Emmett Till: Bob Dylan’s weakest song?

(A recent thread from The Dylan Daily.)

Emmett Till: Bob Dylan’s weakest song?

The Dylan Daily celebrates the art of its subject – and writing is the very core of Dylan’s art.

The deeper and longer I delve, the more I find to respect Dylan’s achievement as a wordsmith. I’m still hearing exciting new things in Dylan 45 years after first raving about that new American folkie.

So stumbling across a weak Dylan composition always comes as a surprise. But there are a few poor songs. I’ve long loathed John Brown – an interminable shaggy dog story. But I’d forgotten until I re-heard it a few days ago the awful The Death Of Emmett Till.

Dylan would eventually work the same theme into a masterpiece, Hattie Carroll. But Emmett Till shows what happens when an artist gets it wrong. It was a good call to leave it on the cutting room floor – it would have spoiled Freewheelin’, a near-perfect album.

Emmett Till – Dylan’s weakest song – surely?

Gerry Smith


Dylan’s weakest song #2

Thanks to Skip Johns:

“Like you, I loathe The Death Of Emmett Till. It makes me cringe. But there are a few even bigger shaggy dog stories in Dylan’s songbook. Two in particular – Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands and Highlands.

“I must have tried a hundred times, but I’ve never yet managed to listen to either song to the end.

“Let’s put it in context, though – weak Dylan songs are a tiny proportion among hundreds of timeless compositions.”


Dylan’s weakest song #3

Thanks to Peter Truin:

“I think Emmett Till is a good song, with its very powerful message about the racism that was prevalent in the US at the time. Musically, it may be a little like House of the Rising Sun, but it sounds good to me. I am sure there are many later songs (and a few early ones) much more worthy of the epithet “Dylan’s weakest song”.

“As for Skip Johns’ choice, well I couldn’t be further away from his views, as Sad Eyed Lady is in my opinion the best Dylan song, and Highlands is also one of my favourites.

“Although we all like Dylan, as there are so many “sides of Bob Dylan” it’s probably not surprising that we can have such differing views of what is good and what is not.

“However, surely there must be more chance of a concensus if we look at some of the songs on “Knocked out Loaded” or “Under the Red Sky”. How about “Wiggle Wiggle” or “They Killed Him” as my nominations?

“There may well be others I like even less, but I really don’t want to listen to the songs I know I don’t like very much, just to decide which one I think is the worst … there’s no fun in that, is there?”


Dylan’s weakest song #4

Thanks to Jeff Whitely:

“Dylan’s weakest song? Take your pick from most of “Love And Theft”. Top contenders: Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, Summer Days or Floater.

“Whenever any of them pops up in a gig, they kill the vibe Bob’s just created with a run of masterpieces. Dreadful.”


Dylan’s weakest song #5

Thanks to Martin Cowan:

“Just a thought to add to the debate – my own personal view is that “Sad Eyed Lady…” is one of the greatest songs in his canon. Great lyrics, a haunting melody, a late-night vibe – just fantastic.

“Mind you, I do think critics have poured unjust praise on some songs just because they are long – I have never been convinced of the merits of “Brownsville Girl” or “Highlands”.

“Meanwhile, “Under The Red Sky” is in my top five Dylan albums, and I don’t really see any difference between something like “Wiggle Wiggle” and something like “Yea Heavy and a Bottle of Bread”.


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