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Music

From Nico to Elvis Presley: A selection of classic songs that Bob Dylan gave away

In terms of pedigree, you don’t get much more lauded than Bob Dylan. The Duluth, Minnesota born troubadour has had such a colossal impact on the domain of popular culture that today, his life and career are regarded as somewhat mythical. They captivate both audiences and academics and provide no end of wild tales that make us wonder whether he is of the earthly realm at all.

A countercultural hero, who started as a folk singer before experimenting with jazz, hard rock and Christianity, Bob Dylan’s career has been an Odyssey, to say the very least.

He’s one of those rare figures you could listen to talking for hours. He possesses the wisdom of a man who’s seen and done it all, and this experience has imbued his music with the feeling that Dylan is akin to a modern Plato or Aristotle, watching civilisation develop from the wings, offering up an objective account of how we got here, and how we escape from the many messes we’ve created for ourselves. 

His 2020 single ‘Murder Most Foul’ from Rough and Rowdy Ways confirmed this point. Clocking in at nearly 17 minutes, it discussed the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and explored the crime’s significance in the broader context of political and cultural history. Brimming with lines such as, “What’s new, pussycat? What’d I say? / I said the soul of a nation been torn away / And it’s beginning to go into a slow decay / And that it’s thirty-six hours past Judgment Day”, Dylan showed that at the age of 80, he’s still got it.

A genius wordsmith whose cutting prose take humanity to task, there’s no surprise why he has long been hailed as the voice of his generation. We’d argue that he’s not just the voice of a generation, though. He’s the voice of countless generations. 

Dylan has inspired legions of musicians and audiences, and if we were to erase him from the annals of popular culture, life today would look very different. We’d be without classic songs, jokes and stories, showing just how far-reaching his input has been.

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In terms of songs, one interesting part of Dylan’s career has been the number of classics he’s given away to other artists. Therefore, it’s not just the consumer who have benefitted from Dylan’s songwriting prowess but music culture at large. Ironically, some of these are ranked among the artist in question’s best-beloved tracks. 

One of these songs is ‘I’ll Keep It with Mine’. First written by Dylan in 1964, it saw the light of day when folk legend Judy Collins released it as a single in 1965. Dylan would then attempt to record the song for his 1966 album, Blonde on Blonde, but it didn’t make the final cut. German starlet and one-time collaborator of The Velvet Underground, Nico, also delivered a stellar rendition of the track as part of her 1967 album Chelsea Girl, which one would argue is the ultimate version.

Another legendary track that Dylan gave away was ‘You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere’. Written by Dylan in 1967 in Woodstock, New York, during his self-imposed exile from public performances following his motorcycle accident in 1966. Once again, it was The Byrds who popularised the song. Featuring the classic chorus, the piece was made for The Byrds, and the revelation that it’s a Dylan song may come as something of a surprise. It remains the highlight of their country-rock masterpiece, 1968’s Sweetheart of the Rodeo

A surprise cut is ‘Tomorrow Is A Long Time’. Made famous by ‘The King of Rock and Roll’, Elvis Presley, it’s mindblowing that Elvis covered Dylan. First recorded by Dylan in 1963 at the Town Hall in New York City, he didn’t release it until 1971 as a part of Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Vol. II. Presley recorded the song in May 1966 during a How Great Thou Art session, but it first appeared as a bonus track on Spinout. Dylan said that Presley’s cover was “the one recording I treasure the most.”

English rock legends Manfred Mann also benefitted from Dylan’s skill. Their 1968 earworm ‘The Mighty Quinn’ originated in the mind of Duluth’s favourite son. A hit when released by Mann, it was written and recorded by Bob Dylan as part of The Basement Tapes sessions in 1967 entitled ‘Quinn the Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)’. Discussing the arrival of Quinn the Eskimo, Dylan is believed to have taken the character from Anthony Quinn’s role as an Eskimo in the 1960 flick The Savage Innocents

A true legend whose creative tap continues to gush, Dylan’s effect on music has been truly incredible, and the list of the songs he has given away is endless. Enjoy this coveted selection and heed the gravity of Dylan’s songwriting talent.  

A selection of classic songs that Bob Dylan gave away:

  • ‘I’ll Keep It with Mine’ – recorded by Judy Collins and Nico
  • ‘Seven Days’ – Ronnie Woods
  • ‘The Mighty Quinn’ – Manfred Mann
  • ‘You Ain’t Goin Nowhere’ – The Byrds
  • ‘Too Much of Nothing’ – Peter, Paul and Mary
  • ‘Percy’s Song’ – Arlo Guthrie
  • ‘Tomorrow Is a Long Time’ – Elvis Presley
  • ‘Wanted Man ‘- Johnny Cash
  • ‘Stepchild’ – Solomon Burke
  • ‘When I Paint My Masterpiece’ – The Band