Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore music and musicians from the 60’s to today. Enjoy the trip!
David Bowie – ‘Song For Bob Dylan’
David Bowie is no stranger to writing about people he admires, and on ‘Hunky Dory’ there’s the incredible ‘Andy Warhol’ and the really-not-too-bad-either ‘Song For Bob Dylan’, where he memorably describes Robert Zimmerman as having a “voice like sand and glue”.
This is an ode to the folk singer. It includes the lyric: “Now hear this Robert Zimmerman, though I don’t suppose we’ll meet.” Funnily enough, Bowie would go on to meet Dylan multiple times throughout the 70s and 80s, though Dylan was reportedly rude to Bowie and according to one biographer, Dylan told Bowie that he hated his Young Americans album!
Dylan wrote a tribute song himself once. His was dedicated to Woody Guthrie, whom he visited when Guthrie was ravaged by Huntington’s disease. Bowie’s song is slightly more uptempo than Dylan’s and includes electric guitar played by Mick Ronson.
Bowie’s song is said to mimic Dylan’s ode; it has also been suggested that it is a commentary on Dylan’s album Self-Portrait; the line “You’re ever nation’s refugee” is clearly a reference to Dylan’s ethnic origin, ie the wandering Jew of Christian folklore, though Bowie was probably thinking more of the wandering minstrel.
Bowie wrote this in 1971. Running to 4 minutes 12 seconds, it appears on his Hunky Dory album, which was recorded at Trident Studios, London in April of that year. Like the rest of the album, this song was produced by Ken Scott.
David Bowie: Hunky Dory, Released 17 December 1971