Positively Bob Dylan

Fine Bob Dylan stuff. Since 1997.

Blind Willie McTell

(Bob Dylan)

From the album: The Bootleg Series Vol. 1-3 (1991)
 PBD pick  

 4.8/5 (509 votes)
1983 "Infidels" outtake

18 comments

Scott H No question this is one of his greatest...I don't think this song is about Blind Willie McTell so much as it is using him as a Talisman - for those things that man in his purest heart desires. The song to me is in the same vein as All Along The Watchtower. It is a song of the Tribulation, of the coming of Armageddon. It is very much more than it seems...which along with the beauty of the music and the performance makes it one of the true Dylan classics. Oct 05, 2011
Alessandra non mi stanco mai di ascoltarla. Ma che difficile scegliere!!! May 19, 2011
Roger This song i in my top 5. To my ear, he sings about what he sees when hears Blind Willie sing. This is a magical song. Like Bluesman Mike said, it is a crime that this was left off Infidels. As was Foot of Pride. WTF? May 19, 2011
Nick If any song proves that Dylan is one of the greatest blues singers & musicians ever then this is it - it seems to me almost the definition the blues. Feb 03, 2009
L.Lub Many times the sad images in blues songs were a way of dealing with the problems in life by singing about them openly and relieving the burden for a while. This song evokes the images of the Black slaves, chain gangs, slave ships, hard work on big plantations, and injustice all under a sweet magnolia tree and the aloneness under the starry Southern sky. This could have been written 150 years ago. Not only are his words evocative of the pain of injustice, but the driving melody sinks it deeper into your mind and memory. It is a fine song, and I think it's one of many Dylan gifts to us. Jan 17, 2008
JOE DODGE TO BEN:THE ELECTRIC VERSION IS AN OUTTAKE ON THE DEEDS OF MERCY,OR OH MERCY OUTTAKES BOOTLEG CD.WELL WORTH FINDING. Sep 20, 2007
JOE DODGE I KNEW I WAS NOT ALONE.SO MANY COMMENTS,NOT TOO MANY SONGS DESERVE THIS KIND OF INTROSPECTION,IT FEELS LIKE THE WORLD JUST ENDED ON THE LAST NOTES.THEN YOU WANT TO DIE ALL OVER AGAIN. Sep 20, 2007
Bluesman Mike This is genius. WHY didn't he put on INFIDELS?... Many have said that sometimes Bob can't hear his own songs. This is the best example. Mar 19, 2007
Richard Simply the best record ever Nov 01, 2006
Mick Gold Haunting vision of American history & African American music, beautiful imagery of sound & smell & visions. Oct 31, 2006
Linda Apton Worth price of the album. " Pain and greed and coruptable seed seems to be all that there is", what more can you say, after that line. I also the the piano, Mar 30, 2006
Iain G Go and listen to this song in a dark room, and see how you feel when Knopfler plays that last note. This is a masterpiece of art. Mar 29, 2006
Isis This one made me forget to breathe for a few seconds. Mar 15, 2006
Beth only Bob makes sad so beautiful, couldn't believe Blind Willie McTell wasn't released for so long, love the piano. Mar 03, 2006
Ben Where did you hear the electric version? Jan 13, 2006
Matthew A trip through the Southern Mystic as viewed through the eyes of a legendary blues singer. The very concept is stunning. The images evoke feelings as powerful as Faulkner or O'Connor, although neither wrote anything that can match the last verse of this song. Personally, I prefer the electric version. Had Bob not coughed/laughed/bumped the mic (hard to say what the gaff was), it might have been released on Infidels, which would have placed that disc on par with Highway 61. Nov 25, 2005
grunt Nina, you should listen to this song over and over again and than you'll here the beauty beyond the sadness. Nov 23, 2005
Nina I've listened to this song three times, with weeks spaced between listenings. It is too sad, it is even sadder than the descriptions I'd read of it, before I bought the recording. Every word is another separate planet of sad, and how it is that every noun and adjective and verb is instantly visible, is spooky. The first time I heard it, I saw the dress the woman by the river is wearing, I saw the bottle swinging from the fine handsome fellow's hand--I saw exactly the quality of the sunlight reflected on the river. Too much. And then you need spend only a moment looking at what it means to want what god has--god sees and understands everything--and how the song is nothing but however many minutes (four? eleven thousand? ) of everything that can be seen and felt and everything that's forever out of reach. And on top of that you can't ever prepare for the sadness. Jun 01, 2005
CAPTCHA Image
[New code]

