Simple Beauty: Bob Dylan’s Tomorrow Is A Long Time

“Blowin’ in the Wind” — Painting by the author.

There’s beauty in the silver singin’ river, there’s beauty in the sunrise in the sky, and there’s richness in the simple beauty of this stellar song Bob Dylan penned as a 21-year-old.

About ten days ago I was listening to the Judy Collins station on Pandora when her version of this song played and it made me wish to share it. It’s almost incomprehensible how many songs Dylan wrote as an emerging artist those first years in New York, songs so timeless and evocative that they are still being sung today.

According to The Story Behind Every Song, Dylan played this song for Artie Mogull, an A&R record exec involved in Dylan’s signing, and Mogull’s first thought was that it would make a great number for a young Judy Collins whose star was also on the rise. Mogull called Collins to come hear it, and when she did she cried. She was first to record it as a result, and would not be the last.

Though Dylan recorded the song himself, it was part of a series of sessions never released called The Witmark Demos, which emerged in 2010 as Bootleg Series Volume 9, one of my favorite sets in the Bootleg Series.

Though tapes of these sessions circulated amongst hard core Dylan circles as bootlegs, the first version of the song to arrive on vinyl appeared on his 1971 Greatest Hits, Volume II, a live recording from his 1963 concert in New York’s Town Hall.

Throughout the Sixties numerous other artists performed and recorded the song, however, including Harry Belafonte, We Five, Joan Baez, and the Kingston Trio. It’s been recorded by countless others, and was even used in the wind-up episode of The Walking Dead. Elvis Presley also recorded it in 1966, which led Dylan to remark that Presley’s was his all-time favorite cover recording of one of his songs.

I recommend Dylan’s Witmark Demo version, but have included versions by Odetta and Ms. Collins at the end of this post.

Tomorrow Is A Long Time

If today was not an endless highway 
If tonight was not a crooked trail
If tomorrow wasn’t such a long time 
Then lonesome would mean nothing to you at all 
Yes, and only if my own true love was waitin’ 
Yes, and if I could hear her heart a-softly poundin’ 
Only if she was lyin’ by me 
Then I’d lie in my bed once again

I can’t see my reflection in the waters 
I can’t speak the sounds that show no pain 
I can’t hear the echo of my footsteps 
Or can’t remember the sound of my own name 
Yes, and only if my own true love was waitin’ 
Yes, and if I could hear her heart a-softly poundin’ 
Only if she was lyin’ by me 
Then I’d lie in my bed once again

There’s beauty in the silver, singin’ river 
There’s beauty in the sunrise in the sky 
But none of these and nothing else can touch the beauty 
That I remember in my true love’s eyes 
Yes, and only if my own true love was waitin’ 
Yes, and if I could hear her heart a-softly poundin’ 
Only if she was lyin’ by me Then I’d lie in my bed once again

Copyright © 1963 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991 by Special Rider Music

Odetta’s version of this song.

Judy Collins’ version that prompted this blog post.

I couldn’t find the Witmark Demos version, but this is a special rendition, still sung with feeling. Dylan has performed the song nearly 70 times in concert, the last being in 2008.

Meantime…. life goes on. Get into it.


Originally published at pioneerproductions.blogspot.com