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Origins of the Singer Songwriter (Part 2)


Although it influenced a lot of songwriters during this period, I would argue that Bob Dylan was one of the artists to whom it touched most. One of the songs on the album by the Bentley Brothers (originally recorded in 1929) known as ‘Pennie’s Farm’ was even reincarnated by Dylan in the form of the song ‘Maggie’s Farm’ from the 1965 album ‘Bringing it all back home’. ‘As Dylanologists have long noted, “Maggie’s Farm” stands as the second appropriation of the traditional song “Penny’s Farm,” first recorded by North Carolina’s Bentley Brothers in 1929. Dylan would have known the song from the the 1952 Anthology of American Folk Music, widely called the “Harry Smith Anthology, “which was making the rounds of the folk community with great fluidity at the time. Dylan would have known the original version “It’s hard times in the country, out on Penny’s farm” – and likely would have played it as a folk standard before spinning it off into “Hard Times In New York Town,” making very few changes to the lyrics and melody. “Come you ladies and you gentlemen and listen to my song” sound familiar?’ Davis Inman(2011).

The Influence of the Blues

Whilst folk music was most likely the direct descendant to the singer songwriter it’s also highly likely that early blues music also played a part in its early development during the sixties. People like B.B King and Albert King were huge influences on lots of other artists at that time including the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton. But going back even further you’ll find that Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters were also direct influences on Bob Dylan’s music. Robert Johnson was in many respects a legend throughout the industry in the mid twentieth century with very little written about him, all that was really known were these stories about his life, the most well-known one being about how he supposedly sold his soul to the devil in order to become the greatest blues guitar player who ever lived. All that really survived were his recordings which, much like the Harry Smith Anthology saw a huge rise in interest during the early to mid-sixties with the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton becoming huge stars.

George Capon

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