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March 19: “Bob Dylan,” by Bob Dylan

Lawrence Bush
March 18, 2017
Bob Dylan’s first album, “Bob Dylan,” was released by Columbia Records on this date in 1962. It had been recorded in three short afternoon sessions the previous November, with John Hammond as producer. Dylan, age 21, had refused to do second takes, saying, “I can’t see myself singing the same song twice in a row. That’s terrible,” and Hammond later complained, “I’d never worked with anyone so undisciplined before.” The album featured eleven traditional songs and two originals, “Song to Woody” and “Talkin’ New York.” “[T]he voice that leaps from Dylan’s first album is its most striking feature,” writes critic Tim Riley, “a determined, iconoclastic baying that chews up influences, and spits out the odd mixed signal without half trying.” The album sold only 2,500 copies in its first year, and Dylan for a while was known as “Hammond’s folly.” “Hey, hey Woody Guthrie, I wrote you a song ‘Bout a funny ol’ world that’s a-comin’ along Seems sick and it’s hungry, it’s tired and it’s torn It looks like it’s a-dyin’ and it’s hardly been born.” --Bob Dylan

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.