My story with this song started in 1970.
Back then, the New World Coffee House was largely the home to the music scene in Portsmouth, NH; the “big city” closest to Exeter, the small town (with no music scene) where I grew up.
Saturday nights often found my friends and me sitting around a table at the New World, slowly sipping our beverages and listening intently to the folk singers.
One night, the folk singer ended his set with a rather catchy number that I’d never heard before. He answered my off-stage query that it was a Dylan song, “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.”
It took me a while to track the song down, but it didn’t take long to figure out that the song’s chord progression was well within reach of my novice guitar player fingers.
From that day to this, I’ve played and sung “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” a countless number of times. It never gets old.
So, give a listen and, if you’re vocally inclined, sing along!
Bob Dylan wrote “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” in the summer of 1967, right around when he wrote “I Shall Be Released,” the song that initiated this series.
Dylan first recorded “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” with The Band (though they weren’t called that yet) sometime during what have become known as The Basement Tapes sessions. These legendary recording and songwriting sessions were held in a rented house called “Big Pink,” located in West Saugerties, New York, from June through October of 1967.
There’s a picture in the book Low & Behold: Photographs & More…* of the back cover of a box that held one of the many 7 ½-inch reels of ¼-inch Scotch magnetic recording tape used in the Big Pink sessions. On that tape box is a hand-written track listing showing that “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” and “I Shall Be Released” (two takes of each) were actually cut in the same session.
That second take of “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” by Bob Dylan & The Band was released in July, 1975 on the Columbia Records double LP set titled The Basement Tapes.
The first commercially-released recording of “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” was made by The Byrds on March 9, 1968 at Columbia Studios in Nashville, Tennessee.
This would be the first day of sessions for the group’s Sweetheart of the Rodeo album.
All involved were so pleased with the March 9 track that “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” (b/w “Artificial Energy”) was released as a single on April 2, 1968. (Sweetheart of the Rodeo would not hit record store shelves until August 30, 1968.)
For the guitar players among you, “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” is in 4/4 time and set in the Key of G.
The chord progression goes: ||: G | Am | C | G :|| (Yup, that’s it.)
The musicians on that recording were:
- Roger McGuinn – Electric 12-string guitar & lead vocals
- Chris Hillman – Bass guitar & harmony vocals
- Kevin Kelley – Drums
- Gram Parsons – Organ
- Lloyd Green – Pedal steel guitar
Bob Dylan recorded a substantially re-written rendition of “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” on September 24, 1971 – the same day that he also finally recorded “I Shall Be Released.”
The location was Studio B at the Columbia Records Recording Studios in New York, New York. Accompanying Bob was his friend and fellow musician, Happy Traum.
That performance of “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” was included on the 2-LP set: Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits – Volume 2, released on November 17, 1971.
The musicians and their contributions were:
- Bob Dylan – Acoustic guitar, lead vocals & harmonica
- Happy Traum – Banjo & harmony vocals.
. . . . .
“Music is the best medicine.”
That line is from “Best Medicine” – a 2014 song by Maya de Vitry when she was with the wonderful acoustic trio known as The Stray Birds.
My thought behind this series has been to offer up some songs that I’ve been thinking about, listening to and singing quite a bit these days. It is my hope that these small doses of musical medicine will be a source of comfort, joy, hope and sanity for you as they have been for me.
Stay safe, my friends. Take good care and add some music to your day.
* Low & Behold: Photographs & More… is part of The Bootleg Series, Vol. 11: Bob Dylan and The Band, The Basement Tapes Complete. This 6-CD box set was released on November 4, 2014.