Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bob Dylan and Champaign, Illinois

Bob Dylan is coming to town on Friday night to play at the University of Illinois' Assembly Hall.

A while back, my father called my attention to the song "Champaign, Illinois," co-authored by Bob Dylan and Carl Perkins back in 1969 while Dylan was working on Nashville Skyline -- the two met on the Johnny Cash show. Dylan allegedly had a single verse written, and after Perkins had worked on the song a bit, Dylan told him, "Your song. Take it. Finish it." And so Perkins recorded it for his album On Top.

The lyrics are fairly straightforward blues fare (with a slightly more international perspective):
I got a woman in Morocco,
I got a woman in Spain,
Woman that's done stole my heart,
She lives up in Champaign.

I say Champaign, Champaign, Illinois,
I certainly do enjoy Champaign, Illinois.

Now my friend Nate has called my attention to an Old 97s song also named "Champaign, Illinois" and also co-authored (kind of) with Bob Dylan. The band took the melody from "Desolation Row," kicked the tempo up a notch and took a bit of a different line on the pleasures of Champaign:
Roll on blacktop highway
Circles toward the sun
Springfield's in the distance
And that's the last big one

After that comes judgement
And judgement will be swift
You will be eliminated
But here's a parting gift

If you die fearing God
And painfully employed
You will not go to heaven
You'll go to Champaign, Illinois
No, you will not go to heaven,
You'll go to Champaign, Illinois

So Bob Dylan has co-authorship credit on not one but two songs about Champaign, although I don't think we'll be hearing either of them on Friday night.

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