Ballad of Easy Rider

Album: Ballad of Easy Rider (1969)
Charted: 65
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  • The star and script writer of Easy Rider, Peter Fonda, had wanted Bob Dylan to write the film's theme song. However, when he approached the king of folk-rock, he declined. Instead, Dylan quickly scribbled a lyric fragment on to a napkin, before telling Fonda to give it to Roger McGuinn. The Byrds frontman took Dylan's lines turning them into the first verse then expanded upon them with his own lyrical and musical contributions.
  • When Dylan saw a private screening of Easy Rider and realized that he had been credited as co-writer on its theme song, he telephoned McGuinn and demanded that his name be removed from the credits. It's believed that Dylan disowned the tune as he hated the film's ending.
  • The version of the country-tinged tune used in the film and included on the Easy Rider soundtrack album is McGuinn singing and playing acoustic guitar whilst fellow Byrd Gene Parsons accompanies him on harmonica. The version that The Byrds would later release as a single and include on their Ballad of Easy Rider album is a completely different take performed at a quicker tempo.
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Comments: 1

  • Ken from Philadelphia, PaRoger tells a very different version of the events. The basic elements are the same but there is no malice on Dylan’s part. Peter Fonda, indeed, hoped Dylan would write the title song. He went so far as to arrange a private screening in New York for him. After the screening, Dylan jotted down a sentence (which became the first line of the song) on a scrap of paper and gave to Fonda, saying cryptically, “give this to Roger. He’ll know what to do”. Fonda returned to California and gave the scrap of paper to the only Roger he knew, Roger McGuinn. McGuinn took it and wrote the rest of the song. He had no other direction from Dylan except the one cryptic statement he made to Fonda in New York. To be safe, Roger had Dylan listed as a 50-50 co-writer. Dylan realized it months later when he started getting royalty checks and called Roger and said, very graciously, “take my name off there. I don’t need the money. You keep it.”
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