July 23, 2009

"Girl from the North Country"

Echo Helstrom, Bob Dylan's high school girlfriend. (Photo by Toby Thompson, source)

From the Wikipedia entry:

"Girl from the North Country" (also known as "Girl of the North Country") is a song written by Bob Dylan. It was first released in 1963 as the second track on Dylan's second studio album, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. Dylan re-recorded the song as a duet with Johnny Cash in 1969. That recording became the first track on Nashville Skyline, Dylan's ninth studio album.

Dylan's 1959 Echo Harmonica, played during his high school days, this model chosen because it shared a name with his then girlfriend (source)

The song was written following his first trip to England in December, 1962, upon what he thought to be the completion of his second album. The song is a tribute to a former girlfriend, Echo Helstrom who Dylan knew before leaving for New York.

While in London, Dylan met several figures in the local folk scene, including English folksinger Martin Carthy. "I ran into some people in England who really knew those [traditional English] songs," Dylan recalled in 1984. "Martin Carthy, another guy named [Bob] Davenport. Martin Carthy's incredible. I learned a lot of stuff from Martin." Carthy exposed Dylan to a repertoire of traditional English ballads, including Carthy's own arrangement of "Scarborough Fair," which Dylan drew upon for aspects of the melody and lyrics of "Girl from the North Country," including the line from the refrain "Remember me to one who lives there, she once was a true love of mine."

A February 1964 live Canadian TV performance:

Pete Townshend did an adaption of "Girl from the North Country" on his 1982 album, All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes, an album with which I am somewhat familiar.


Anonymous said...

I'm seeing him, Willie and John Mellencamp on July 31. He's actually playing this song in some of his sets.http://www.bobdylan.com/#/tour

Chris said...

Ah, that'll be a good show. Sounds like Farm Aid. Looking at your link, he'll be in Houston on the 3rd.