1001 Songs Challenge,  1990s,  Music

1001 Songs Challenge #760: Blind Willie McTell (1991)

On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.

My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.

I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.

So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…


Bob Dylan – Blind Willie McTell (1991)

Blind Willie McTell (song)

” Blind Willie McTell” is a song written and performed by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan. Named for the blues singer of the same name, the song was recorded in the spring of 1983, during the sessions for Dylan’s album ; however, it was ultimately left off the album and did not receive an official release until 1991, when it appeared on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961-1991 .

Lyrics (via Genius)


We’re staying in the US today, dear reader, and find ourselves in Minnesota. It is a fourth appearance on our list from Bob Dylan who landed two songs in the 1960s in his prime, one in the 1970s (the glorious Tangled Up in Blue) and now in the 1990s we have another song. Blind Willie McTell was actually recorded in 1983 but never used on an album. In 1991 a compilation of bootleg tracks from Dylan were released and Blind Willie McTell had its chance to shine. 

The title refers to a blues singer of the same name who died in 1959 at the age of 61 and missed out on the folk revival with the likes of Bob Dylan and the resurgence in interest of blues musicians. Bob Dylan’s song acts as a tribute. He uses five verses to address the American landscape with particular reference made to slavery at one point. Each verse ends with the same refrain that no one could do the blues quite like Blind Willie McTell which, coming from Bob Dylan, is high praise indeed. 

I am not very well versed in Bob Dylan’s career which is a travesty to admit. I have enjoyed the songs featured on this list and did so again with Blind Willie McTell. It is alarming to think that a song as good as this was cast aside and not used on a Dylan album. It is testament to the great man’s gift as a songwriter that he could dismiss such quality. Dylan’s legacy has long since been assured and in 2016 he became the first songwriter to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.


Favourite songs so far:

The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)

Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)

The Beatles – A Day in the Life (1967)

The Doors – The End (1967)

Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975)

Meat Loaf – Bat Out of Hell (1977)

Ultravox – Vienna (1980)

The Smiths – How Soon Is Now? (1984)

Tracy Chapman – Fast Car (1988)

U2 – One (1991)

My name is Dave and I live in Yorkshire in the north of England and have been here all my life. I hope you enjoy your visit to All is Ephemeral.

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