Bob Dylan first performed Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ on July 8, 1988 at the Forum de
Montréal in Canada. Montréal is Cohen’s home town and it is possible that he attended the show.
Dylan’s second and final performance, on his “Interstate 88” tour, was on August 4, 1988, at the
final night of a three show residency at the Greek Theatre, Hollywood.
Dylan and Leonard Cohen first met sometime in the late ’60s and have remained friends ever
since, meeting whenever the opportunity arises. One such occasion was after a concert in Paris,
probably Dylan’s October 7, 1987 show at P.O.P.B. Bercy. The two songwriters spent some
considerable time talking shop, over coffee, in a café somewhere in the 14th Arrondissment of
Paris. Dylan told Cohen that he especially liked the ending to his then new song ‘Hallelujah’.
“And even though it all went wrong / I’ll stand before the Lord of Song with nothing on
my tongue but hallelujah!”
~Derek Barker (The Songs He didn’t write)
Baby I have been here before
I know this room, I’ve walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you.
I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
Love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah
“The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing, thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness”
– Psalms 41:3
In My Time of Dying (also called Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed or variations on this) is a traditional gospel music song that has been recorded by numerous musicians. Bob Dylan recorded it for his debut album as In My Time Of Dyin’.
It was (as most of the songs on the album) cut in one take.
” I can’t see myself singing the same song twice in a row. That’s terrible.”
– Bob Dylan
“Dylan had never sung ‘In My Time of Dyin’ ‘ prior to this recording session. He does not recall where he first heard it. The guitar is fretted with the lipstick holder [ makeshift slide ] he borrowed from his girl, Suze Rotolo, who sat devotedly and wide-eyed through the recording session.”
– Liner Notes, Bob Dylan (album, 1962)
The House of the Rising Sun is a traditional folk song, sometimes called Rising Sun Blues. It tells of a life gone wrong in New Orleans; many versions also urge a sibling to avoid the same fate. The most successful commercial version was recorded in 1964 by The Animals.
Bob Dylan recorded it, as House of the risin’ sun, for his debut album released in 1962. He did it several more times both live and in studio.
Like many classic folk ballads, The House of the Rising Sun is of uncertain authorship. Musicologists say that it is based on the tradition of broadside ballads, and thematically it has some resemblance to the 16th-century ballad The Unfortunate Rake. According to Alan Lomax, “Rising Sun” was used as the name of a bawdy house in two traditional English songs, and it was also a name for English pubs. He further suggested that the melody might be related to a 17th-century folk song, “Lord Barnard and Little Musgrave”, also known as “Matty Groves”, but a survey by Bertrand Bronson showed no clear relationship between the two songs. Lomax proposed that the location of the house was then relocated from England to New Orleans by white southern performers. However, Vance Randolph proposed an alternative French origin, the “rising sun” referring to the decorative use of the sunburst insignia dating to the time of Louis XIV, which was brought to North America by French immigrants. Continue reading The Songs he didn’t write: Bob Dylan House of the rising sun→
In 1961, Bob Dylan recorded “Fixin’ to Die” for his debut album, released the following year. The album liner notes indicate that it “was learned from an old recording by Bukka White”. However, Dylan’s arrangement uses a slightly different melody line and some new lyrics.