Dylan is not only known for his iconic protest songs but also for his heartfelt, with a touch of delicate irony, kiss-off tunes.
Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right, published in 1963 on the album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, is no exception.
The song was written when Bob Dylan’s girlfriend Suze Rotolo, the woman he’s hugged to on the album cover, decided to extend her time abroad, in Italy, in a time when their relationship was increasingly getting jeopardized.
There is quite a lot of gossip going on about this song.
Joan Baez has been singing it on stage throughout her whole career, including at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival, where Suze Rotolo was backstage with Dylan. Before singing Don’t Think Twice, Baez allegedly presented the song as the story of a relationship that "had lasted too long", hinting at Bob and Suze.
Gossips aside, the interesting fact about this song, at least for a folk music lover, is that it is heavily inspired by a traditional song called Who’s Gonna Buy Your Chickens When I’m Gone.
Dylan had some copyright issues with his friend and fellow folksinger Paul Clayton, who had moved from the same inspiration two years before, transforming the traditional tune into Who’s Gonna Buy You Ribbons When I’m Gone.
In the folk scene, however, it wasn’t uncommon at all to take inspiration and modify old tunes. There is a fascinating world of reciprocal influences, translations, tributes in the under-belly of folk music.
The song we all know and love, however, has a distinctive “dylanesque” style, where irony meets sweetness, where no grudge emerges.
On the liner notes for The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, Nat Hentoff reports the songwriters’ point of view on Don’t Think Twice: it’s shouldn’t be seen as a love song but as self-talk, an invitation to your own self to feel better.
Bruce Langhorne played the intricate finger-style guitar on the album version. It is quite a challenge for any guitar player!
Here is my own rendition. Let me know your opinions!