Bob Dylan is an artist who had cultivated a certain level of respect over the years, and this is unsurprising, as, for the past six decades, he has widely been hailed as one of the world’s best songwriters, if not the best. One would argue that he pips Lennon, McCartney and even Leonard Cohen in the way that in any one song, he manages to insert the socio-political alongside the surreal and the humourous.
Before the purists get enraged, Cohen did this too. However, Dylan’s unique penchant for lyricism is what really marks him out as a true great. Well versed in literature, his ability to reel off a list of literary and pop culture references within his songs is mind-boggling, particularly when we note that some of his best work came in the early-mid 1960s, the time when the internet was really just a loose concept in science-fiction novels.
Marrying a brilliant musical score with a set of lyrics that read like a short story or poem is Dylan’s true artistic majesty. He understands the two key components of modern popular music and fittingly, is loved by millions worldwide. His life and career reads like a romantic tale of old, and for a man who embodies the true artist, audio and visually, there exists a mammoth amount of discourse regarding the man known as ‘The Bard’.
This incredible amount of information on Dylan has also had a secondary effect, and it is one, we would argue has augmented his status beyond that of an ordinary “rock star”. He is a character who has always cultivated a mysterious personality, and this mystique has been compounded by the discourse, adding another layer of fog to Dylan’s life, pulling it out of the ordinary realms of day-to-day life.
Drenched in a surreal mist, it is composed of whispers, marijuana, ample amounts of alcohol and a whole host of other elements. There exists a small tale from early on in Dylan’s career that is perhaps the most opaque. For years, rumours and stories have abounded about his mystical track ‘Song To Brigitte’.
The strange thing about this song is that it was never recorded, and by all accounts, never even performed. So what’s all the fuss about? Well, Dylan’s legions of disciples are certain that this is the first song Dylan ever wrote, which is significant.
In a notorious tale within Dylan’s dense chronicle, in 1961 he told author Izzy Young that ‘Song for Brigitte’ was the first he ever penned. You might be thinking ‘sure it was’, given Dylan’s level of mystery, but in 1964 he said the same thing to the esteemed Village Voice journalist Nat Hentoff. Only this time, he went into more detail and said that he wrote the song when he was 15.
It was in March 1966 where he got fans really excited. Dylan even discussed the genetics of the song, telling Playboy: “I don’t recall too much of it. It had only one chord. Well, it is all in the heart.”
Much time would pass, and the song would largely be forgotten again, apart from by the diehard Dylan fans, but then in 1978, he repeated the same story to journalist Julia Orange for an edition of Women’s Day.
Dylan’s elusive claims are backed up by famed Dylan biographer Clinton Heylin in the comprehensive 2009 biography Revolution in the Air. The author said that throughout his years of extensive research on Dylan, he could find no other candidate for the position of “Dylan’s first song”, before proceeding to label it so.
In many ways, the ‘Song for Brigitte’ tale is a peculiar one. Embodying the story of the holy grail for Dylan fans, it is mindblowing that a song never recorded or even performed can inspire so much discussion and intrigue.
Helped by Dylan’s somewhat fragmentary recollection, this has left fans wondering just what on earth this one-chord wonder by the 15-year-old Dylan could have sounded like. Let’s be honest, given his age, it was likely terrible.
As if 39 studio albums, and ample live albums to boot was not enough, this speaks volumes of Dylan‘s relationship with his fans. It is likely the song will never see the light of day, and given that ‘The Bard’ had a struggle in remembering it back in the ’60s, who knows what his thoughts on it are today if any.
Listen to a physical Bob Dylan song ‘To Ramona’ below.