Walking in Bob Dylan’s footsteps

This week I’ve been following the auction of a rare Bob Dylan manuscript: his original typed lyric sheet for “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.” (What makes it rare is that the song is one of his earliest and most influential songs.)

You can take a look at the lyric sheet here.

One interesting aspect of the page is that Dylan altered his original version, handwriting new lines on the page. It’s been pointed out that he seems to have written them down very quickly, which is consistent with what he’s said in recent interviews. He says that when he was younger, the lyrics would effortlessly pour out of him. But that doesn’t happen anymore so he needs to rely on his songwriting craft. (Notice how he doesn’t complain about this; he simply continues to compose. A true artist!)

I happened to be in Greenwich Village the other day so I decided to find the building in which he typed the lyrics. It was in an upstairs apartment at 116 MacDougall Street, above the site of the Gaslight folk club. The club is long gone, but the building is still there, near the corner of MacDougall and Bleeker Streets (where I had some tea and gelato on a beautiful summer day!).


Dylan typed those words in 1962, which now in 2015 is 53 years ago. The Greenwich Village folk scene is 53 years in the past. It occured to me that if we go back 53 years before that, we arrive in 1909 and the birth of jazz (in New Orleans).

The connection here is that in his autobiography, Dylan speaks a lot about jazz, including how he once played with pianist Cecil Taylor in about the same time he wrote Hard Rain. The 1960s folk movement is equidistant between our current time and the birth of jazz. In other words, if you thought about early jazz in 1962, it was equally long ago as the folk movement is to us now!

Anyway, those were my musings as I spent a sunny afternoon walking in Bob Dylan’s footsteps, realizing that behind the myth, he was once a young man, writing down the words to his latest song in a walkup apartment in Greenwich Village. I wonder what future legend is doing the same right now?

Here’s Bob Dylan’s advice about learning jazz chords.

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