Roots of Bob


Throughout his career (particularly early on) , Bob Dylan has based many of his compositions on older tunes and song structures. Roots of Bob attempts to collect in one place all this information. I'm not so much interested in references for where some particular image in one song comes from, but rather in cases of more serious borrowing from earlier songs, although there are some cases of the former included here as well.

This is still in a very early state - there's more to put in, formatting to fix up, and some links to put in.

How did I get interested in this?

Back in 1985 or so, I was lucky enough to take a course at the University of Pennsylvania Folklore Department on "American Folksong and Ballad", with Kenneth S. Goldstein. At that time, I had some vague understanding that Dylan had based some of his songs on older tunes, but I didn't really know the extent of it. I was reading some assignment for class, and came across the lyrics for "The Wind and the Rain". The similarity to Dylan's "Percy's Song" is clear from the 'wind and the rain' refrain, but when I got to the last verse;

The only tune that my fiddle would play, was
Oh the wind and the rain.
The only tune that my fiddle would play, was
And she cried, "The dreadful wind and rain."
I got extremely excited over the connection to "Percy's Song". After the next class I spoke to Kenny, telling him about this - of course, he was fully aware of it. Anyway, that started my interest in this.

Return to Roots of Bob

Send comments to Seth Kulick