Bob Dylan: 5 Great live versions of “To Ramona”





Bob Dylan scholars have determined that “To Ramona” is a song about Joan Baez; Dylan’s warning her that the folk protest movement will draw her in deep, but he recognizes that she doesn’t necessarily have a problem with that, and much as he loves and wants her, he has to let her think for herself, both for her sake and for his.
-Patrick Robbins (covermesongs.com)

Quite whom the singer is trying to mollify (and/or seduce) remains pure guesswork. One possibility must be Sara Lowndes, who became close to Dylan in the aftermath of his breakup with Suze. She could be said to have “cracked country lips,” being a Delaware girl, and her bronzed skin and dusky features may have suggested Spanish ances- try—and the Mediterranean goddess status the name “Ramona” implies.
– Clinton Heylin (Revolution in the Air: The Songs of Bob Dylan, 1957-1973)

Whoever it might be, it´s a great song.

It´s been performed:

  • 137 times acoustic w/ band – top year 2000 (33 times)
  • 99 times acoustic – top year – top year 1986 (33 times)
  • 1 time as an instrumental – Myer Music Bowl, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia – 20 March 1978
  • 127 times w/band – top year 1978 (64 times)

First live performance:

  • Freebody Park, Newport, Rhode Island – 26 July 1964
    Newport Folk Festival.

Last live performance: 

  • Port Chester, New York, Capitol Theatre – June 14, 2017

Ramona
Come closer
Shut softly your watery eyes
The pangs of your sadness
Shall pass as your senses will rise
The flowers of the city
Though breathlike
Get deathlike at times
And there’s no use in tryin’
T’ deal with the dyin’
Though I cannot explain that in lines

The Oval
City Hall
Sheffield, England
30 April 1965

Your cracked country lips
I still wish to kiss
As to be under the strength of your skin
Your magnetic movements
Still capture the minutes I’m in
But it grieves my heart, love
To see you tryin’ to be a part of
A world that just don’t exist
It’s all just a dream, babe
A vacuum, a scheme, babe
That sucks you into feelin’ like this

Blackbushe Aerodrome
Camberley, England
15 July 1978

  • Bob Dylan (vocal & guitar)
  • Billy Cross (lead guitar)
  • Alan Pasqua (keyboards)
  • Steven Soles (rhythm guitar, backup vocals)
  • David Mansfield (violin & mandolin)
  • Steve Douglas (horns)
  • Jerry Scheff (bass)
  • Bobbye Hall (percussion)
  • Ian Wallace (drums)
  • Helena Springs, Jo Ann Harris, Carolyn Dennis (background vocals)

I can see that your head
Has been twisted and fed
By worthless foam from the mouth
I can tell you are torn
Between stayin’ and returnin’
On back to the South
You’ve been fooled into thinking
That the finishin’ end is at hand
Yet there’s no one to beat you
No one t’ defeat you
’Cept the thoughts of yourself feeling bad

Rich Stadium
Buffalo, New York
4 July 1986

  • Bob Dylan (vocal & guitar)
  • Tom Petty (guitar)
  • Mike Campbell (guitar)
  • Benmont Tench (keyboards)
  • Howie Epstein (bass)
  • Stan Lynch (drums)
  • The Queens Of Rhythm: Carolyn Dennis, Queen Esther Marrow, Madelyn Quebec, Louise Bethune (backing vocals)




I’ve heard you say many times
That you’re better ’n no one
And no one is better ’n you
If you really believe that
You know you got
Nothing to win and nothing to lose
From fixtures and forces and friends
Your sorrow does stem
That hype you and type you
Making you feel
That you must be exactly like them

Radio City Music Hall
New York City, New York
18 October 1988

  • Bob Dylan (vocal & guitar)
  • G. E. Smith (guitar),
  • Kenny Aaronson (bass)
  • Christopher Parker (drums)

I’d forever talk to you
But soon my words
They would turn into a meaningless ring
For deep in my heart
I know there is no help I can bring
Everything passes
Everything changes
Just do what you think you should do
And someday maybe
Who knows, baby
I’ll come and be cryin’ to you

King’s Dock
Liverpool, England
12 July 2001

  • Bob Dylan (vocal & guitar)
  • Charlie Sexton (guitar)
  • Larry Campbell (guitar, mandolin, pedal steel guitar & electric slide guitar)
  • Tony Garnier (bass)
  • David Kemper (drums & percussion)

Earlier posts in the serie:

-Egil

5 thoughts on “Bob Dylan: 5 Great live versions of “To Ramona””

    1. I’ve been there in Tübingen on June 21, 2015. It was a very special version of Ramona, because he played it in a minor key (c-minor) instead major and with a bossa nova rhythm instead country waltz. You can find it on youtube.
      Matthias

        1. Great version. Love it. The song is so wonderfully written, it has all these features of a great Dylan songs. The song can change and stays brilliant through the different arrangements. Thanks for this.

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