The other day I did a post featuring the live Bob Dylan/ Joan Baez duet on Bob Dylan’s “Troubled And I Don’t Know Why,” a song that never appeared on an official Dylan album or single, but did make it onto a Joan Baez album.
My post prompted Dylan fan Ron Chester to post the following essay in the Facebook Dylan group, EDLIS Cafe.
I thought Chester wrote a wonderful essay and asked if I could repost here and he said that was cool.
So check it out, and give the song a listen.
“Troubled And I Don’t Know Why”:
“Troubled And I Don’t Know Why”
Bob Dylan with Joan Baez
Forest Hills, 17 August 1963
By Ron Chester
This three minute recording shows, better than most, I think, why the folkies loved Dylan so much from the very beginning.
A song title that points to a condition we have all experienced.
A simple tune that I’m still singin’ to myself an hour after I heard it.
Literate, expressive, succinct lyrics that go right to the heart of big subjects in our everyday experience, yet performed like he just thought of them, as he was rolling out of bed that morning. (And he may have!)
When was the last time you heard the word “squall” used in a sentence; as a VERB, not a noun?! Quickly followed by a brilliant visual image: “it roared and it boomed and it bounced around the room,” then concluding with his biting six word commentary: “it never said nothing at all.”
The recording captures the laughter of the audience, just like with the recording of his first performance of Desolation Row. And by the second line of the last verse, Dylan is cracking himself up too!
History captured in 3:10 with this invaluable recording. Apparently the only known performance of the song?
The Dylan website lists the song, but without the lyrics. Did it fail to get properly copyrighted? As it does not appear in either the 1973 or 1985 lyrics books. My guess is that Christopher Ricks won’t miss it. And in fact the 1986 knaff production, “Some Other Kinds of Songs . . . ” didn’t miss it. [An amazing gift presented to me on 22 Apr 1997 by an old friend from rec.music.dylan, Ben Taylor. Some of you may remember him. He he]
It bears repeating:
History captured in 3:10 with this invaluable recording, plus 20 seconds of thunderous applause at the end.
Do we have any history captured in this way from the life work of Mozart or Bach? Of course not. Pause and give silent thanks to the dedicated work of all our tapers over more than fifty years. Did they know they were doing Important Work? Yes, I think mostly, they did. It is too bad that aggressive enforcement at some venues, such as the Santa Barbara Bowl, caused some brilliant performances to not be so available. Well perhaps even those are properly preserved in Jeff Rosen’s vaults.
And thanks to the Michael Goldberg blog for reminding us of this gem.
[I just published my rock ‘n’ roll novel, True Love Scars.” Rolling Stone has a great review of my book in the new issue. Read it here. There’s info about True Love Scars here.]
— A Days Of The Crazy-Wild blog post —
7 thoughts on “Why Bob Dylan’s ‘Troubled And I Don’t Know Why’ Is Such a Masterpiece”
Sounds very much like a song called What Does The Deep Sea Say
You stole my thunder!
I think babies ‘squall’, don’t they?
It’s the only time I’ve heard it used as a verb!
The lyrics (with additional first first) were published Sing Out Volume 45#3 — Fall ’01:-
Oh, what did the morning say?
Oh, what did the morning say?
Well, it rolled from the night with a dark dreary light
Sayin’ another old weary day
Sung to the tune of “Where Is My Sailor Boy?” (which is even more of a masterpiece — check out Bill and Charlie Monroe’s version)
Woody Guthrie sang a version of it, as Martin Davies noted.
I first heard it in the Joan Baez boxed-set, Rare, Live and Classic. It lists the songwriter as Bob Dylan, although I seem to remember reading somewhere that Joan contributed some lyrics to it. If so, that, along with it’s rarity, would explain it’s absence from the website.