salt And if you can't get along with me, well, it's your own fault
James Alley Blues Well,
it's sugar for sugar, and salt for salt, If you go down in the flood, it's gonna be your own fault.
Down in the Flood
Just the "sugar for sugar, salt for salt" fragment, but it's distinctive enough to be a match. This was recorded by Richard "Rabbit" Brown in the late 1920s. Brown was born in New Orleans in 1880 and died there in 1937. In his early years, he used to sing on the streets of Storyville (Note 10), and he frequently worked as a singing boatman on Lake Pontchartrain. There don't seem to be any CDs solely devoted to Brown (he might not have recorded enough to fill one), but he can be found (usually represented by this song) on various anthologies.
As for "James Alley Blues," there are a number of other lines that seem to have interested Dylan: "Sometimes I think that you're too sweet to die / Then other times I think you oughta be buried alive" by Brown has a close relative in Dylan's "Black Crow Blues," and "I done seen better days, but I'm puttin' up with these" (Brown) could be the origin of "I see better days and I do better things" from Dylan's "I Shall Be Free."
29 Original song: Tramps and Hawkers (trad)
Dylan song: I Pity the Poor Immigrant (November 1967)
Dylan adapted the tune of "I Pity the Poor Immigrant" from a traditional Scottish ballad entitled "Tramps and Hawkers." The Scottish song has been recorded by Hamish Imlach and by the Dubliners. There is no lyrical connection between the two songs.
30 Original song: Pony Blues (Charlie Patton)
Dylan song: New Pony (April 1978)
Both Charlie Patton (1892-36) and Son House (1902-89) were famous for "Pony Blues," and both of them were also blues singers who were convinced that blues was the "Devil's music." At certain times during their lives, they both gave up blues singing to become lay preachers - though they also both backslid and returned to the blues (among other unpreacherly activities). In his later performances, Son House was always careful to include at least one gospel number amid the blues songs to "sanctify" proceedings.
"New Pony" explores this ambiguous relationship, contrasting the deep blues of the song with the gospel chant of "How much longer?" Dylan's song is based on House's version, not Patton's. (Note 11)
However, the House version sprung from Patton's, which is certainly one of the finest country blues performances ever recorded. Dylan himself was "born again" in November of this year, and the tension between the attractions of the flesh and the spirit is made tangibly real.(Note 12)
You know, the horse that I'm riding, he can fox-trot, lope and pace Hmm, he can fox-trot and lope and pace Y'know, a horse with that many gaits, y'know, booked to win that race.
I got a new pony, she knows how to fox-trot, lope and pace Well, I got a new pony, she knows how to fox-trot, lope and pace She got great big hind legs and long black shaggy hair hanging in her face
31 Original song: Little Black Train (Woody Guthrie) Dylan song: Gotta Serve Somebody (April 1979)
After Dylan's first major work, "Song to Woody," there has been remarkably little direct influence from Guthrie's songs on Dylan's own compositions. Apart from "Danville Girl," which provided the title and not much else for "New Danville Girl," (Note 13) "Little Black Train" may be the only one to show a clear connection.
You may be a bar-room gambler And cheat your way through life But you can't cheat that little black train Or beat this final ride Get ready for your savior And fix your business right You've gotta ride that little black train To make your final ride
Little Black Train
You may be an ambassador to England or France, You may like to gamble, you might like to dance, You may be the heavyweight champion of the world, You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed You're gonna have to serve somebody, Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord But you're gonna have to serve somebody.
Gotta Serve Somebody
The train imagery of Guthrie's song does not appear in Dylan's, but the album on which "Gotta Serve Somebody" appears is called Slow Train Coming, and the train serves the same metaphorical purpose as in Guthrie's song.
32 Original song: St. James Infirmary (trad), and Dying Crapshooter (trad)
Dylan song: Blind Willie McTell (April 1983)
"Dying Crapshooter Blues" and "St. James Infirmary" are related songs, and both important influences on Dylan's masterpiece, "Blind Willie McTell." (Note 14) Dylan sings:"I'm staring out the window / Of the old St. James Hotel" and there really is a St. James Hotel - by all accounts a marvellous old building in Minnesota that looks out on Highway 61. The suggestion (by allusion to the song) that the hotel is an infirmary adds another layer to an already many-layered song.
Armstrong recorded "St. James Infirmary" a number of times, first and most notably with Earl Hines on piano in 1928. Armstrong's 1928 recordings are among the greatest in all recorded music, and are strongly recommended to anyone of whatever musical persuasion. Blind Willie McTell's "Dying Crapshooter Blues" was taped by Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress in 1940 ("Delia" - one of two McTell-related songs Dylan featured on his 1993 collection of traditional songs, World Gone Wrong - was also recorded at this session) and has been released on LP and CD.
33 Original song: The Unfortunate Rake (trad)
Dylan song: Where Teardrops Fall (March 1989)
The line, "We banged the drum slowly and played the fife lowly -" from "Where Teardrops Fall" is a floating" line found in similar form most notably in numerous variants of the "The Unfortunate Rake" song family.
An album entitled The Unfortunate Rake: A Study in the Evolution of a Ballad traces the history of this song. Incidentally, "St. James Infirmary" and "Dying Crapshooter's Blues" (see above) are family members. The words refer, of course, to death - and often specifically to funerals.
"Streets of Laredo" (also known as "The Cowboy's Lament") is perhaps the best known of this family. In the song, a dying cowboy tells his comrades:
"O, beat the drum slowly and play the fife lowly, Play the dead march as they carry me along, Put bunches of roses all over my coffin, Roses to deaden the clods as they fall..."
Streets of Laredo