Exclusive: For ‘New Basement Tapes’ Album, Musicians Completed Bob Dylan’s Unfinished Lyrics – ‘…folks have added to them.’

Producer T Bone Burnett and the New Basement Tapes band.

Last November we first learned that a batch of song lyrics that Bob Dylan had written during the summer of 1967, had been turned over to producer T Bone Burnett so that Burnett could record them for an album. Dylan wrote the lyrics while the recordings that became known as the ‘Basement Tapes’ were made at the house known as ‘Big Pink.’

Since then I’ve wondered how this was going to work.

Were these lyrics finished? If not, who would have the balls to finish them? Or would the lyrics be sung as written, even if they weren’t complete?

Burnett invited Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops), Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), Jim James (My Morning Jacket) and Marcus Mumford to be involved in writing music for the lyrics and recording the completed songs.

The album is called Lost On the River: The New Basement Tapes and it will be released on November 20, 2014.

In March of this year, Burnett said this to the L. A. Times:

“These are not B-level Dylan lyrics. They’re lyrics he just never got around to finishing.”

Aha! So the lyrics weren’t finished, I thought. Well then who was going to finish them? Or were Costello and the others musicians going to sing these unfinished lyrics, and how would that work?

As it turns out, most of the lyrics were completed by Dylan at the time he wrote them.

“When T Bone gave that quote,” said Larry Jenkins, who is involved with the project, “the context was that Dylan never got around to finishing them as full songs (with music) or recording them.”

Well it turns out that, according to both Jenkins and a second source, in some cases the musicians who wrote music to the songs also added their own words.

“In some instances, the lyrics were used verbatim,” said my second source.,”In other ones, folks have added to them.”

“Most of the lyrics appeared to be complete and were sung by the artists as they were written on the page by Bob in 1967 (maybe with a small word change here or there),” Jenkins said. “Some lyrics were unfinished and were fair game for the artists to complete if they wanted to.”

So far, I haven’t been able to get specifics regarding which songs had additional lyrics added to them, but stay tuned.

But think about what that means. Who has the guts to add their words to a Bob Dylan song? What if Dylan doesn’t like the words that were added?

“I will tell you that ‘Nothing To It’ is word-for-word as Bob wrote it on the page,” Jenkins said.

Check out this post, which contains a copy of Dylan’s hand-written lyrics for “Nothing To It.”

So give another listen to this great new Dylan song, “Nothing To It,” sung by Jim James with help from Elvis Costello and Marcus Mumford.

[I just published my rock ‘n’ roll novel, True Love Scars.” I’ve got a Goodreads. book giveaway going right now. Click here and enter.]

— A Days Of The Crazy-Wild blog post —

1 thought on “Exclusive: For ‘New Basement Tapes’ Album, Musicians Completed Bob Dylan’s Unfinished Lyrics – ‘…folks have added to them.’

  1. Sounds great i can really relate to this,it certainly does sound 67′ bob. Nice bouncing lyrics and a great little tune. Well done guys.

Leave a Reply