“Pretty Boy Floyd”



A minor note on Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie: In 1988, Folkways Records released a tribute album, A Vision Shared: A Tribute to Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly. This album featured leading folk and rock singers (John Mellencamp, U2, Bruce Springsteen (twice), Brian Wilson, Pete Seeger, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris…) covering songs by the forefathers of American folk music. The second song on the album is Dylan’s cover of Guthrie’s “Pretty Boy Floyd”.

This is a song that Dylan had recorded and performed way back in 1961. Apparently there is a tape of him playing this at Gerde’s Folk City in 1961, but I don’t have a copy of that. He returned to it more than a quarter century later, and he only played the song live on one occasion: during his final concert of 1988, a benefit for the Bridge School in Oakland (Tom Petty also played this show, acoustic and without The Heartbreakers). There is a video of Dylan (with G. E. Smith, but not with the rest of his band) performing the song here.

This has caused me some minor frustration this morning since I would love to be able to compare the two live versions of this song, but, alas, I don’t have both. This caused some frantic and, so far, unsuccessful web-searching this morning. The vastness of this Dylan project still impresses me sometimes.

Here’s Woody’s version:

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