Bob Dylan’s best songs: It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue

bob dylan

 

You must leave now, take what you need, you think will last
But whatever you wish to keep, you better grab it fast
Yonder stands your orphan with his gun
Crying like a fire in the sun
Look out the saints are comin’ through
And it’s all over now, Baby Blue

CM: It’s not the same Blue as in It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue?
BD: No, no. That’s a different Blue. That’s a character right off the haywagon. That Baby
Blue is from right upstairs at the barbers shop, y’know, off the street… a different Baby
Blue, I haven’t run into her in a long time, long time.
CM: You’re being serious?
BD: Yeah, I’ve never looked at Joan Baez as being Baby Blue.
~Craig McGregor Interview (March 1978)

I had carried that song around in my head for a long time and I remember that when I was writing it, I’d remembered a Gene Vincent song. It had always been one of my favorites, Baby Blue… ‘ It was one of the songs I used to sing back in high school. Of course, I was singing about a different Baby Blue.”
~Bob Dylan (Biograph)

Check out: -> Bob Dylan top 200 songs

For me it’s hard to to say Baby Blue is better than It’s All Right Ma.. or the other way around.. they’re both brilliant! Thus number 7 & 8.. they go together. Baby Blue was one  of the first Dylan songs where I really read the lyrics.. and I was (no surprise) overwhelmed…. beautiful, harsh, firm, .. moving on..

All your seasick sailors, they are rowing home
All your reindeer armies, are all going home
The lover who just walked out your door
Has taken all his blankets from the floor
The carpet, too, is moving under you
And it’s all over now, Baby Blue !

.. and that harmonica…

Original version:

Spotify:

The highway is for gamblers, better use your sense
Take what you have gathered from coincidence
The empty-handed painter from your streets
Is drawing crazy patterns on your sheets
This sky, too, is folding under you
And it’s all over now, Baby Blue

Wikipedia:

Released March 22, 1965
Recorded January 15, 1965, Columbia Recording Studios, New York City
Genre Folk rock, folk
Length 4:12
Label Columbia
Writer Bob Dylan
Producer Tom Wilson

It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” is a song written and performed by Bob Dylan and featured on his Bringing It All Back Home album, released on March 22, 1965 by Columbia Records. The song was originally recorded on January 15, 1965 with Dylan’s acoustic guitar and harmonica and William E. Lee’s bass guitar the only instrumentation. The lyrics were heavily influenced by Symbolist poetry and bid farewell to the titular “Baby Blue.” There has been much speculation about the real life identity of “Baby Blue”, with suspects including Joan Baez, David Blue, Paul Clayton, Dylan’s folk music audience, and even Dylan himself.

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bob dylan bringing it all back home

“It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” is certainly in my mind part of the extraordinary four-song symphony that sprawls across side two of this album…. Here is Dylan’s singing at it’s rawest and most beautiful; it is as though any notion of singing as a technique or a skill has fallen away and instead we have singing as an open window through which another person’s presence can be felt, a place for direct contact between two human spirits. There is so much life in this vocal performance it’s scary. Dylan says “a poem is a naked person”; here he demonstrates that no poem is as naked as the sound of a human voice.
~Paul Williams (BD Performing Artist 1960-73)

Composition & recording

Bob Dylan most likely wrote “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” in January 1965.  The master take of the song was recorded during the sessions for the Bringing It All Back Home album on January 15, 1965 and was produced by Tom Wilson. The track was recorded on the same day Dylan recorded the other three songs on side 2 of the album: “Mr. Tambourine Man”, “Gates of Eden” and “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”. However, Dylan had been playing those other songs live for some time, allowing them to evolve before recording of the album commenced. For “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”, Dylan wanted to record the song before he became too familiar with it. There were at least two studio recordings prior to the one that was released on the album. Dylan recorded an acoustic version on January 13 and a semi-electric version on January 14. The version of the song on the album is sparsely arranged with Dylan accompanying himself on acoustic guitar and harmonica, with William E. Lee playing bass guitar. Author Clinton Heylin states that the song is another of Dylan’s “‘go out in the real world’ songs, like “To Ramona”, though less conciliatory – the tone is crueler and more demanding.”[3] As well as being the final track on Bringing It All Back Home, “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” was also the final song to be recorded for the album.

