Quinn The Eskimo

Album: Mighty Quinn (1968)
Charted: 1 10
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  • This was written by Bob Dylan, but Manfred Mann was the first to record it. Manfred Mann, a British group named after their keyboard player, took Dylan's "Just Like A Woman" to #10 in the UK with their 1966 cover and was known in America for their #1 hit "Do Wah Diddy Diddy" from 1964.

    It was rare for Dylan to let anyone record one of his songs before he did, but "Quinn The Eskimo" was an exception. Mike D'Abo of Manfred Mann explained how it happened. "We met in a publisher's house as Bob Dylan was making some new material available to other artists," D'Abo said. "We heard about 10 songs and I thought 'This Wheel's On Fire' would be the one to do, but Manfred liked The Mighty Quinn, which was called 'Quinn The Eskimo' then. It was sung in a rambling monotone but Manfred had recognized its potential. He sold me on the idea of doing this song, but I had to make up some of the words as I couldn't make out everything he was saying. It was like learning a song phonetically in a foreign language. I have never had the first idea what the song is about except that it seems to be 'Hey, gang, gather round, something exciting is going to happen 'cause the big man's coming.' As to who the big man is and why he is an Eskimo, I don't know." (from 1000 UK #1 Hits by Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh)
  • Typical of Bob Dylan, the lyric is vivid but vague, tell the story of the eagerly anticipated Quinn the Eskimo. It's possible that Dylan came up with the idea after seeing the 1959 Nicholas Ray movie The Savage Innocents. In that movie, Anthony Quinn plays an Eskimo named Inuk. The film is also notable as the first screen appearance of Peter O'Toole, who demanded that his name be removed from the film as all of his dialog was dubbed by another actor. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bob - The Colony, TX
  • Dylan released his version in 1970 on his album Self Portrait. It also appears on his 1972 album More Greatest Hits. Ron Cornelius was Dylan's guitarist for the Self Portrait sessions. He told Songfacts about the experience: "There's everybody and his brother flying into Nashville to play on that thing. If you look at the credits, it's amazing how many people were delighted to come and play on it. Out of everybody I've worked with, I don't know of anyone who's been any nicer than Bob Dylan."
  • This is also known as "The Mighty Quinn." It was featured in a 1989 movie with that name starring Denzel Washington as a police officer named Xavier Quinn. The song is performed in the movie by Sheryl Lee Ralph.
  • This was also recorded by Leon Russell, The Hollies, and Gary Puckett and The Union Gap.
  • The Grateful Dead occasionally played this at their shows. Here's one story that circulated about the song: The Grateful Dead years ago had a wild LSD party in a New York City hotel during a tour visit. Allegedly, one of the party guests was Bob Dylan. One of the other guests at the hotel didn't appreciate the noise and voiced several complaints. It was actor Anthony Quinn who'd played an Eskimo in The Savage Innocents. That could have inspired a partying Dylan to write a strange and funny song like this. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Joe - Minneapolis, MN
  • One theory is that "The Mighty Quinn" is Sheriff Larry Quinlan, who raided the Castillia Foundation land in Millbrook, New York and arrested Dr. Timothy Leary and his group of hippies. Quinlan confiscated all the LSD and other drugs at the scene. In this scenario, the "pigeons" are informers. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Jerry - Poughkeepsie, NY
  • Bob Dylan never had a UK #1 hit as an artist, but he had two as a songwriter: "Mr. Tambourine Man" by The Byrds and "Quinn The Eskimo" by Manfred Mann.

