Listen: Bob Dylan Covers Merle Haggard’s 1979 Classic “Footlights” at the Orpheum Theater in Boston

Sunday Night, Bob Dylan finished a three-night run at Boston’s Orpheum Theater. Those who were there for his final night in Beantown heard him cover Merle Haggard’s classic “Footlights.”

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Over the course of his Rough and Rowdy Ways Tour, Dylan has introduced several covers. Usually, the covers connect in some way with the city where he plays them. For instance, he covered Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me to the End of Love” while in the late songwriter’s hometown of Montreal. However, Haggard has no real connection to Boston. Regardless the “All Along the Watchtower” singer turned in a stellar performance of the song.

[RELATED: Listen: Bob Dylan Covers Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me to the End of Love” in Montreal]

JamBase reports that Dylan played a baby grand piano on the cover. Guitarists Bob Britt and Doug Lancio backed him. Jerry Pentecost (drums) and Tony Garnier (bass) held down the rhythm section throughout the night. Additionally, multi-instrumentalist Donnie Herron helped flesh out the sound.

Haggard wrote “Footlights” and included it on his 1979 studio album Serving 190 Proof. In the lyrics, Haggard gave listeners a look behind the glitz and glamour of being an A-list touring musician. I live the kind of life that most men only dream of / I make my livin’ writin’ songs and singing them. / But I’m 41 years old and I ain’t got no place to go / when it’s over, he sings in the opening lines. “Footlights,” at its core, is Haggard’s way of saying that what he’s doing is, in fact, work.

Dylan famously mentioned Haggard in his acceptance speech when he won the MusiCares Person of the Year Award in 2015. He was going through a long list of artists who covered and, in his mind, elevated many of his songs. Then, he came to Haggard.

[RELATED: Read Bob Dylan’s Full MusiCares Person of the Year Speech]

“Merle Haggard didn’t even think much of my songs. I know he didn’t. He didn’t say that to me, but I know,” he said. Then, Dylan noted that Buck Owens recorded some of his songs. He added, “That’s Buck Owens and that trumps anything coming out of Bakersfield. Buck Owens and Merle Haggard? If you have to have somebody’s blessing—you figure it out.”

Later, in an interview with Bill Flanagan, Dylan clarified that statement. “I wasn’t dissing Merle, not the Merle I know. What I was talking about happened a long time ago, maybe in the late ‘60s. Merle had that song out called ‘Fightin’ Side of Me’ and I’d seen an interview with him where he was going on about hippies and Dylan and the counter-culture, and it kind of stuck in my mind and it hurt,” he said. “Times have changed and he’s changed too. He’s a complete man and we’re friends these days,” Dylan added.

Haggard and Willie Nelson recorded Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” for their 2015 duet album Django and Jimmie.

Tickets for the Rough and Rowdy Tour are available via StubHub, where orders are 100% guaranteed through StubHub’s FanProtect program. StubHub is a secondary market ticketing platform, and prices may be higher or lower than face value, depending on demand.

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