July 16: Bob Dylan released Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid in 1973


BF: Why does your voice change so much? From the country albums to Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid to the way you sound on tour…
Bob Dylan:  That’s a good question. I don’t know. I could only guess, if it has changed. I’ve never gone for having a great voice, for cultivating one. I’m still not doing it now.
~Ben Fong-Torres interview (Jan 1974)

TC: Your music often seems to get ignored as compared with the emphasis that’s placed on the lyrics, but there have been some really nice instrumental passages like Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid, for example.
Bob Dylan: Yes, I just did a bunch of tracks with Dave Stewart that have no lyrics, and you don’t even miss the lyrics, really. They’re just different chord patterns that make up a melody. My records usually don’t have a lot of guitar solos or anything like that on them. The vocals mean a lot, and the rhythm means a lot, that’s about it.
~Toby Creswell interview (Jan 1986)

Here is the brilliant “Knocking On Heavens Door” scene from the movie:


Released July 16, 1973
Recorded January–February 1973
Genre Country rock, folk rock, soundtrack
Length 35:23
Label Columbia
Producer Gordon Carroll

Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid is the twelfth studio album and first soundtrack album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on July 16, 1973 by Columbia Records for the Sam Peckinpah film, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. Dylan himself appeared in the film as the character “Alias”. Consisting primarily of instrumental music and inspired by the movie itself, the soundtrack included “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door“, which became a trans-Atlantic Top 20 hit. Certified a gold record by the RIAAPat Garrett & Billy the Kid reached #16 US and #29 UK.

Recording Sessions

Dylan’s first session for the Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid soundtrack was on January 20, 1973 at CBS Discos Studios in Mexico City. The only song from that day that was included on the album was “Billy 7”; also recorded were multiple other takes of “Billy”, and the outtakes “Under Turkey”, “Billy Surrenders”, “And He’s Killed Me Too”, “Goodbye Holly” and “Pecos Blues”. The following month, Dylan recorded two days at Burbank Studios in Burbank, California. The rest of the album’s songs were recorded, as well as the outtakes “Sweet Armarillo” and “Rock Me Mama”.

Bob Dylan In 'Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid'


Main Title Theme (Billy):


Jonathan Cott calls the soundtrack album “a kind of beautiful, rough-hewn, mostly instrumental mantra album from the mythical Old West.” I’ll go along with that-it has a hypnotic soothing quality, quite different from most of Dylan’s recorded output but clearly an expression of a musical and even a spiritual place very meaningful to Dylan.
~Paul Williams (Bob Dylan Performing Artist I: The Early Years 1960-1973)

It is a largely instrumental album, with all the characteristic roughness and lack of polish that has kept Bob Dylan less palatable to mass easy-listening taste than infinitely less talented contemporaries such as Paul Simon or Paul McCartney. Though a very minor item in Dylan’s catalog, it is a finely atmospheric work, engaging in its own right and effective as a part of the movie it was written for. It also includes the original hit recording of the perennially popular ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’.
~Michael Gray (The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia)

At least the strings on this soundtrack are mostly plucked and strummed, rather than bowed en masse, but it’s still a soundtrack: two middling-to-excellent new Dylan songs, four good original Bobby voices, and a lot of Schmylan music. C+
~Robert Christgau (robertchristgau.com)

Track listing
All songs written by Bob Dylan.

Side one
“Main Title Theme (Billy)” — 6:07
“Cantina Theme (Workin’ for the Law)” — 2:57
“Billy 1” — 3:57
“Bunkhouse Theme” — 2:17
“River Theme” — 1:30

Side two
“Turkey Chase” — 3:34
“Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” — 2:32
“Final Theme” — 5:23
“Billy 4” — 5:04
“Billy 7” — 2:10


  • Bob Dylan — guitars, vocals, harmonica
  • Byron Berline — backing vocals, fiddle
  • Fred Katz, Ted Michel — cello
  • Gary Foster — recorder, flute
  • Carl Fortina — harmonium
  • Jolly Roger — banjo
  • Bruce Langhorne — acoustic guitar
  • Roger McGuinn — guitar
  • Carol Hunter — 12 string guitar, backing vocals
  • Booker T. Jones — bass guitar
  • Terry Paul — bass guitar and backing vocals
  • Jim Keltner — drums
  • Russ Kunkel — tambourine, bongos
  • Priscilla Jones, Brenda Patterson, Donna Weiss — backing vocals


4 thoughts on “July 16: Bob Dylan released Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid in 1973”

  1. It embarrasses me that I never heard Billy till the movie The Royal Tenenbaums.

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