Comments: 64

  • Phil from BurlingtonIt appears that Quinn might not have been an Innuit (Eskimo) but a Native American also a river and a university are named as such, in long form, Quinnipiac University, Connecticut and Quinnipiac River. I wonder if there is any connection? I don't know my music history very well. Very curious. I'd just heard the song again yesterday after not having heard it since my younger years and I had always thought it was "there is nothing like the mighty wind". That is why I was looking it up. I also didn't realize it was a Dylan song. Ahhhh life.
  • Quinn from North PoleHe's the guy on the Eskimo pie.
  • Steve from Chicago, IlThe double negatives in the lyrics could hold the true meaning of this song.
  • Coy from Palestine, TexasThe song is classic Dylan. You need to analyze the era. We were in the Cold War and afraid of the Russians. Every politician was seeing a Communist Plot. Dylan's family are Russian Jews. He is laughing at the fear of Communists by saying "When Mighty Quinn gets here everybody's gonna jump for joy!" In other words, we need not fear the Russians--if they took over life would be essentially the same-'building monuments and boats'. It's nothing to do with Anthony Quinn or Eskimos at all. Dylan loved to poke fun at the establishment, especially the fear they spread to "control" the masses.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn March 16, 1968, a video of Manfred Mann's "The Mighty Quinn (Quinn the Eskimo)" was aired on the Dick Clark ABC-TV Saturday-afternoon program, 'American Bandstand'...
    At the time the song was at #25 on Billboard's Top 100 chart, four weeks later it would peak at #10 {for 2 weeks} and it spent eleven weeks on the Top 100...
    And on February 14th, 1968 it reached #1 {for 2 weeks} on the United Kingdom's Singles chart...
    Between 1964 and 1969 the British band had six records on the Top 100 chart, two made the Top 10...
    Besides the above, their other Top 10 record was the Exciters' "Do Wah Diddy Diddy", it reached #1 {for 2 weeks} on October 11th, 1964...
    Under the name of Manfred Mann's Earth Band, from 1972 to 1979 they charted five times on the Top 100, with one making the Top 10, Springsteen's "Blinded By The Light", it peaked at #1 {for 1 week} on February 13th, 1977...
    Leader Manfred Mann, born Manfred Sepse Lubowitz, will celebrate his 78th birthday this coming October 21st {2018}.
  • Daniel from Burlington, Vermont, UsaThe first time I ever heard a version of this song was at my first live Dead show (Buckeye Lake, OH July 29 1994, though I'd been listening to tapes of the GD since at least 10 years before that), and I just naturally assumed that the lyrics went, "everybody's gonna want a DOSE"... especially given the crowd reaction at that line, presumably everybody else assumed the same thing, and maybe that was the way Jerry sang it. Anyway, if the reaction to Quinn's arrival is excitement, that STILL seems to make more sense to me than a reaction of everyone being put to sleep and wanting to doze.
  • Howard from LevittownIt sounds to me like Dylan is arbitrarily using that source material(a ** movie with Anthony Quinn) as a metaphor for the Messiah or the Millenium. Just use anything for when everything will be put right. It could have been Mike the Postman in the USPS commercials.
  • Kathy from Manchester, NhWhen I was young I met a group that was staying in Boston, Ma. There was a midget who was sick, and his name was Quinn. I remember a man name Bobby in the band. They sang the Mighty Quinn song, and said it was made for Quinn. Now that I have read the lyrics, it all makes sense, that maybe the song was for Quinn.
  • Boo from Boulder, CoI always thought since Quinn was an eskimo and everyone would be glad to see him, it was "everybody's gonna warm a nose" to greet him eskimo-style rather than "wanna doze."
  • Mike from Flagstaff, AzI had a friend who went to college in Boston in the 60's. He said that he believed The Mighty Quinn to be named after a powerful variation of LSD that was around then. Having said that, I would be more inclined to believe that Rich, from Levittown, would be correct in his view that it was about Quaaludes. After all, Pigeons were running to him and, everybody's gonna want to doze, which Quaaludes will definitely make you do! Or, so I've heard.
  • Veronica from Montreal, QcPigeons don't roost in trees. They tend to roost on telephone or hydro wires. They like the higher apartment balconies, too.

    Dylan was a poet as much as a songwriter. This song is no sillier than a lot of Dylan's songs. "When you're lost in the rain in Juarez and it's Easter time too. And your gravity fails and negativity don't pull you through. Don't put on any airs when you're down on rue Morgue Avenue. They've got some hungry women there and they'll really make a mess out of you." Just Like Tom Thumb' s Blues , B.Dylan, 1965
    Anybody wanna hear the second verse?
  • Teresa from Mechelen, BelgiumOne of these great songs of the 60's, a number 1 hit, I love it very much. I know this is a Dylan song but I only know the version of Manfred Mann.
  • Vicki from Osteen, FlMy husband always told me it was about huffing freon - whatever.
  • Steve from Whittier, CaThere were a LOT of those "happy","childlike", or in real simplistic syles, "Bubblegum", though it's unfair to apply that to Manfred Mann, but I always feel that, along with "Unicorn","Judy in Disguise","Sunday WIll Never Be The Same",."Love Grows",and others, that it was just a happy, funny toe tapping rock tune UNTIL one day in the late 1970s I found out that "Quinn the Eskimo/The Mighty Quinn" was written by....gasp.....BOB DYLAN!!!


    Anyway, odd case of a group who didn't seem to have a lotta USA hits..Barry of NYC's right in had Manfred Mann
    had this sandwiched between their two #1 hits: "Do Wah Diddy Diddy" & "Blinded by the Light".

    BTW For the, er, record, the chorus as I remember isn't "...you'll not see nothin'", but "you ain't seen nothin.."

