This Historic Day In Music: Bob Dylan

My 2010 post celebrating Bob Dylan’s birthday invited my readers to share their favorite Bob Dylan song. After missing the big day in 2011, I came back in 2012 and wrote a piece about some of the many outstanding (in my mind) cover versions of a Bob Dylan song and again invited my readers to share their choice for addition to that list.

For my third installment of what I probably should now think of as being a series, I would like to again extend those invitations.

Click on the blue leave a comment link at the bottom of this post and voice your choice (thanks NECN) for best Bob Dylan song and/or cover version of a Bob Dylan song. I’d love to hear from you!

I’ll get the party started by (again) sharing my all-time, hand’s-down favorite Bob Dylan song: “Mr. Tambourine Man.”

By all accounts, Bob wrote “Mr.Tambourine Man” during the months of February, March and April of 1964. The first live performance he gave of the song has been established as being at Royal Festival Hall in London, England on May 17, 1964.

The first time he tried recording the song was on June 9, 1964 in Columbia Records’ New York City studios as part of the sessions for his fourth album, Another Side of Bob Dylan. Fellow Folk singer Ramblin’ Jack Elliott joined him, singing harmony vocals on the chorus of the song. That version was not deemed suitable for inclusion on the Another Side… album.

Also in June of 1964, Bob made a demo recording of the song for his publishing company, M. Witmark & Sons. He accompanied himself on the piano.

On July 24, 1964, Bob performed “Mr. Tambourine Man” as one of two songs that he presented as part of an “afternoon workshop” concert at the Newport Folk Festival in Newport, RI.

Here, thanks to and YouTube, is that performance.

The “official” recording of “Mr Tambourine Man” that we all know and love was cut on January 15, 1965, again at Columbia Studios in NYC. It features Bob on acoustic guitar, singing and playing harmonica with the addition of a second guitar, played by Bruce Langhorne.

“Mr. Tambourine Man” was released on Bob’s fifth album for Columbia Records, Bringing It All Back Home, on March 22, 1965.

Here’s a bit of technical/musical information regarding how Bob played “Mr. Tambourine Man” in these recordings.

For the demo recording, Bob played his piano accompaniment in the key of D major.

In that video of his Newport performance, I’m pretty sure that Bob is playing a guitar that he’d borrowed from Joan Baez. He has the instrument capoed at the third fret, in the non-standard tuning known as dropped-D and the chords he’s fingering are basically D major, G major and A major. But since the music sounds (what’s called the “concert pitch”) in the key of E major, the instrument must have all six strings tuned one half step below standard pitch.

In the Bringing It All Back Home recording, Bob’s guitar is again in dropped-D tuning, it’s capoed at the third fret and he’s fingering the same basic chords. But since the concert pitch of this recording is in the key of F, that means his guitar is tuned up to standard pitch, not down one half step.

Bob Dylan was born Robert Zimmerman on this day, May 24, in 1941, in Duluth, Minnesota.

Happy Birthday, Bob!

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1 Response to This Historic Day In Music: Bob Dylan

  1. Chuck Rhoades says:

    There has to be a mention of the first Dylan song I ever heard (or was aware of as a Dylan song). I was a high school sophomore and my older cousin, a college student, whom I saw as a role model of sorts, was home for a break and wanted me to hear this new album, Nashville Skyline. The first song he played for me was “Lay Lady Lay.” It seemed so risqué at the time.

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