Girl from the North Country

1963 song by Bob Dylan
"Girl from the North Country"
Song 22 by Bob Dylan
from the album The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan
ReleasedMay 27, 1963
RecordedApril 24, 1963
StudioColumbia Recording, New York City
LabelColumbia Records
Songwriter(s)Bob Dylan

"Girl from the North Country" (occasionally known as "Girl of the North Country") is a song written by Bob Dylan. It was recorded at Columbia Recording Studios in New York City in April 1963, and released the following month as the second track on Dylan's second studio album, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. Dylan re-recorded the song as a duet with Johnny Cash in February 1969.[1] That recording became the opening track on Nashville Skyline, Dylan's ninth studio album.

Background and composition

The song was written following his first trip to England in December 1962, upon what he thought to be the completion of his second album. It is debated as to whom this song is a tribute; some claim former girlfriend Echo Helstrom,[2] and some Bonnie Beecher, both of whom Dylan knew before leaving for New York. However, it is suspected that this song could have been inspired by his then girlfriend, Suze Rotolo. Dylan left England for Italy to search for Suze, whose continuation of studies there had caused a serious rift in their relationship. Unbeknownst to Dylan, Rotolo had already returned to the United States, leaving about the same time that Dylan arrived in Italy. It was there that he finished the song, ostensibly inspired by the apparent end of his relationship with Rotolo. Upon his return to New York in mid-January, he persuaded Rotolo to get back together, and to move back into his apartment on 4th Street. Suze Rotolo is the woman featured on the album cover, walking arm in arm with Dylan down Jones Street, not far from their apartment.[3]

While in London, Dylan met several figures in the local folk scene, including English folksinger Martin Carthy. "I ran into some people in England who really knew those [traditional English] songs," Dylan recalled in 1984. "Martin Carthy, another guy named [Bob] Davenport. Martin Carthy's incredible. I learned a lot of stuff from Martin." Carthy exposed Dylan to a repertoire of traditional English ballads, including Carthy's own arrangement of "Scarborough Fair," which Dylan drew upon for aspects of the melody and lyrics of "Girl from the North Country," including the line from the refrain "Remember me to one who lives there, she once was a true love of mine". Musically, this song is nearly identical to his composition "Boots of Spanish Leather",[4] composed and recorded one year later for the album The Times They Are a-Changin'.


Rolling Stone magazine ranked the song 30th on a list of the "100 Greatest Bob Dylan Songs". In an article accompanying the list, Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards wrote: "While the British Invasion was going on, Bob Dylan was the man who really pulled the American point of view back into focus. At the same time, he had been drawing on Anglo-Celtic folk songs, and that's certainly true of "Girl From the North Country". It's got all the elements of beautiful folk writing without being pretentious. In the lyrics and the melody, there is an absence of Bob's later cutting edge. There's none of that resentment. He recorded it again later with Johnny Cash, but I don't think it's a duo song. Bob got it right the first time".[5]

Live performances

According to his official website, Dylan performed the song 569 times live between 1963 and 2019.[6] Live performances by Dylan appear on the albums Real Live (1984), The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration (1993; recorded 1992), The Bootleg Series Vol. 13: Trouble No More 1979–1981 (Deluxe Edition) (2017; recorded 1981), Live 1962-1966: Rare Performances From The Copyright Collections (2018; recorded 1964), and The Bootleg Series Vol. 15: Travelin' Thru, 1967-1969 (Deluxe Edition) (2019; recorded 1969). A February 1964 performance for Canadian television was included on the DVD release of Martin Scorsese's PBS television documentary on Dylan, No Direction Home in 2005.

Notable versions

See also


  1. ^ a b Bjorner, Olof (November 21, 2015). "5th Nashville Skyline session, 18 February 1969". Retrieved October 31, 2016.
  2. ^ "The original 'Girl From the North Country,' Bob Dylan's high school sweetheart has died". Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  3. ^ Margotin, Philippe; Guesdon, Jean-Michel. Bob Dylan: all the songs: the story behind every track (First ed.). New York. ISBN 1-57912-985-4. OCLC 869908038.
  4. ^ Sheehy, Colleen Josephine; Thomas Swiss (2009). Highway 61 revisited: Bob Dylan's road from Minnesota to the world. U of Minnesota Press. p. 85. ISBN 9780816661008.
  5. ^ "100 Greatest Bob Dylan Songs". Rolling Stone. 2020-05-24. Retrieved 2021-05-14.
  6. ^ "Setlists | The Official Bob Dylan Site". Retrieved 2021-05-14.
  7. ^ "Another Sky - Altan - Songs, Reviews, Credits - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  8. ^ Live at the Grand Ole Opry House, Nashville, Tennessee - 7 October 1970, The ABC Show Series Vol. 6, Ryman Records
  9. ^ Girl from the North Country (with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra), retrieved 2022-01-26
  10. ^ "Mad Dogs & Englishmen - Joe Cocker - Songs, Reviews, Credits - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  11. ^ "With Strings: Live at Town Hall - Eels - Songs, Reviews, Credits - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  12. ^ "Smiler - Rod Stewart - Songs, Reviews, Credits - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  13. ^ "Amnesty International - Chimes of Freedom – Amnesty International - Chimes of Freedom". 2017-03-29. Retrieved 2017-04-29.
  14. ^ Greg Prato (2004-09-21). "The Hard Way - John Waite | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2017-04-29.
  15. ^ "Mr. Guitar - Link Wray - Songs, Reviews, Credits - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  16. ^ Greene, Andy (18 April 2014). "Neil Young's New Covers Album Available Right Now: Surprise!". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 19 April 2014.
  17. ^ Passenger | Girl From The North Country (Bob Dylan Cover), retrieved 2021-04-20

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