    Take care!!
  • Yorr from Warsaw, PolandMy humble theory: think Eskimo=snow and Mighty Quinn=mighty queen. With this in mind you can read:
    Everybody's in despair, every girl and boy
    But when Quinn the Eskimo gets here, everybody's gonna jump for joy
    Song is great anyway. I like BD version the most.
  • Barry from New York, NcManfred Mann also had hits with "Do Wah Diddy" and "Blinded By the Light." The three songs sound so completely different it's hard to believe that they were all done by the same artist.
  • Eisso from Groningen, NetherlandsManfred Mann of course had more hits, like 'Oo wah diddy' and 'Ha ha said the clown'.
  • Julie from Charlottesville, VaI always understood it to mean Winston Churchill. He was the mighty Quinn.
  • Qwinn from Kenosha, WiI freakin luv this song!!! probably the best song ever in the entire freakin universe. My names Quinn, but now I like to spell it with a "w" instead of a "u". i dont know what bob dylan was smoking when he wrote this song, but id like to be smokin whatever it was right now!!!! and of course everyone like totally forgot about doo wah diddy. that sog rocks too. anyways, rock on!!!!
  • Cliff from Baker, LaA good thought prevoking tune
  • Chilcox from Atchison, KsThis song blows goats.
  • Tiffany from Little Rock, ArI love this song and have since I was a little girl. I prefer to keep the lyrics "family friendly" in my mind and just think of a big charismatic Eskimo coming back to town and being the life of the coming-home celebration.
  • Fred from Laurel, MdAnother of Manfred Mann's hits was Fox on the Run. *** Dylan has become sort of notorious for reworking/revising/mangling his own songs, by changing (or even mumbling) the lyrics every time he does another performance, at least with SOME of his songs. But several of the passages in the lyrics given here aren't anything I've ever heard sung by Manfred Mann. I'm pretty sure the 1st verse starts, "Everybody's building ships and boats"--the words, "the big" aren't in there, 'cause it doesn't scan that way! And that the 2nd v. starts, "I like to go just like the rest, I like my sugar sweet / But jumping queues and making haste just ain't my cup of meat." And that the 3rd v. starts, "Let me do what I wanna do, I can't decide on (or maybe, "I can't decide at all"? so it will rhyme?) / Just tell me where to put 'em, and I'll tell you who to call." Finally, the 2-line refrain is definitely doubled each time, "Come all without, come all within, / You'll not see nothing like the Mighty Quinn. / Come all without, come all within, / You'll not see nothing like the Mighty Quinn." I think I'm remembering the 1968 Manfred Mann recording. Could I be thinking of a different one?

  • Giveusakiss from Geelong, AustraliaThey had another hit in 1976 (as Manfred Mann's Earth Band) with "Blinded By The Light," Says the first comment.
    This comment leaves one with the impression that MM had oly 2 hits. They had a lot more than that!
    As for the song itself, the words are rubbish (Lines like 'cup of meat' What else would you expect from a cr*p artist like Dylan?). But MM makes it sound good.
  • Tj from Milwaukee, WiThe song mad BD alot of money. TJ
  • James from SydneyAlthough Anthony Quinn played a Greek in Zorba The Greek, he is not Greek, he is Mexican.

    "Anthony Quinn was born Antonio Rudolfo Oaxaca Quinn on April 21, 1915 in Chihuahua, Mexico to an ethnic Irish Mexican father and an ethnic Mexican mother."


    By the way, this is a top song, very upbeat, especially for Dylan. I love the way he plays with words, the master lyricist.
    This song is also often used as a sporting team theme song, they simply replace "Quinn" with the team name in the chorus. For instance "You ain't seen nothing like the mighty Saints" etc etc.
  • Anne from Dodge City, KsEven if this song means that the Eskimos should rise up, have a race war and kill us all I would still LOVE it!
  • Rick from San Juan, United StatesOriginal MTV V.J. Martha Quinn was referred to as "The Mighty Quinn" because of this song.
  • Rick from Columbus, GaI totally never understood this song. Anthony Quinn wasn't an Eskimo he was Greek! Dylan must have written this after his motorcycle wreck when his head was still bashed in.
  • Rich from Levittown, NyI heard this when Quaaludes became so extremely popular with "everyone", and considering how extremely "mighty" they were, I always thought that "Quinn" was code for "Quaalude". "Doze" makes sense with that and "low-hanging" too. But this is sheer speculation and I always thought the lyric was "dose", anyway. I'm now listening to Rickie Lee Jones' "Sunshine Superman", speaking of trippy lyrics.
  • Robert from North Decatur, United States
    'I like my sugar sweet'- truth, true things
  • Richard from Louisville, KyMike D'Abo is the lead singer on Quinn the Eskimo.
  • J from Medford, MaWow - a little imagination helps Zeke. Limbs are park benches - they're made out of wood and are placed under trees in the park.

