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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

3 Favourite Bob Dylan Songs

Bob Dylan was a central figure in the writing of my book I Went Down to St. James Infirmary; it was his "Blind Willie McTell" that set the ball rolling ("I'm gazing out the window of the St. James Hotel ...").  Here are three of my favourite Dylan songs. What would you include?

1. When the Deal Goes Down. 2006. In this song I imagine the singer at the bedside of a dying spouse, lover, holding her/his hand, and maybe whispering closely. ("I owe my heart to you, and that's sayin' it true, I'll be with you when the deal goes down.")

2. Red River Shore. 1997. In which the girl on the Red River Shore represents a youthful ideal - say, a struggle towards understanding, or a religious striving, a Gurdjieffien goal, perhaps. But this is now lost to the aged singer. ("The dream dried up a long time ago; don't know where it is anymore ...")

3. Stormy Weather. 2017 - well, it was written in 1933 by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler. When Dylan sings, "I'm weary all the time," you can feel it in your bones.


Anonymous said...

Bob Dylan is a great artist. No doubt! But he didn't write or co-write the St. James Infirmary song. Nor was he "a central figure in the writing of "I Went Down To the St. James Infirmary". The song is a very old standard and has many iterations.

"St. James Infirmary Blues", sometimes known as "Gambler's Blues," is an American folksong of anonymous origin, sometimes credited to songwriter Joe Primrose (pseudonym for Irving Mills). Louis Armstrong made it famous in his influential 1928 recording.

Since Bob Dylan was born in 1941, and his song "Blind Willie McTell" was recorded in the spring of 1983, I don't think you can give him songwriting credits. Just saying.

Robert W. Harwood said...

You're quite right. The song "St. James Infirmary" was being played long before Dylan was born. My book, "I Went Down to St. James Infirmary," was published in 2015 and a Dylan song was among the stimuli for that undertaking ... which studies the origins and evolution of the song.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous misquotes the article by writing: Dylan was a central figure in the writing of 'I went down to the St. James Infirmary'. The words MY BOOK are omitted: Bob was central to the book, not the song.

Robert W. Harwood said...

Exactly. It was through Dylan that I heard the similarity between "St. James Infirmary" and "Blind Willie McTell." That is one of the things that stoked my curiosity and eventually caused me to further research the history of the song.(And what an interesting history it turned out to have! )

Unknown said...

Bob wrote "gazing out the window" rather than "standing in the doorway" of the St James Hotel but I get your drift.6

Anthony said...

I can't imagine 3 worse choices for top 3 Dylan songs. First off, there are too many to whittle down to 3 ... Secondly, my god, those 3?

Robert W. Harwood said...

Well, these are three I enjoy. No need for you to agree.