Related songs & albums

All songs on The Bootleg Series Vol. 1-3
Track Song
1 Hard Times in New York Town (Bob Dylan)
2 He Was a Friend of Mine (Traditional)
3 Man on the Street (Bob Dylan)
4 No More Auction Block (Live) (Traditional)
5 House Carpenter (Traditional)
6 Talkin' Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues (Bob Dylan)
7 Let Me Die in My Footsteps (Bob Dylan)
8 Ramblin' Gamblin' Willie (Bob Dylan)
9 Talkin' Have Negeilah Blues (Bob Dylan)
10 Quit Your Low Down Ways (Bob Dylan)
11 Worried Blues (Traditional)
12 Kingsport Town (Traditional)
13 Walkin' Down the Line (Bob Dylan)
14 Walls of Red Wing (Bob Dylan)
15 Paths of Victory (Bob Dylan)
16 Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues (Live 1963) (Bob Dylan)
17 Who Killed Davey Moore? (Live 1963) (Bob Dylan)
18 Only a Hobo (Bob Dylan)
19 Moonshiner (Traditional)
20 When the Ship Comes In (Bob Dylan)
21 The Times They Are A-Changin' (piano version) (Bob Dylan)
23 Seven Curses (Bob Dylan)
24 Eternal Circle (Bob Dylan)
25 Suze (The Cough Song) (Bob Dylan)
26 Mama, You Been on My Mind (Bob Dylan)
27 Farewell, Angelina (Bob Dylan)
28 Subterranean Homesick Blues (Bob Dylan)
29 If You Gotta Go, Go Now (Bob Dylan)
30 Sitting on a Barbed Wire Fence (Bob Dylan)
31 Like a Rolling Stone (Alternate Take) (Bob Dylan)
32 It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry (Alternate Version) (Bob Dylan)
33 I'll Keep It With Mine (Bob Dylan)
34 She's Your Lover Now (Bob Dylan)
35 I Shall Be Released (Bob Dylan)
36 Santa-Fe (Bob Dylan)
37 If Not For You (Alternate Version) (Bob Dylan)
38 Wallflower (Bob Dylan)
39 Nobody 'Cept You (Bob Dylan)
40 Tangled Up in Blue (Bob Dylan)
41 Call Letter Blues (Bob Dylan)
42 Idiot Wind (Bob Dylan)
43 If You See Her, Say Hello (Bob Dylan)
44 Golden Loom (Bob Dylan)
45 Catfish (Dylan/Levy)
46 Seven Days (Live 1976) (Bob Dylan)
47 Ye Shall Be Changed (Bob Dylan)
48 Every Grain of Sand (Bob Dylan)
49 You Changed My Life (Bob Dylan)
50 Need a Woman (Bob Dylan)
51 Angelina (Bob Dylan)
52 Someone's Got a Hold of My Heart (Bob Dylan)
53 Tell Me (Bob Dylan)
54 Lord Protect My Child (Bob Dylan)
55 Foot of Pride (Bob Dylan)
56 Blind Willie McTell (Bob Dylan)
57 When the Night Comes Falling from the Sky (Original Version) (Bob Dylan)
58 Series of Dreams (Bob Dylan)
Blind Willie McTell appears on these albums
Year Album
1991 The Bootleg Series Vol. 1-3
2006 Blues
2007 Dylan


From the archives

Bob Dylan oil painting by Stanley Silver
  ART | Jan 28, 2011
Coming up this summer: The Bob & Willie Show
  LIVE | Jun 23, 2004
Unreleased song featured on NCIS Soundtrack album
  MEDIA, RECORDS | Oct 29, 2009
When Bob Met Woody
  ART, BOOKS | Mar 31, 2011
Bob Dylan's New York
  BOOKS | Apr 7, 2015
The Bobiography: Just Like a Dylan Song
  BOOKS | Oct 12, 2004
Smoking through the years
  SEASONAL | May 31, 2014
New song comment feature
  WEB | May 25, 2005
"Shadows in the Night" – the Originals
  RECORDS | Dec 20, 2014
Signed Dylan items wanted for Cancer Foundation auction
  EVENTS | May 16, 2008

Essential albums

Click here to view all albums
Top