Bill Janovitz of Allmusic describes the music as beautiful, with folk guitar chord changes and a somber melody, while the chorus, with its line “and it’s all over now, Baby Blue” has a heartbreaking quality to it. Like other Dylan songs of the period, such as “Chimes of Freedom” and “Mr. Tambourine Man”, the lyrics of “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” bear the strong influence of Symbolist poets such as Arthur Rimbaud. Lines such as “take what you have gathered from coincidence” reflect the I Ching philosophy that coincidence represents more than mere chance. The song was described by Q magazine as, “The most toxic of strummed kiss-offs, with not a snowball’s chance in hell of reconciliation.” 

bob dylan 1965

 

Identity of “Baby Blue” 

Dylan’s two previous albums, The Times They Are A-Changin’ and Another Side of Bob Dylan both ended with a farewell song, “Restless Farewell” and “It Ain’t Me, Babe” respectively. “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” concludes Bringing It All Back Home in consistent fashion. Much speculation has surrounded who or what the “Baby Blue” to whom Dylan is singing farewell to is. Although Dylan himself has remained mute on the subject, Dylan scholars believe that it is probably an amalgam of personalities within Dylan’s social orbit. One person who has been regarded as the subject of the song is folk singer Joan Baez. Dylan and Baez were still in a relationship and were planning to tour together, but Dylan had been growing as an artist and as a person and may have already been planning to leave the relationship.

Joan Baez

Another possibility is a singer-songwriter named David Blue. A friend or acquaintance of Dylan’s from his days in New York’s Greenwich Village, Blue is pictured on the cover of Dylan and the Band’s The Basement Tapes album wearing a trench coat. Yet another possibility is Dylan’s one-time friend, folk singer Paul Clayton. Although Clayton had been Dylan’s friend throughout 1964, and had accompanied Dylan on the road trip across the United States on which “Chimes of Freedom” and “Mr. Tambourine Man” were written, by 1965 he may have become more devoted to Dylan than Dylan was comfortable with, and Clayton’s use of amphetamines may have made him difficult to be around.  However, author Paul Williams, in his book Performing Artist: Book One 1960–1973, counters that “Dylan may have been thinking of a particular person as he wrote it, but not necessarily”, adding that the song has such a natural, flowing structure to it, that it could “easily have finished writing itself before Dylan got around to thinking about who ‘Baby Blue’ was.”

Another interpretation of the song is that it is directed at Dylan’s folk music audience. The song was written at a time when he was moving away from the folk protest movement musically and, as such, can be seen as a farewell to his days as an acoustic guitar-playing protest singer. Dylan’s choice of performing “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” as his last acoustic song at the infamous Newport Folk Festival of 1965, after having had his electric set met with boos, is often used as evidence to support this theory.  That particular performance of the song is included in Murray Lerner’s film The Other Side of the Mirror.

Leave your stepping stones behind, something calls for you
Forget the dead you’ve left, they will not follow you
The vagabond who’s rapping at your door
Is standing in the clothes that you once wore
Strike another match, go start anew
And it’s all over now, Baby Blue

It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue – Newport 1965:

Lyrics

You must leave now, take what you need, you think will last
But whatever you wish to keep, you better grab it fast
Yonder stands your orphan with his gun
Crying like a fire in the sun
Look out the saints are comin’ through
And it’s all over now, Baby Blue

The highway is for gamblers, better use your sense
Take what you have gathered from coincidence
The empty-handed painter from your streets
Is drawing crazy patterns on your sheets
This sky, too, is folding under you
And it’s all over now, Baby Blue

All your seasick sailors, they are rowing home
All your reindeer armies, are all going home
The lover who just walked out your door
Has taken all his blankets from the floor
The carpet, too, is moving under you
And it’s all over now, Baby Blue

Leave your stepping stones behind, something calls for you
Forget the dead you’ve left, they will not follow you
The vagabond who’s rapping at your door
Is standing in the clothes that you once wore
Strike another match, go start anew
And it’s all over now, Baby Blue

 

Some Live versions:

Liverpool, May 1, 1965:

Free Trace Hall – Mancheste, May 7, 1965:

Sheffield, England 16 May 1966:
It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue by Bob Dylan on Grooveshark

London 27 May 1966:
It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue by Bob Dylan on Grooveshark

Paris July 4 1978:

Milan, Italy – 14 November 2011 (Video)
with Mark Knopfler

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-Egil

6 thoughts on “Bob Dylan’s best songs: It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”

  1. Great song but never cared too much for the original version always found it rather tuneless, ,always preferred the studio out take finding it far more melodic in the way Dylan sings.There have been numerous great live versions too with the 1965 Newport performance particularly outstanding. The performances on the 1966 & 1975 tours were also consistently brilliant.

  2. Agree, Baby Blue is brilliant. Plenty of Dylan versions and so many covers, too. By the way, heard the one by Falco ?

  3. great blog about a great song.
    I always hear Rolling Stone as about Joan Baez, but I know Im in the minority there …

  4. The Newport ’65 Baby Blue is easily one of the greatest performances of Dylan’s entire career. There’s something about the seasick sailors/reindeer armies verse in that version that just kills me every time.

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