The way I think about the blues, comes from what I learned from Big Joe Williams. The blues is more than something to sit home and arrange. What made the real blues singers so great is that they were able to state all the problems they had; but at the same time, they were standing outside of them and could look at them. And in that way, they had them beat. What’s depressing today is that many young singers are trying to get inside the blues, forgetting that those older singers used them to get outside their troubles.
-Bob Dylan (The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan Liner Notes – 1963)
Joseph Lee “Big Joe” Williams (October 16, 1903 – December 17, 1982) was an American Delta blues guitarist, singer and songwriter, notable for the distinctive sound of his nine-string guitar. Performing over four decades, he recorded the songs “Baby Please Don’t Go”, “Crawlin’ King Snake” and “Peach Orchard Mama”, among many others.
Blues is a genre and musical form that originated in African-American communities in the “Deep South” of the United States around the end of the 19th century. The genre is a fusion of traditional African music and European folk music, spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts and chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads.
The blues form, ubiquitous in jazz, rhythm and blues and rock and roll, is characterised by the call-and-response pattern and specific chord progressions, of which the twelve-bar blues is the most common.
Bob Dylan is heavily influenced by blues in many of its shapes, jazz blues, country blues, folk blues, gospel blues, swing blues and more. All these forms of music are what we often call roots oriented music and stems from old music traditions. Dylan has played blues and blues influenced songs all through his career.
The songs I’ve picked are not necessary pure blues, but I believe all of them touches the blues or are strongly influenced by it. There are many more I could have picked, but I like this collection. It is a good playlist for those blue and rainy Western-Norway days.
Cant Wait in Milan 2011 – His most bluesy and best live performance the last 20 years, in my not so humble opinion:
“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)
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.