5 Of Bob Dylan’s Greatest Collaborations In The Span Of 45 Years
Bob Dylan live in 1971 - Devin B. / Youtube
Even songwriting legend Bob Dylan needs help from time to time, as evidenced by the numerous collaborations he has been part of for the past 45 years. From longtime friends and colleagues like Tom Petty and Sam Shepard to more unexpected ones like Gene Simmons and Michael Bolton. Here are five of Dylan’s most interesting teamwork efforts in his long run in the industry.
“Brownsville Girl” – Sam Shepard
Dylan’s presence was a bit anemic on Knocked Out Loaded, only having two solo songwriting credits on the eight cuts. Most of the tracks were covers or co-written with Tom Petty, Carole Bayer Sager, and Sam Shepard. But it is his cut with Shepard, “Brownsville Girl”, is one of the gems on this record. It features references to the 1950 Gregory Peck movie Gunfighter as one stood in line to watch it, expressed in a stream of consciousness that could only be delivered by the duo.
“Steel Bars” – Michael Bolton
Michael Bolton’s 1991 album Time, Love and Tenderness came as a shock to many when they read the liner notes that said Bob Dylan co-wrote “Steel Bars” with him. He said, “Someone who works with Dylan called me up and said, ‘Bob Dylan would like to write with you.’ I was awed. I told him, ‘I don’t even know how I could write a lyric when working with you … I’m too intimidated.’ But then we started messing around with some chords and wrote ‘Steel Bars,’ a song about obsession. It took us two sessions to write, and when I left, I was told, ‘Bob likes you and he wants you to come back.’”
“Silvio” – Robert Hunter
Keeping the rehearsal for Dylan and The Grateful Dead’s 1987 stadium tour, Robert Hunter wrote the lyrics for this scathing cut. While it wasn’t much of a hit when it came with Down In The Groove, Dylan played it live 595 times between 1988 and 2004.
“Hurricane” – Jacques Levy
Play director/songwriter Jacques Levy was chosen by Dylan to write most of Desire’s songs with. Dylan was inspired in writing this song after reading Rubin “Hurricane” Carter’s memoir The Sixteenth Round but struggled with the lyrics, but Levy’s experience proved to be useful in doing so. “Bob wasn’t sure he could write a song. He was just filled with all these feelings about the Hurricane. The beginning of the song is like stage directions. ‘Pistol shots ring out in a bar-room night.’” said Levy in an interview with Dylan biographer Clinton Heylin.
“Jammin’ Me” – Tom Petty
This controversial name-checking entry of Dylan and Petty has Eddie Murphy and Vanessa Redgrave as the main attraction, among others. The two wrote it with Heartbreakers’ Mike Campbell during 1987’s True Confessions tour. Petty shared: “I wrote the lyrics with Bob Dylan at the Sunset Marquis. Bob and I poured over a newspaper, appropriating the lyrics. Then I took the lyrics I’d written with Bob and put them to a track Mike had put together.”