Each and every Sunday night when the clock hits eight, The Strombo Show celebrates the spirit of radio over on CBC Radio 2. It's music for music lovers by music lovers. To kick off the program, we always tip our hats to the legends, the noisemakers and the ground-breakers in a segment that we like to call: Nod to the Gods.
This week, we're celebrating the collaboration between Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash during the spring, 1969 sessions for Dylan's 'Nashville Skyline'.
The two had been friends since they met at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival, where Cash gave Dylan his guitar as a small gesture of respect and admiration. He had written in 'Cash: The Autobiography' that he was obsessed with 'The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan' before they met: "I listened almost constantly. I had a portable record player I'd take along on the road, and I'd put on Freewheelin' backstage, then go out and do my show, then listen again as soon as I came off."
Fast-forward to February 18 and 19, 1969, when Cash and Dylan recorded more than a dozen duets. 'Girl From The North Country' made it to the album, originally a cut from that 'Freewheelin'' album that Cash had admired. Here is some footage of them toying around with a few ideas in studio:
There has been much debate about who the lyrics refer to. Most believe it to be about Echo Helstrom or Bonnie Beecher, Dylan's known sweethearts before he left Minnesota for New York. Others have argued the case of Suze Rotolo, the Dylan's artist girlfriend who was immortalized walking arm in arm on the iconic cover of 'The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan'. Her political views were a major influence on his topical songwriting, especially around issues like the civil rights movement and nuclear war threats. She was also the muse behind many early love songs, including 'Don't Think Twice (It's Alright)'.
'Girl From The North Country' has been covered by many, including: Waylon Jennings, Joe Cocker, Leon Russell, Rod Stewart, Pete Townshend, Eels, The Black Crowes, Robert Plant, Rosanne Cash, Eddie Vedder and Sting. Most recently, this version appears in Academy Award-nominated 'Silver Linings Playbook' in a beautiful moment shared between Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence.
For further musical musings, new and old, join the collective for The Strombo Show on CBC Radio 2, every Sunday night at 8PM. And if you'd like to catch up or relisten, all of the episodes are archived here.