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the pioneer of Dylan Studies; writer, public speaker, critic; became a Doctor of Letters in 2015 (awarded by the University of York, UK)

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Saturday, February 06, 2010


Today would have been Bob Marley's 65th birthday. He was born at Rhoden Hall, Jamaica, on February 6, 1945.

Connections with Dylan? Few. But when John Bauldie and I assembled the material for the book All Across The Telegraph: A Bob Dylan Handbook (which has never been republished since the 1977 Sidgwick & Jackson hardback and 1978 Futura paperback), one of the items was this:

supplied by Tony Jowett

Stephen Davis' Bob Marley: The Biography (published by Arthur Barker, London, 1983) is worth reading in its own right, but also has an intriguing mention of a Wailers' version of 'Like A Rolling Stone', with words altered by Marley:

"Although few of Bob Dylan's early records reached Jamaica, Bob Marley was very attentive when one of Dylan's mid-1960s AM radio hits came beaming in from Miami. One of the most amazing Wailers' cover versions was the group's take (credited to Bunny & Coxsome) of Bob Dylan's 'Like A Rolling Stone'. After a spooky blues piano intro, the Soul Brothers slip into a sinister groove that's a mixture of 1965 American folk-rock and early Jamaican rock-steady. Although the chorus is the same as Dylan's, the verse and melody are different: "Nobody told you he was on the street/But that's what happens when you lie and cheat/You have no nights and you have no morning/'Cos time lights come just string without warning/ How does it feel/To be on your own/With no direction home/Like a complete unknown/Like a rolling stone?" It's a sentiment that Bob Marley knew all too well." [page 49]

Various other references [in the same book] establish that Dylan had an important influence on Marley - and Marley, in a succinct quote in his own inimitable patois, acknowledged his admiration for Dylan. Introducing this, the book refers to a Wailers concert at Santa Monica in the summer of 1976, which Dylan attended:

"The show at the Roxy was a particularly brilliant and gem-like performance, in part because Bob Dylan was in the audience and Dylan was a favourite of Bob's. 'Him's really say it clear,' Marley had said of Dylan earlier in the year." [page 153]

It occurs to me now that after catching that Marley concert, the next time Dylan toured was 1978, which is when he regularly featured a reggae version of 'Don't Think Twice, It's Alright'.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not really relevant to this, Michael, but I just wanted to enquire if you're doing another UK tour this year?

8:29 pm  
Anonymous McHenryBoatride said...

That version of Like a Rolling Stone can be found here:


10:48 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Graham - I'd like to, but so far I haven't had time to try to organise anything. Really I need a manager!

McHenry - many thanks: I've never heard it or even found it before, so this is a huge help.

11:09 pm  
Anonymous Carl Finlay said...

hey there Im a long time Dylan fan aswell as an obsessive Reggae collector, a "Reggaeologist" if you like :D I dont normally like the Dylan/Reggae crossover attempts whether its Bob trying to play reggae or reggae artists trying to cover a Dylan song(and there has been many).But I thought I'd share one song that i think works beautifully
love and i-nity from an irie irishman :)

3:55 pm  
Anonymous Kieran said...

Kind of spooky, that photo of Bob Marley, with his toe bandaged. Isn't that what killed him? Cancer after he banged his toe?

Great singer and songwriter, but I tend to only listen to him in the summer...

8:27 am  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Thanks: yes, that's pleasant. But "pleasant" isn't enough from a Dylan song, don't you find?

3:16 pm  
Anonymous Carl Finlay said...

I agree with you whole heartedly Michael. My girlfriend recently bought me a present, a second hand cd of people doing Dylan covers which was decidedly unpleasant despite the liner notes being written by your good self. The Matumbi cover on the other hand in my opinion, though it may not be edgy and spiky, it has a lot to be admired.
Oh and off topic but with regard to another "New Morning" song. Just yesterday i stumbled across an outtake of "Sign on the Window" with a string section. You have probably been long aware of it, but it was my first time hearing it. It has always been a special song to me and now im in a state of repeated listening once again.Its fantastic! sounds like a companion piece to "Copper Kettle". I love his voice on "Brighton girls are like the moon" it sounds inexplicably emotional and triumphant. And on one of the best sung Dylan lines "Hope that it dont sleet" his voice crackles and gives me shivers. I hope it someday gets an official high quality release. Im living in Brighton,England where the sleet is coming down with the rain and one of my favourite songs ever has taken a new lease of life for more reasons than one.

5:29 pm  

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