Man Gave Names to All the Animals is a song written by Bob Dylan that appeared on Dylan’s 1979 album Slow Train Coming and was also released as a single in some European countries. It was also released as a promo single in US. The single became a chart hit in France and Belgium.
However, the song also has detractors who consider it the worst song Dylan ever wrote. A 2013 reader’s poll conducted by Rolling Stone Magazine ranked “Man Gave Names to All the Animals” the 4th worst Bob Dylan song, although the hit single from Slow Train Coming, “Gotta Serve Somebody” placed second. I love’em both.
Man Gave Names to All the Animals has been covered by multiple artists, I’ve picked three of my favourites.
Living on the road, my friend,
Is gonna keep you free and clean,
Now you wear your skin like iron,
Your breath as hard as kerosene.
You weren’t your mama’s only boy,
But her favorite one it seems —
She began to cry when you said goodbye,
And sank into your dreams.
“Townes van Zandt is the best songwriter in the whole world and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that.”
Townes Van Zandt
Kevin Eggers, Jack Clement
“Pancho and Lefty” is a song written by country singer and songwriter Townes Van Zandt. Often considered his “most enduring and well-known song,” Van Zandt first recorded it for his 1972 album, The Late Great Townes Van Zandt. Emmylou Harris then covered the song for her 1977 album, Luxury Liner and the song became a number one country hit in 1983 when Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson adopted it as the title track of their duet album Pancho & Lefty. Steve Earle performs “Pancho and Lefty” on his 2009 album Townes, which is composed of songs written by Townes Van Zandt, Earle’s friend and mentor. Canadian country artist George Canyon recorded a version of the song with Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy on Canyon’s album Classics II, released in November 2012.
Townes Van Zandt is the third release by Townes Van Zandt, released in 1969. It includes re-recordings of four songs from his 1968 debut album, including the first serious song he ever wrote, “Waitin’ Around To Die”.
The cover photograph was taken by Sol Mednick in the kitchen of Poppy Records artwork designer Milton Glaser and features Van Zandt sitting at a table with his eyes closed. Comparing the album cover to the one that adorned Van Zandt’s previous album, Our Mother The Mountain, biographer John Kruth observes, “Where his black eyes once glared so hard you might’ve wondered if he shattered the photographer’s lens, Van Zandt now appears withdrawn…Here he sits resigned, head in hand, in a perfectly painted kitchen where everything is neatly arranged, as in a doll’s house.” Some fans refer to Townes Van Zandt as The Kitchen Album.
“I’m trying to define the relationship between man and the universe,….. often it’s between man and man, or man and woman, or man and the cosmos. Whatever song comes through the door I’m happy with.… I’m lucky just to play the guitar and sing.”
~TVZ (on the purpose behind his songwriting)
“Figures like Townes Van Zandt remind us that the wandering bard, that American archetype, is still very much with us—and his music will live long after the voices that declare it in or out of fashion have been stilled or forgotten.”
~Robert Palmer (New York Times/Deep Blues/++)
“I lived in Fort Worth till I was 8, Midland till 9, Billings, Montana, till 12, Boulder, Colorado till 14, Chicago till 15 … Houston till I was 21. And then I started traveling.”
~TVZ (to Contemporary Musicians (CM) in 1992)