Bob Dylan is one of the most influential singer-songwriters in history. Today, I’m taking a closer look at the origins of Bob Dylan’s songs from his first studio album.
In the hopes of uncovering and dispelling certain myths about Bob Dylan, we’ll look at six songs that launched his career. By the end, we’ll hopefully be able to answer whether Bob Dylan stole these songs to launch his career.
I have a feeling you might have an opinion on this matter, so be sure to leave a comment below!
In addition to talking about Bob Dylan, you’ll also be looking at Lowden F50 courtesy of Heartbreaker Guitars down in Las Vegas. Brendan, owner of Heartbreaker Guitars, will be going over specs and showing you exactly why this guitar is the Heartbreaker Guitar of the Month.
Finally, be sure to take some time to reflect on your guitar influences. You never know what truly inspires you day in and day out.
As always, you can watch Acoustic Tuesday at 10 am every Tuesday in these four places:
- Acoustic Life YouTube channel
- We Play Every Day Facebook Community
- Get show notes emailed directly to your inbox.
- Listen to audio-only below or in iTunes
This Week on Acoustic Tuesday
My Bob Dylan countdown was purely born out of curiosity.
I remember falling in love with his first album. His voice and sincerity were unbelievable.
But as I grew older and wiser, I started to notice that most of the songs that really made Bob Dylan famous in those early years were covers.
That led me to ask, “Did Bob Dylan steal those songs???”
Fortunately, I’ve given this a lot of thought and am excited to share my findings with you!
So without further ado, let’s get started on the six songs that Bob Dylan may or may not have stolen!
By the way…if you want to purchase the album in questions, here’s a link.
6: “Song to Woody”
Bob Dylan was a huge fan of folk musician, artist, and writer Woody Guthrie. In fact, Bob Dylan went so far as to style himself after Woody Guthrie. In paying tribute to Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan wrote “Song to Woody,” one of the few originals on the self-titled album.
Funny enough, the melody for “Song to Woody” is directly lifted from Woody Guthrie’s song “1913 Massacre.” Did Bob Dylan use the same melody to pay homage to Woody Guthrie? Or, did Bob Dylan decide to lift the melody because it was just that good? Let me know what you think in the comments!
Buy Woody Guthrie’s Albums: https://amzn.to/2Xe1JH7
5: “Highway 51 Blues”
Written by a blues pianist by the name of Curtis Jones, “Highway 51 Blues,” is another song Bob Dylan covered on his self-titled album. Curtis Jones’ vocals and piano playing is spectacular on this song and sounds drastically different from the Bob Dylan cover.
I love listening to an original tune that I’ve only heard covered. “Highway 51 Blues” is no exception. I always thought Bob Dylan wrote this song, but I’m happy to know that the original Curtis Jones song is just as awesome and inspiring — even if it is on piano!
Buy Curtis Jones’ Albums: https://amzn.to/2wheVjt
4: “You’re No Good”
A one-man band rockin’ a twelve-string, Jesse Fuller wrote “You’re No Good.” Like my experience with “Highway 51 Blues,” I came to love and appreciate the original after I started doing this research.
While I can’t feature “You’re No Good” performed by Bob Dylan or Jesse Fuller due to copyright, I can feature Jesse Fuller’s “Railroad Blues.” He is one incredible, driving singer with a classic acoustic blues sound.
Buy Jesse Fuller’s Albums: https://amzn.to/3c1VBWV
3: “In My Time of Dyin'”
While Bob Dylan’s cover of this song is stunning, if you trace it all the way back to the beginning…it’s even more stunning. The earliest recording of this song comes from Blind Willie Johnson.
Blind Willie Johnson has a voice that just sends shivers down your spine. I’ve always loved his voice and I know you NEED to check out his performance of “In My Time of Dyin’.” Bob Dylan’s version is definitely the neater, cleaner, the more commercial sound of what Blind Willie Johnson created and passed on.
Buy Blind Willie Johnson’s Albums: https://amzn.to/2JFTsnD
2: “Fixin’ to Die”
It was sometime in college, when I was maybe 18 or 19, that I first heard this song covered by Bob Dylan. When I heard it, it sounded like Bob Dylan transformed into a completely different person. His singing was just unlike the other songs he played.
As I came back to this song, I discovered that this song was written by Bukka White. I was stunned because Bukka White is such an incredible played that you NEED to check out. With a distinct style and voice, Bukka White is clearly being channeled by Bob Dylan in his cover of “Fixin’ to Die.” Let me know what you think in the comments though!
Buy Bukka White’s Albums: https://amzn.to/34cOLLq
1: “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean”
Written by Blind Lemon Jefferson, this song has become a standard in the American songbook. So many artists have covered this song over the years, and some better than others. To give you a sense of Jefferson’s style, I played “One Dime Blues” for you.
While Bob Dylan’s version of “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean” is similar to Blind Lemon Jefferson’s, it’s just a different version altogether.
Buy Blind Lemon Jefferson’s Albums: https://amzn.to/2VaOe8N
If I missed any tracks, be sure to let me know in the comments! I know there are a lot out there, so chime in with your opinion on Bob Dylan’s work!
So…is Bob Dylan a song thief? No. But follow me down this train of thought: Bob Dylan choosing these songs was a way of him simultaneously honoring and making his mark on the folk world.
Heartbreaker Guitar of the Month: Lowden F-50
To help get out of the cold Bozeman, MT weather I’ve enlisted the Help of Brendan from Heartbreaker Guitars down in Las Vegas.
Today, he’s going to be showing you the Lowden F-50 with an Adirondack Spruce top and Brazilian Rosewood back and sides.
The tone on this guitar is absolutely incredible.
The guitar has a dark and open sound that I absolutely dig. Without geeking out too much, I just can’t describe it in words well.
While this guitar doesn’t have the chatoyance that many other guitars I feature have, the straight grain on the wood is unique in its own right.