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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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Thursday, February 11, 2010


photographer unknown; found at

The man who gave us 'Be-Bop-A-Lula' would have been 75 today (had he not died almost 40 years ago). I saw him once or twice on a multi-talent bill at the Liverpool Empire. He was charismatic, exciting and compellingly vulnerable. Here's his brief entry in The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia:

Vincent, Gene [1935 - 1971]
Vincent Eugene Craddock was born in Norfolk, Virginia on 11 February 1935 and died from a bleeding ulcer in Newhall, CA, on 12 October 1971, aged 36. He was in a motorcycle crash in July 1955, the year before his first and greatest hit, ‘Be-Bop-A-Lula’, and his left leg was permanently damaged. Onstage he made much of this, limping around melodramatically in black leather. No wonder Ian Dury found him appealing. He also survived the car crash that killed Eddie Cochran in England in 1960, and lived there for many of his sunset years. He had a lovely voice but his career was all downhill.

Vincent, like Eddie Cochran, JERRY LEE LEWIS and BUDDY HOLLY, enjoyed short-lived popularity in the USA but great career longevity in Britain (including posthumously in all cases except that of Lewis, who both survived and had some success in the USA as a country singer from the 1970s onwards).

In 1987 Dylan recorded two takes of Vincent’s ‘Important Words’ during the Down In The Groove sessions, though they remained unreleased; and in 1992 when he [Dylan] recorded an exquisitely-sung version of the old Jo Stafford hit ‘You Belong To Me’ (1952) for the soundtrack of Oliver Stone’s film Natural Born Killers, [it] was in clear remembrance of, though didn’t copy, the version Gene Vincent includes on his best-known album, Gene Vincent Rocks! & The Blue Caps Roll. This album also included a Vincent version of ‘Frankie and Johnny’, a traditional song that Dylan recorded for Good As I Been To You as ‘Frankie and Albert’ at the same sessions that yielded ‘You Belong To Me’.

[Gene Vincent: ‘Important Words’, Nashville, 18 Oct 1956, Capitol 3617, LA (Capitol CL 14693, London), 1957; ‘You Belong To Me’, Hollywood, prob. 5 Dec 1957, and ‘Frankie and Johnny’, 9 Dec 1957, both on Gene Vincent Rocks! & The Blue Caps Roll, Capitol T970, LA & London, 1958. (‘You Belong To Me’ was also a US Top 20 hit in 1962 by The Duprees, nia, Coed 569, NYC, 1962.)
Bob Dylan: ‘Important Words’, LA, Apr 1987; ‘You Belong To Me’, Malibu, Jul-Aug 1992 (at the Good As I Been To You sessions), issued on Natural Born Killers, UNV Interscope ITSC-92460, USA, 1994.]


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