    Anyway, I heard a much more convoluted story about the origins of this song...In short, it had to do with an Acid dealer who undercut the mob dominating the business when acid was relatively new. He used an eskimo blotter, and he basically gave it way, which is why people were so thrilled when he showed up - "All the pigeons gonna run to him" is kind of perfect imagery for the situation. Similar - if not directly related - to the scene in "Hair" when the hippies run up to get dosed by the dude giving out tabs in the park.

    It makes some sense when you read the lyrics, especially if you substitute "dose" for "doze" at the end of the song (which The Dead do in their version, not sure what dylan does live)
  • Tin Ear from Fullerton, CaI think the Beatles ripped this one off. "Everybody had a hard year, everybody let your hair down" is very silimar to a peice in Mighty Quinn. If you listen, you could hear more familiarities as well. I guess this one wasn't as obvious as that whole "come on flat top" incident.
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScI don't get why Eric doesn't like this one!
  • Mar from Kingston, CanadaWhere I once worked, there was an Irish priest called Father Quinn. He had a large sail boat named 'The Mighty Quinn'. He used to take a group of partiers out on his boat and as we left port and went up the river, he played that song so loud it echoed up and down the waterway. That priest threw a great pary. Mar, Kingston, Ont.
  • Tyler from New Orleans, LaI think it's interesting if you listen to the manfred mann version, and play the part "let me do what I wanna do, I can decide on my own" backwards, they clearly say the words "acid maker"
  • Mac from Evanston, IlI'm sorry erik didn't like this song; his loss. I think it's an excellent song, and I think MM created an ominous, irresistible hook for the song. I always thought it was about a heroin dealer, not LSD, but I guess I'm wrong. I also thought it might be what Dylan was observing in one of the parks in Lower Manhattan, either Washington Sq. Pk. (heart of Greenwich Village) or Tompkins Sq. Pk., a bit to the east (the Lower East Side, renamed the "East Village" in the '60s) during the years he lived there; both were big drug-dealing and -copping spots at the time.
  • Steve from Torrance, CaAfter forming the Earth Band, Manfred Mann re-recorded a live version of this song for his 1978 album, "Watch".
  • Blair from Paignton, EnglandBy far the best sing of this song is done by the Torquay Quins Rugby team also knon as
    THE MIGHTY QUINS it has been adopted as the team song and sounds wonderful sung by a squad of 35 players acompanied by Cider guinness and black.
  • Steve from Almond, NyBack around the time this song came out, I remember a dj who had a nationwide top 40 countdown radio show (can't remember his name-but it wasn't Casey Kasem) saying that the 'Mighty Quin' referred to Winston Churchill. His nickname was 'Quiny'. This song was about Churchill's heroic stand during WWII. Churchill was cold and calculating regarding his determination to save England and defeat the Germans. Therefore the songwriter called him 'Quin the eskimo'.
    -Steve, Almond, NY
  • Quin from Anchorage, AkI am a 38 year old black male, borned and raised in Alaska. For the first 18 years of my life I hated my name (Quin, I spelled with two N's until I was 14). One day someone told me about the song, then I started appreciating my name more. I actually got a tattoo on my right fore arm the reads Mighty Quin. I heard a lot of stories about what the song is all about. One, about Anthony Quinn, another about how it's about a drug dealer and many more. But the one explaination that was told to me by my tattoo artist was this. The song is about a fellow who is at a party and everyone is bored. The man starts telling people at the party about a perticular someone(the Mighty Quin) who is going to come and liven up the party.
  • Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, ScHaha this song is crazy. It makes no sense really, but that's why I love it. Ha ha ha ha ha.!!!
  • Black from Toronto, Canada"Quiet Riot"
    also covered this song.
    Its my favourite version.
  • Andrew from TorontoI agree with Jake(which just happens tobe my sons name)that people are reading way too much into a great pop song.Does everything have to make sense or have a deeper meaning?In this volitile world I guess yes.Too bad.Great fun song.P.S. The other tune by Manfred Mann is Do Wah Diddy...
  • Papa from Colfax, Iaactually the pigeon comment is the closest one here. Its actually about one night that bob was out waiting for his LSD dealer who was coincidentally a large asian man who resembled an eskimo. Anyway theres probably a good chance that it is named after one of those people in the movies or whatever but it is actually just what he decided to refer to his dealer during this song. Anyway he wrote it while he was waiting on a park bench and there was an older man a couple seats down feeding pigeons. Peace
  • Eric from Belmont, CaI had heard that there was a happy Eskimo that gave out acid at a folk festival in Alaska that Dylan played at and people were waiting for him to show up at another gig to really start the party.
  • Luke from Manchester, EnglandI thouight it was about sex...

