Bob Dylan: 6 Great Live Versions of “Dignity”





Of the virtues, I suppose I think integrity is the most essential. Not dignity – a thief can have dignity.
~Bob Dylan (to Barbara Kerr, Feb 1978)

‘Dignity’, which describes so resourcefully the yearning for a more dignified world, would have been the album’s [Oh Mercy] ideal opening track. It scorches along musically, declaring its allegiance to the timeless appeal of the blues, while sounding, above all things, fresh. Its lyric, meanwhile, though ‘Dylanesque’ in that it sounds like no-one else’s work and sounds like a restrained, mature revisit to a mode of writing you might otherwise call mid-1960s Dylan, is fully alert and freshly itself, admits of no leaning on laurels, and has the great virtue that while not every line can claim the workaday clarity of instructional prose, the song is accessible to anyone who cares to listen, and offers a clear theme, beautifully explored, with which anyone can readily identify.
~Michael Gray (The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia)

Dignity was originally recorded for “Oh Mercy” in 1989, but Dylan wasn’t satisfied with it… and left it.

Officially there are 5 different versions available:

# released Album
1 1994 Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Volume 3
Brendan O’Brien remixed version
2 1995 MTV Unplugged
Live version
3 2000 The Best of Bob Dylan, Vol. 2
Touched By An Angel version*
BEST RELEASED VERSION
4 2008 The Bootleg Series Vol. 8
Piano demo version
 5 2008 The Bootleg Series Vol. 8
Tell Tale Signs version2

Bob Dylan has performed Dignity 53 times live. First performance was at Sony Music Studios, New York City – 17 November 1994. Last live performance was at Verizon Theatre At Grand Prairie, Grand Prairie, Texas – 1 November 2012.
Top year: 2003 – 18 performances.

Fat man lookin’ in a blade of steel
Thin man lookin’ at his last meal
Hollow man lookin’ in a cottonfield
For dignity

Wise man lookin’ in a blade of grass
Young man lookin’ in the shadows that pass
Poor man lookin’ through painted glass
For dignity

Here are 5 Great live versions:

Rodahal
Kerkrade, Holland
19 March 1995

Somebody got murdered on New Year’s Eve
Somebody said dignity was the first to leave
I went into the city, went into the town
Went into the land of the midnight sun

Searchin’ high, searchin’ low
Searchin’ everywhere I know
Askin’ the cops wherever I go
Have you seen dignity?

Brighton Centre
Brighton, England
26 March 1995

Brixton Academy
London, England
29 March 1995

….a “Dignity” that was one of my favourite performances of the year; … This visceral live version trashes all the officially released takes.
~Andrew Muir (in Razor’s Edge – about “Dignity” played in Brixton Academy 1995-03-29)

…Yet when he performs it feeling fully alive and happy with it as a vehicle of wide-ranging expressiveness, as he did in London in 1995, then it comes into its own again, leaving Brendan O’Brien light-years behind and re-attaining accessible eloquence, excitement and, yes, dignity.
~Michael Gray (BD Encyclopedia)


Blind man breakin’ out of a trance
Puts both his hands in the pockets of chance
Hopin’ to find one circumstance
Of dignity

I went to the wedding of Mary Lou
She said, “I don’t want nobody see me talkin’ to you”
Said she could get killed if she told me what she knew
About dignity

I went down where the vultures feed
I would’ve gone deeper, but there wasn’t any need
Heard the tongues of angels and the tongues of men
Wasn’t any difference to me

Chilly wind sharp as a razor blade
House on fire, debts unpaid
Gonna stand at the window, gonna ask the maid
Have you seen dignity?

Sun Theatre
Anaheim, California
10 March 2000
Early show


Halle Münsterland
Münster, Germany
1 October 2000

Drinkin’ man listens to the voice he hears
In a crowded room full of covered-up mirrors
Lookin’ into the lost forgotten years
For dignity

Met Prince Phillip at the home of the blues
Said he’d give me information if his name wasn’t used
He wanted money up front, said he was abused
By dignity

Footprints runnin’ ’cross the silver sand
Steps goin’ down into tattoo land
I met the sons of darkness and the sons of light
In the bordertowns of despair

Got no place to fade, got no coat
I’m on the rollin’ river in a jerkin’ boat
Tryin’ to read a note somebody wrote
About dignity

Sick man lookin’ for the doctor’s cure
Lookin’ at his hands for the lines that were
And into every masterpiece of literature
For dignity

Englishman stranded in the blackheart wind
Combin’ his hair back, his future looks thin
Bites the bullet and he looks within
For dignity

Someone showed me a picture and I just laughed
Dignity never been photographed
I went into the red, went into the black
Into the valley of dry bone dreams

So many roads, so much at stake
So many dead ends, I’m at the edge of the lake
Sometimes I wonder what it’s gonna take
To find dignity

Oakes Garden Theatre
Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
23 August 2003


-Egil

One thought on “Bob Dylan: 6 Great Live Versions of “Dignity””

  1. Love the wordplay in this song as no one but Dylan can do. My favorite live version is off the ’39 years of great concerts’ recording; not sure if that coincides with one of these.

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