Girl From The North Country

Album: The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (1963)


  • In this song, Dylan sings of a lost love who was from the North Country: "Well, if you're travelin' in the north country fair/Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline/Remember me to one who lives there/She once was a true love of mine." Debate continues to rage as to who this song is referring to. Some fans believe it to be about Echo Helstrom or Bonnie Beecher, Dylan's sweethearts before he left Minnesota for New York. Others claim it is about Suze Rotolo, who is pictured walking arm in arm with Dylan on the cover of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan.
  • In 1962, Dylan visited England for the first time. Here, he met many local folk artists, including Martin Carthy, who introduced Dylan to many traditional English ballads, including "Scarborough Fair." Dylan would lift the line "Remember me to one who lives there/She once was a true love of mine" from this ballad for "Girl From The North Country."
  • Dylan and Johnny Cash collaborated on a joint version of this song for Dylan's 1969 album, Nashville Skyline.
  • Joe Cocker, Sting, Rod Stewart, Eddie Vedder and The Black Crowes have all covered this song.
  • The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan was Dylan's second album. The album touched on civil rights and the fear of nuclear warfare, leading to Dylan being labeled the "Spokesman of a Generation" - a label he would come to resent.

Comments: 25

  • Thomas from Montpelier VermontLet us not forget The Grateful Dead covering this song and many others from the Bob Dylan.
  • Anita from EarthThis song was written by Stephen Stills. I heard him sing it on TV after saying he had written it.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn June 7th 1969, Bob Dylan appeared on the debut episode of the ABC-TV weekly musical series, 'The Johnny Cash Show'*
    He performed two songs; "I Threw It All Away" and "Living the Blues", plus Johnny joined him it a duet of "Girl from the North Country"...
    * The 'Cash' show ran for two seasons with a total of 56 episodes.
  • Dj from Hope, NjIf you can find it somewhere, it's really worth checking out the video of Dylan performing this song on the Canadian television show "Quest" that aired on the CBC on January 2, 1964. The director of the show chose to have Dylan's performance (he sang several songs) staged as though it were taking place in a very rustic cabin located in a logging camp. While the other men in the cabin quietly go about their business doing things like writing letters, Dylan, as one of the loggers, simply sings and plays the guitar to no one in particular, just as you might expect to see take place in real life. Dylan is so young in the video and there's something it that really gives you a sense of the heart that must have gone into his writing it.
  • Rob from Detroit, MiMy understanding is that this song is about Suze Rotolo. RIP Suze.
  • Wilson from Raleigh, NcDitto on the Joe Cocker/Leon Russell version. It is as pretty as it gets. Does anyone know for sure that Dylan plays the guitar on this song(Freewheelin Version)?
  • Thomas from Lubbock, TxAnother great version of this has been done recently by Jim James of My Morning Jacket, M.Ward, and Conor Oberst. Its been played live where each takes a verse. Brilliance
  • Miguel Angel from Madrid, SpainEels covered the song in 'With Strings Live At Town Hall' . I love this version
  • Jessica from Greensboro, NcThe BEST version I have ever heard of this song is Joe Cocker and Leon Russell's version. You guys check it'll give you chills.
  • Adam from Poplar Bluff, MoI love the Johnny Cash duet if this song, it is so beautiful
  • Andrew from Cleveland, Ohi dont care how he plays it...i have three different versions on my computer, including the duet with cash which is priceless as well...any way he does it, this song is unreal...hes so good...
  • SinÃ?ad from Galway, IrelandWhat an amazing song. Don't think it's about Echo Helstrom though..Bonnie Breecher I think!
  • Chris from Whitesboro, NyRobert Plant and The Strange Sensation covered this on their 2006 tour as a showcase number for guitarist Justin Adams and pianist John Baggot. I highly recommend it to all those who like the original, because in my opinion it's about 5 times better...
  • Kevin from Carteret, NjI prefer the "Freewheelin'" version. His voice sounds so young that it adds to the theme of lost young lovers.
  • Joanie from Bowling Green, KyAbout an old girlfriend Echo Helstrom in Minnesota - and that's definately the North Country!
  • Jon from Oakridge, OrThe duet version with Johnny Cash on nashville skyline is the best I've heard yet. Of course, it's Johnny Cash.
  • Mike from Scarsdale, Nydoes anyone else think the version on nashville skyline (with johnny cash) think that it sounds similar to "the weight"?
  • Zach from Sanbornville, NhThis song was written for "Freewheelin'" in 1962. The song "Scarborough Fair" is a traditional song, and was the source for the afformentioned lines. This was common practice in the Greenwhich Villiage folk days, Bob in perticular. The melodies from "Blowin' In The Wind", "Woody's Song" "Lay Down Your Weary Tune", among numerous others, are all from traditional songs.
  • Brian from Sydney, CanadaI wonder if Brian Wilson was influenced by this song when he was at his creative peak with 'Pet Sounds'? The song "Caroline,No" is about a girl who cuts her hair. There is a good argument for it. Plus a little sidenote, check out my posting under 'Mr. Tambourine Man'. Another coincidence?
  • Petter from Ã?ngelholm, Swedenon his album Nashville Skyline from 1969 Dylan did a beautiful version of this, as a duet with Johnny Cash.
  • Chad from Reading, PaI love this song. Without a doubt my favorite acoustic Dylan song and maybe even my favorite overall Dylan song. Dylan puts through a lot of emotion on this song and you could tell he was having fun as he started to put together his own songs. Dylan was not a very serious artist (well he was serious about putting on a great performance) at this time. You can hear this with his little laugh during the line 'It rolls and flows all down her breast.'
  • John Dylan from Blah, MsI love the guitar on this. Dylan gets no credit for being a guitarist but this song alone proves he was at least pretty good.
  • Ed from Perth, AustraliaRe the Scarborough Fair fact above - it should read: Bob Dylan used the lines "Remember me to one who lives there, She once was a true love of mine" taken from the old traditional "Scarborough Fair". In fact, a similar statement could be written about a lot of Dylan's early songs.
  • Julian from Oakland, ArBob Dylan did a duet of this song with Johnny Cash
  • Mark from Hereford, EnglandDylan played in a club in London with veteran English folkie Martin Carthy (father of Eliza). He acknowledges the debt to Carthy for nicking the tune and form and some of the words from a song in Carthy's repertoire, the traditional song, Scarborough Fair. Paul Simon also played with Carthy, and he borrowed the whole song. Hence the link.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Sarah Brightman

Sarah BrightmanSongwriter Interviews

One of the most popular classical vocalists in the land is lining up a trip to space, which is the inspiration for many of her songs.

Jello Biafra

Jello BiafraSongwriter Interviews

The former Dead Kennedys frontman on the past, present and future of the band, what music makes us "pliant and stupid," and what he learned from Alice Cooper.

Jimmy Webb

Jimmy WebbSongwriter Interviews

Webb talks about his classic songs "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," "Wichita Lineman" and "MacArthur Park."

Scott Gorham of Thin Lizzy and Black Star Riders

Scott Gorham of Thin Lizzy and Black Star RidersSongwriter Interviews

Writing with Phil Lynott, Scott saw their ill-fated frontman move to a darker place in his life and lyrics.

Michael W. Smith

Michael W. SmithSongwriter Interviews

Smith breaks down some of his worship tracks as well as his mainstream hits, including "I Will Be Here For You" and "A Place In This World."

Keith Reid of Procol Harum

Keith Reid of Procol HarumSongwriter Interviews

As Procol Harum's lyricist, Keith wrote the words to "A Whiter Shade Of Pale." We delve into that song and find out how you can form a band when you don't sing or play an instrument.