  • Brian from Meriden, CtFeeding pigeons on a limb seems to be within the realm of rational thought.

    Pretty people sitting on a steeple all drinking are not thinking that they got it made.

    Pigeon feeding, mmm, could happen.
  • James from Sydney, AustraliaIve never heard the Manfre Mann version, but the Dylan version is different from the lyrics on this website.

    MM = Manfred Mann
    BD = Bob Dylan

    But guarding fumes and making haste (MM)
    But jumping cues and making haste (BD)

    A cat's meow and a cow's moo, I can recite 'em all (MM)
    A cat's moo and a cow's meow, you know I can recite 'em all (BD)

    Ev'rybody's 'neath the trees, feeding pigeons on a limb (MM)
    Ev'rybody's out there feeding apigeons out on a limb (BD)
    (some versions say "Sitting there feeding a pigeons out on a limb")

    Dylan was one of the best (if not THE best) songwriters of all time, his play on words is unmatched.

    Feeding a pigeon out on a limp could mean the pigeon was out on a tree's limb (branch), or it could mean the pigeaon was down & out on his luck, or living beyond his means so to speak.

    Oh & Erik, like Roger Daltrey said, who are you?
    By the way, top song.

  • Dee from Indianapolis, InThis song is on a greatest hits CD that I have by them. I liked it the 1st time I heard it. Manfred Mann had other hits as well, but no one seems to remember them.
  • Mandy from Calgary, CanadaI have a friend named Quinn. Actually, he is my ex-boyfriend, but we are still friends. So, this song makes me laugh, because I think of him. Its terrific.
  • Craig from Madison, WiCorrect me if I'm wrong, but wasn't this song originally recorded with The Band on the Basement Tapes? Released two years after Self-Portrait, recorded 3 years before.
    Also, Erik is entitled to his own opinion even if it does make him look the fool.
  • Melissa from Happy Place, KsThis song reminds me a lot of when my dad and I used to spend a whole lot of time together. He absolutely loved this song, and now I share his love for it. =)
  • Jake from Boulder, CoWell first off - the words don't make sense because they're allegorical. Which for Erik is probably a word he'll need to look up.

    You can be "beneath the trees" - "feeding pigeons on a limb" - but you'll have to think about it.

    It's a song you have to think about the words, and why they don't make sense - to make sense. Not unlike the poem about the Carpenter and the Walrus - much of it makes no sense until you look at it in the context not just of the poem itself but of the people, the characters, and the time it was written in.

    Primarilly it's meant to just ... have fun and get you thinking at the same time. A lost art at best.
  • Luke from Manchester, EnglandThis song isn't dumb, maybe Erik's too young to appreciate songs that are original and aren't made up of some guy speaking over someone else's songs
  • Dan from Collegeville, PaThe song isn't about drugs or anything like that. The eskimos have a Christ-like figure they worship named Quinn, and this is about the return of the Mighty Quinn.
  • Josh from Pittsburgh, PaIt may be dumb to you, but it did make #10 in the U.S. So, that says one of two things...either 1.) It's not dumb, or 2.) Society is dumb. I think it could be either or. ;-)
  • Keith from Slc, UtThere are several phrases in the song which were then in use in the Los Angeles dope scene, and it was widely believed that the song was double-entendre.
  • Dave from Holt, Mithis song is veddy veddy good.baseballdude29@iwon.com
  • Panther from Houston, TxFor some reason, what always gets me about this song is the drum riff that plays in between the words in the chorus. Here in an age when people are often trying to fit as many notes into the bars as they can, it's good to remember an example of "less is more".
  • Nate from Lincoln, NeManfred Mann's version of this song is by far the best. The Grateful Dead didn't do a bad job, but the Manfred Mann version has a great extended keyboard insturmental in the middle. Great Song.
  • Zeke from Wodonga, AustraliaBob was going through what I call his 'confused phase' when he wrote this - how can you be "neath the trees" feeding pigeons on a limb? They must be very low hanging limbs - possibly the pigeons have been fed too much and are now overwight? Would that be why the limbs are hanging so low?
    I'll ask my chum Calvin at www.zekesavant.com for clarification.
  • Erik from Davis, CaThis song is sooooooooooooo dumb.
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