July 29: The Late Jacques Levy Was Born in 1935 – Watch a Great Interview on Working with Bob Dylan

Redirecting to a newer version of this post….

All of the songs from the Desire sessions are collaborations between Dylan (words and music) and Levy (words), with the exception of “Sara,” “Abandoned Love,” “One More Cup of Coffee,” and “Golden Loom,” all written by Dylan alone. It is of course uncharacteristic of Dylan to work with another writer-this marks only the first or second time he ever shared credit for the lyrics of a song, and still stands as his most extensive collaboration with another songwriter.
~Paul Williams (Bob Dylan: Performing Artist, Vol 2: The Middle Years 1974-1986)

SongTalk: Your collaborations with Jacques Levy came out pretty great.
Bob Dylan: We both were pretty much lyricists. Yeah, very panoramic songs because, you know, after one of my lines, one of his lines would come out. Writing with Jacques wasn’t difficult. It was trying to just get it down. It just didn’t stop. Lyrically. Of course, my melodies are very simple anyway so they’re very easy to remember.
-From the Paul Zollo (SongTalk) interview with Bob Dylan – April 1991

This is a great interview from May 2004 uploaded to YouTube 2013. Sadly enough Levy passed away in September 2004.


Jacques Levy (29 July 1935 – 30 September 2004) was an American songwriter, theatre director, and clinical psychologist.

Levy was born in New York City in 1935, and attended City College. He received a doctorate in psychology from Michigan State University. Levy was a trained psychoanalyst, certified by the Menninger Institute for Psychoanalysis in Topeka, Kansas. He later returned to New York and became a clinical psychologist.

In 1965, Levy directed Sam Shepard’s play Red Cross. The following year he directed two of the short plays in Jean-Claude van Itallie’s America Hurrah. In 1969, Levy directed the off-Broadway erotic revue Oh! Calcutta!, after which, Levy approached Roger McGuinn of The Byrds to collaborate on a project inspired by Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt. The musical stalled, but one song, “Chestnut Mare,” co-written by McGuinn and Levy, became the single released from the album (Untitled) in 1970. Many further Levy-McGuinn songs appeared on Byrds and McGuinn albums during the 1970s. In 1973, Levy and Van Itallie reunited for Mystery Play, which starred Judd Hirsch and had a brief run off-Broadway at the Cherry Lane Theatre.

In the mid-seventies, Levy met Bob Dylan through McGuinn. Shortly after, the two collaborated on “Isis” and another six songs which appeared on Dylan’s 1976 album Desire. These included “Hurricane” about imprisoned boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, and “Joey” about the mafia gangster and hit man, Joe Gallo. In 1975, Levy effectively directed Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue. Levy’s lyrics also entered the repertoires of Joe Cocker,Crystal Gayle, and Carly Simon.

This is insightful stuff, like getting a glimpse into the creative process.

Co-written songs, Bob Dylan-Jacques Levy:

  • Black Diamond Bay
  • Catfish
  • Hurricane
  • Isis
  • Joey
  • Money Blues
  • Mozambique
  • Oh, Sister
  • Romance In Durango

While in the Greenwich Village club the Other End in 1975, Levy was approached by Bob Dylan, who’d been impressed by “Chestnut Mare” and suggested they collaborate — the two men immediately absconded for Levy’s nearby loft, where they completed that half-finished Dylan composition that would become the brilliant “Isis.” Levy fostered and amplified the innate narrative drama in Dylan’s songs, and together they co-authored close to a dozen songs, seven of which appeared on Dylan’s 1975 album Desire; perhaps most notable was the stirring “Hurricane,” written in response to the racially motivated murder arrest of championship boxer Rubin Carter — when issued as a single, “Hurricane” would become Dylan’s final Top 40 hit for many a season. Levy also helped Dylan conceptualize and stage his now-legendary Rolling Thunder Revue, an all-star concert tour later immortalized on the fifth volume of the singer’s Bootleg Series.


– Hallgeir & Egil

One thought on “July 29: The Late Jacques Levy Was Born in 1935 – Watch a Great Interview on Working with Bob Dylan”

  1. I watched all 9 parts of the interview. Thank you, thank you!!!

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