Lyric Of The Week: Bob Dylan, “Blind Willie McTell”

The song is a testament to Dylan’s brilliance and idiosyncrasy.


The diehard fans and bootleggers always knew that Bob Dylan was sitting on a treasure trove of unreleased classics, but it wasn’t until the release of the first Bootleg Series compilation in 1991 that the rest of the world found about it. The triple-disc set included a number of stunning tracks that Bob had left off his studio albums, but none was more jaw-dropping than “Blind Willie McTell.”

Dylan wrote the song around the time he was recording his 1983 album Infidels. Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits fame acted as his main musical collaborator on the record and played acoustic guitar on “Blind Willie McTell” next to Dylan’s piano and vocals for the take found on the Bootleg Series. Yet when it came time to sequence Infidels, Bob decided that the song wouldn’t make the cut.

In his biography Down The Highway: The Life Of Bob Dylan, author Howard Sounes recounts the following exchange between Dylan and confidant Larry “Ratso” Sloman once Sloman heard the album:

Sloman: “Where’s ‘Blind Willie McTell’.”

Dylan: “Didn’t make it."

Sloman: “What. How can you not put one of the greatest songs you ever wrote on the album.”

Dylan: “Oh, Ratso, it’s okay.”

Dylan later told Rolling Stone that he felt the song hadn’t been properly recorded, but the aural evidence suggests... Sign In to Keep Reading

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