Cover Story: (1) Ed Sheeran's Galway Girl or Steve Earle (with Sharon Shannon)
Cover Story: (3) Our Town - Iris DeMent or Kate Rusby

Cover Story: (2) Don't Think Twice It's All Right. Dylan or Baez

Driving in stifling Mediterranean heat of 33 degrees, the steering wheel and seat burning because the car had been left outside, is perhaps not the best way to listen to any music.

But that is when I put on one of many Bob Dylan versions of my favourite song of his, Don't Think Twice It's All Right. It quickly confirmed my unshakeable though, I know, contentious belief that the best singer of this song is, as it always has been, Joan Baez.

A reader upbraided me when I introduced Cover Story, intended to compare different versions of the same songs, for saying far too little about the first choice, Galway Girl.

My response was that while the two performances (by Ed Sheeran and Steve Earle) bore the same title, and Sheeran's was inspired by Earle's, they are quite different songs. It just seemed a handy if off-piste way to launch the series and therefore, or so it seemed to me, required no detailed comparison.

The same reader was on much stronger ground when complaining that I'd mistakenly written Galway Bay when I meant Galway Girl, not once but twice in the article. Put that down to advancing years and not enough time to devote to Salut! Live as I'd like.

Back to Dylan, Baez and Don't Think Twice.

This song of bitter farewell, also encompassing a range of other motions from regret to defiance, has a history, as might be expected. The beautiful woman who famously appeared on the cover of Dylan's second studio album, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan - a treasure of early Dylan classics - was its inspiration.


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Buy the album from Salut! Live's Amazon link

Suze Rotolo, the smart, artistically gifted product of an Italian-American Communist upbringing, was Dylan's girlfriend. But it was a troubled relationship, of which her family heartily disapproved.

She left him at her mother's behest to study for six months in Italy in 1962 and again, after her return, in 1963, the year the album appeared and after which she had an abortion. They finally drifted apart in 1964 and Rotolo, who died in 2011, came to resent the way that album sleeve, showing her head leaning on Dylan's shoulder as they trudged arm-in-arm through New York snow, was made to define her.

The absence in Italy had prompted Dylan to write other songs, too: Boots of Spanish Leather, One Too Many Mornings and Tomorrow Is a Long Time. And long before they broke up, he was having an affair with Baez.

I have heard both, on many occasions, sing the song that is the subject of this article. Baez I have seen perform it live, Dylan only on record and film of live performances.

Songwriters have a certain proprietorial hold on their work and this is a notion I respect. It is also reasonable to point out that Dylan is more of a writer than a singer but he has made his career in both elements of his artistic expression.

His vocal imperfections matter little with the vast majority of his repertoire; I would listen all day long to his own interpretations of Positively 4th Street, Hard Rain's Gonna Fall and Mr Tambourine Man and not those of others.

However, the supreme vocal command of Baez lifts her version of Don't Think Twice to heights she does not quite reach with, as examples, Hard Rain or It Ain't Me Babe. Often enough, she has probably been thinking of him when singing it. She certainly makes it seem heartfelt.

The Dylan version I listened to in the car in southern France is from an album, Before the Flood, which bears all the hallmarks of having been cheaply produced. It is presented as a live recording but no detail is given of the concert, save that it was with The Band. And since the original year of production is given as 1974, we can perhaps assume it is taken from a two-month tour early that year.

It is not a great performance or recording. And I cannot locate it on YouTube, though others may succeed with more perseverance or luck.

So what you see below is a much better, cleaner studio version. I still prefer Baez!


Comments

Bill Taylor

The editor in me is forced to point out that it's Rotolo, not Botolo. The purist in me is forced to say that no one has ever come close to Dylan's version of "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right." I've heard both him and Baez sing it live. Her voice is just too sweet for this song and takes away much of its impact. It needs not only Dylan's "vocal imperfections" (well put) but also his laconic, understated delivery.

Colin Randall

I can see this developing into a series of corrections. Thanks. Otherwise we must agree to differ, which is as I would have expected ...

Jake Lark

I'm with Bill Taylor here, Baez is technically a better singer but just too sweet-sounding for this song. If you want to hear a great, more recent version try this... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72pZh_URKqg
Leftover Cuties perform Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's…
youtube.com

Jake Lark

While I'm on the subject of recent Dylan covers, you should really give a listen to First Aid Kit's versions of One More Cup Of Coffee and It Ain't Me Babe (or ANY song they cover, they are exceptional) and Mandolin Orange doing Boots Of Spanish Leather is just about perfect.

Hilary

The 2 Baez versions that I do prefer are Farewell Angelina and Daddy You've Been on my Mind.The rest,it's Bob for me. Good piece though

Bill Taylor

Oh, that Leftover Cuties version is good, Jake! Her voice sends chills up my spine. I love the accompaniment, too. The brass is perfect.

Jake Lark

The arrangement is so subtle isn't it? And yes her voice makes the hairs on my arms stand up!

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