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)