Bob Dylan: 7 live versions of “Mississippi”

I’ve been criticised for not putting my best songs on certain albums but it is because I consider that the song isn’t ready yet. It’s not been recorded right. With all of my records, there’s an abundance of material left off – stuff that, for a variety of reasons, doesn’t make the final cut. ..Except on this album, for which we re-cut the song ‘Mississippi.’ We had that on the “Time Out Of Mind” album. It wasn’t recorded very well but thank God, it never got out, so we recorded it again. But something like that would never have happen ten years ago. You’d have probably all heard the lousy version of it and I’d have never re-recorded it. I’m glad for once to have had the opportunity to do so.
~Bob Dylan (Press Conference (French coverage) De la Ville Inter-Continental Roma Hotel, Rome, Italy – 23 July 2001 )

Mississippi” is the second song on Bob Dylan’s 2001 album Love and Theft. The song was originally recorded during the Time Out of Mind sessions in January 1997, but was ultimately left off the album; Dylan rerecorded the song for Love and Theft in May 2001.

Jackson County Fairgrounds
Central Point, Oregon
9 October 2001

Every step of the way
We walk the line
Your days are numbered
So are mine



Municipal Auditorium
Nashville, Tennessee
3 November 2001

Time is piling up
We struggle and we scrape
All boxed in
Nowhere to escape


MCI Center
Washington, District Of Columbia
15 November 2001

The city’s just a jungle
More games to play
I’m trapped in the heart of it
Trying to get away


Sioux Falls Stadium
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
22 August 2002

I was raised in the country
Been working in the town
I been in trouble since i
Set my suitcase down


Pavilion
Reno Hilton
Reno, Nevada
18 March 2005

I ain’t got nothing for you
I had nothing before
Don’t even have anything
For myself anymore


Marjorie Merriweather Post Pavilion
Columbia, Maryland
16 August 2011

Sky’s full of fire
And the rain is pouring down
There’s nothing you can sell me
So i’ll see you around


Wells Fargo Center
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
19 November 2012

All my powers of expression
And thoughts so sublime
Could never do you justice
Reason or rhyme


…If you had heard the original recording, you’d see in a second. The song was pretty much laid out intact melodically, lyrically and structurally, but Lanois didn’t see it. Thought it was pedestrian. Took it down the Afro-polyrhythm route-multirhythm drumming, that sort of thing. Polyrhythm has its place, but it doesn’t work for knifelike lyrics trying to convey majesty and heroism. Maybe we had worked too hard on other things, I can’t remember.
but Lanois can get passionate about what he feels to be true. He’s not above smashing guitars. I never cared about that unless it was one of mine. Things got contentious once in the parking lot. He tried to convince me that the song had to be ‘sexy, sexy and more sexy.’ I know about sexy, too. He reminded me of Sam Phillips, who had once said the same thing to John Prine about a song, but the circumstances were not similar. I tried to explain that the song had more to do with the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights than witch doctors, and just couldn’t be thought of as some kind of ideological voodoo thing. But he had his own way of looking at things, and in the end I had to reject this because I thought too highly of the expressive meaning behind the lyrics to bury them in some steamy cauldron of drum theory. On the performance you’re hearing, the bass is playing a triplet beat, and that adds up to all the multirhythm you need, even in a slow-tempo song. I think Lanois is an excellent producer, though.
~Bob Dylan (to David Fricke – interview for Rolling Stone – 27 September 2001)

2 thoughts on “Bob Dylan: 7 live versions of “Mississippi”

  1. Yes, indeed. The version on Telltale Signs speaks to me majestically. Of course, the version on Love and Theft is perfect for the whole of Love and Theft.

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