“..a statement that maybe you can say to make yourself feel better… as if you were talking to yourself.”
– Nat Hentoff (liner notes)
“Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” is a song written by Bob Dylan in 1962, recorded on November 14 that year, and released on the 1963 album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan and as a single.
“It’s hard to overestimate the importance of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, the record that firmly established Dylan as an unparalleled songwriter, one of considerable skill, imagination, and vision. At the time, folk had been quite popular on college campuses and bohemian circles, making headway onto the pop charts in diluted form, and while there certainly were a number of gifted songwriters, nobody had transcended the scene as Dylan did with this record…”
– Stephen Thomas Erlewine (Allmusic.com)
The song was written around the time that Suze Rotolo indefinitely prolonged her stay in Italy. The melody is based on an older song, “Who’s Gonna Buy Your Chickens When I’m Gone”. The melody was taught to Dylan by folksinger Paul Clayton, who had used the melody in his song “Who’s Gonna Buy You Ribbons When I’m Gone?”.
As well as the melody, a couple of lines were taken from Clayton’s “Who’s Goin’ to Buy You Ribbons When I’m Gone?”, which was recorded in 1960, two years before Dylan wrote “Don’t Think Twice”. Lines taken word-for-word or slightly altered from the Clayton song are, “T’ain’t no use to sit and wonder why, darlin’,” and, “So I’m walkin’ down that long, lonesome road.” On the first release of the song, instead of “So I’m walkin’ down that long, lonesome road babe, where I’m bound, I can’t tell” Dylan sings “So long, honey babe, where I’m bound, I can’t tell”. The lyrics were changed when Dylan performed live versions of the song and on cover versions recorded by other artists. Both Clayton’s song and Dylan’s song were based on the public domain traditional song “Who’s Gonna Buy Your Chickens When I’m Gone”.
Bob Dylan – Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right (audio):