Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright
I’m a latecomer to fingerpicking. I went more or less from picking up a guitar to playing electric gigs and then ploughed that furrow for twenty years until it imploded.
Anyway, as I’m adjusting to a new musical life as a sort-of solo singer I’ve run into several amazing guitarists on the open mic circuit and it’s opened my eyes a bit. I’m a pretty decent rhythm guitarist, but it’s no sort of life for a man to sit there and strum G until death… and so here we are: gradually becoming competent to the point where I think I could probably do something live without making a complete arse of myself.
This is quite a challenging song to play (at least for me.) It’s from Dylan’s Freewheelin’ album and is pretty intricate for someone with tiny hands like me – and you can hear the fumbles. Of course, I’ve got the added complication of singing at the very bottom of my range at the same time, and you know what they say about men and multitasking…
There’s some dispute as to whether Dylan actually played the guitar piece – and it’s been widely credited to session man Bruce Langhorne. Certainly Dylan never played it this way live and his guitar playing got increasingly rudimentary over the years, so I tend to favour Langhorne’s involvement*
As with a lot of Dylan pieces from around this time it is a true folk piece – the melody and lyrical theme more or less a male-line descendant of Paul Clayton’s Who’s Gonna Buy Your Ribbons (When I’m Gone) – which was released a couple of years before Dylan wrote his tune.
This is pretty interesting in light of the Robin Thicke/Marvin Gaye ‘plagiarism’ case and speaks to the huge gulf between the modern idea of copyright versus the centuries-old oral traditions of folk music.
Within minutes of posting this to YouTube I’d had a copyright notice saying that while I was OK to upload it, any advertising revenue would go to the copyright holder – some legal entity or other. So Dylan’s pretty much straight ahead uncredited, commercially released lift from Paul Clayton gets greater legal protection than my unpaid live performance of the same.
Anyway, there we are. I’m almost kind of competent at the main fingerpicking patterns, and it can only be a matter of time before I start writing songs about harvest time and nuclear war.
Here’s Dylan playing it solo and live in 1963 – and pretty close to the original recording. All that talk of Langhorne now seems like such a load of baloney.