You must leave now, take what you need, you think will last But whatever you wish to keep, you better grab it fast
By the end of the first verse, however, Dylan's voice lilts in grief and regret:
And it's all over now, Baby Blue
The entire song oscillates between these emotions of scorn and sadness. The lyrics combine realist and surrealist images seamlessly and contain some of Dylan's best-loved lines:
Yonder stands your orphan with his gun Crying like a fire in the sun
Leave your stepping stones behind, something calls for you Forget the dead you've left, they will not follow you
Over the years, many critics and historians have made their case for who the "real" Baby Blue was. Folk musicians John Baez, David Blue, and Paul Clayton have all been floated as suspects, but thus far none of it has amounted to much beyond loose conjecture.
The song was recorded for Bringing It All Back Home on January 15, 1965, the same day as "Gates of Eden," "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)," and "Mr. Tambourine Man."
The Bootleg Series Vol. 7: No Direction Home album contains a solo acoustic version Dylan recorded on January 13, 1965, but didn't release. The album also contains a semi-electric version from January 14, 1965.
Dylan generally played his songs live a few times before recording them in studio. With "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue," he wanted to get it down on record before he had a chance to become too comfortable with it in concert.
This song appears last on the album and has been categorized as one of Dylan's "farewell" songs. As such, it continues a pattern established with the two preceding albums, which both also wrapped up with "farewell" songs. "The Times They Are A-Changin'" finishes with "Restless Farewell," and Another Side of Bob Dylan finishes with "It Ain't Me Babe."
The Belfast group Them, fronted by Van Morrison, had a hit in Germany with their cover of this song, cracking #13. This was in 1974, eight years after the band initially released it as a single in the Netherlands, to little success. After Morrison and Them parted ways, both continued performing the song in concert (with Them now going by The Belfast Gypsies). It's included on the second volume of The Best of Van Morrison.
Van Morrison became interested in the song after his producer, Bert Berns, gave him a copy of Bringing It All Back Home.
The Byrds covered the song on Ballad of Easy Rider in 1969. They recorded it two times previously, both in 1965. The first attempt was deemed unfit for release, but in 1987 was included on Never Before and in three times from 1990 to 2006 on box sets and reissues. The second version actually got played on radio for a very brief tie promotionally before the band decided to bury it.
Joan Baez covered the song on her 1965 album Farewell, Angelina. Baez is one of the most frequently fingered suspects for being the "real" Baby Blue.
The 13th Floor Elevators recorded a mystical, eerie-sounding version of the song on Easter Everywhere in 1967.