“Baby, Stop Crying”

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“Baby Stop Crying”, the second single from Street Legal, was also the second mis-step. This is one of only two songs on the album that weren’t written well in advance of the four days of recording that put the whole thing together. It has a bit of a feeling of a last minute fill-in.

The central aspect of this song is the thing that most people seem to hate about Street Legal: the bluesy back-up singers. It was clear from Desire and the Rolling Thunder Revue that Dylan was desperately looking for a band that would give him the Phil Spector “wall of sound” vibe, and he put it together for his 1978 world tour. It was with this band that he recorded this album, replete with tenor sax and a power trio of back-up singers (one of whom, Carolyn Dennis, he would marry 8 years later).

It seems like that the vast majority of this song is its chorus, with its endlessly repeated phrase, “stop crying”. It just sort of goes on and on and on in this one. The lyrics to the verses are terribly unmemorable. It is testament to their forgeability that I’ve heard this songs dozens of times, and I still had to read the lyrics to remember that it includes the threatening line: “Go get me my pistol, babe / Honey, I can’t tell right from wrong”.

The whole thing is very slight. The second verse amounts to almost nothing:

Go down to the river, babe

Honey, I will meet you there

Go down to the river, babe

Honey, I will pay your fare

This is yet another Dylan single that he gave up on. Performed about three dozen times on his 1978 tour, he never bothered to do it again.

It’s amazing to me that Dylan and Columbia seemed to have picked the two worst songs on Street Legal as the first two singles. Neither charted in the US, but this made it to number 13 in the UK and to number 5 in Ireland.

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