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Great Artists Pay Tribute to Their Favorite Bob Dylan Songs

Page 5 of 5

"You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" (Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits, Vol. II, 1971)
By Roger McGuinn

In 1968, the Byrds went to Nashville to record an album of country music. Dylan had independently gone in a similar direction, though we hadn't been in touch with him – he dropped out of sight for a couple of years after he had his motorcycle accident [in 1966]. Gary Usher, our producer, managed to get us a demo of "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" from the Basement Tapes or something – Dylan hadn't released it. My interpretation? The song was about his recuperation time in Woodstock. "Gate won't close / railings froze / Get your mind off wintertime / You ain't goin' nowhere." It was cold, snowy, icy and lonely, but his sweetheart was coming to see him. They were gonna have a lot of fun in the easy chair. But when he starts singing about Genghis Khan, it's hard to know what he was thinking. I remember when we tried to play it on a Nashville country station, the DJ said "What's it about?" All I could say was, "I don't know, it's a Dylan song."

A History of Violence: Murder and Justice in Bob Dylan Songs

"Blowin' in the Wind" (The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, 1963)
By Merle Haggard
 
I don’t know if songwriting can get any better than “Blowin’ in the Wind” ­– an anthem for the civil rights movement that was both clever and had an impeccable melody. It was very timely when he wrote it in 1962. The answers to the problems of the current conditions were all up in the air, and they still are today. It still hits me. I just think it’s great, absolutely wonderful writing.
 
He said that he wrote “Blowin’ in the Wind” in 10 minutes. I’ve had songs like that: once you understand what your thoughts are, you’ve just got to get a pen and get it down quick. And when somebody wants to know what time it is, you say, “I don’t give a fuck, I need to write something down.”
 
I first became aware of Bob when Johnny Cash started recording his songs in 1964. People in the country department recognized him from his association with Cash. I’ve always preferred the acoustic Dylan, though I can understand where he was going later when he went electric.

He’s always improving, trying to create. He thinks all the time. I’ve never seen him when he looked like he wasn’t doing something, including the whole time we toured together in 2005. I was on a television show in Los Angeles with him seven years ago with Jerry Lee Lewis and Willie Nelson. He stayed in the wings and never did talk to nobody. Somebody said, “What’s he doing over there?” and I said, “Fuck, he’s writing a goddamn standard.”

See all of our Bob Dylan at 70 coverage here.

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Song Stories

“Long Walk Home”

Bruce Springsteen | 2007

When the subject of this mournful song returns home, he hardly recognizes his town. Springsteen told Rolling Stone the alienation the man feels is a metaphor for life in a politically altered post-9/11 America. “Who would have ever thought we’d live in a country without habeas corpus?” he said. “That’s Orwellian. That’s what political hysteria is about and how effective it is. I felt it in myself. You get frightened for your family, for your home. And you realize how countries can move way off course, very far from democratic ideals.”

More Song Stories entries »
 
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