On this day, 13th Feb 1969, Bob Dylan recorded versions of ‘Lay, Lady, Lay’, at Columbia Recording Studios in Nashville, Tennessee.
‘Lay Lady Lay’ was originally written for the soundtrack of the movie Midnight Cowboy, but wasn’t submitted in time to be included in the finished film. The song has gone on to become a standard and has been covered by numerous bands and artists over the years, including The Byrds, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, The Everly Brothers, Neil Diamond, Melanie, The Isley Brothers, Duran Duran, Hoyt Axton and Isaac Hayes amongst others.
His vast influence on music is matched only by Elvis and the Beatles, (and even the Beatles’ shift toward introspective songwriting wouldn’t have happened without his towering influence). Dylan’s gift was to marry poetic lyrics with catchy tunes, and as a vocalist, he broke the notion that a singer must have a conventionally good voice in order to perform, redefining the vocalist’s role in popular music in the process.
As his contemporaries, including McCartney, Jagger, Richards and Paul Simon, all approach 70, the old troubadour is still working harder than any of them. In the 20 years up to 2010, he performed 2,045 concerts, although eh now made his shows so idiosyncratic that not more than half the audience could probably tell which particular Dylan classic he was performing at any given time.
Robert Zimmerman was born on 24th May 1941, in St. Mary’s Hospital in Duluth, Minnesota. He lived in Duluth until age six, when his father was stricken with polio and the family returned to his mother’s home town, Hibbing, where Zimmerman spent the rest of his childhood.
Bob spent much of his youth listening to the radio – first to blues and country stations and later, to early rock and roll. He formed several bands while he attended Hibbing High School, including The Shadow Blasters and The Golden Chords. In his 1959 school yearbook, Robert Zimmerman listed as his ambition “To follow Little Richard”, with whom he was obsessed.
Following his graduation in 1959, he began studying art at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. While at college, he began performing folk songs at coffeehouses under the name Bob Dylan, taking his last name from the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas.
Finding his way to New York City in January of 1961, Dylan immediately made a substantial impression on the folk community. Initially inspired by the songs of Hank Williams, Woody Guthrie and Robert Johnson, Dylan incorporated in his early song lyrics a variety of political, social and philosophical, as well as literary influences, while drawing on many traditional folk song forms and melodies, including highly topical and witty ‘talking blues’ tales. They defied existing pop music convention, sometimes extended over many verses, appealing, along with the young Dylan’s persona, sometimes world-weary, sometimes mischievous, to the then-burgeoning alternative music scene, almost entirely folk-based.
Columbia Records A&R man John Hammond sought out Dylan on the strength of a review, and signed the songwriter in late 1961, producing Dylan’s eponymous debut album, a collection of folk and blues standards that surprisingly boasted only two original songs. Over the course of 1962 Dylan began to write a large batch of original songs, many of which were political protest songs in the vein of his Greenwich Village contemporaries. These songs were showcased on his second album, ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’.
Between April 1962 and April 1963 he claimed to have written more than 100 songs, being so prolific in this period that he said he was afraid to go to sleep at night, for fear he would miss a song.
His breakthrough to the pop audience in the summer of 1965, when “Like a Rolling Stone” became a #2 hit. Driven by a circular organ riff and a steady beat, the six-minute single broke the barrier of the three-minute pop song.
A couple of years back, Dylan was detained by police in Long Branch, New Jersey, when a young officer failed to recognize him. The scene was like something out of one of Dylan’s epic songs: it was pouring with rain, Dylan was soaked and wandering alone, far from the travelling home of his entourage of tour buses. When he wandered into the yard of a home that had a “For Sale” sign on it, the home’s occupants became spooked by his appearance and called police with a report of an “eccentric-looking old man” in their yard.
Dylan was in the area as part of yet another national concert tour, a fact lost on 24-year-old Long Branch police officer Kristie Buble, who had to go to great lengths to finally discover that the hooded, disheveled, rain-soaked figure was indeed the music legend he claimed to be.
The late-model Bob Dylan has released some amazing records, as good as anything he did in 1975, 1989, and 1997, and still making great records after 50 years of studio and live work.