Bob Dylan Stole His Friend’s Arrangement for 1 of His Early Songs: ‘Very, Very Annoying’

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The Animals recorded “The House of the Rising Sun” in 1964, but Bob Dylan had already performed the song. The classic folk ballad “The House of the Rising Sun” has been recorded by several musicians. The arrangement of Dylan’s rendition differs from The Animal’s more well-known rendition. However, it was the same as musician Dave Van Ronk’s rendition. Without consulting Van Ronk, Dylan recorded the song using his composition.

Bob Dylan stole the arrangement of an early song from a friend and mentor

For his debut album, Dylan recorded “The House of the Rising Sun” in 1961. There are just two original songs in the song, the majority of which is traditional American music. After hearing friend and mentor Van Ronk’s rendition of the song, he decided to incorporate “The House of the Rising Sun.” Van Ronk regularly sang the song.

Van Ronk wrote in the book The Mayor of Macdougal Street, “By the early 1960s, the song had become one of my signature pieces, and I could hardly get off the stage without doing it, Then, one evening in 1962, I was sitting at my usual table in the back of the Kettle of Fish, and Dylan came slouching in. He had been up at the Columbia studios with John Hammond, doing his first album.”

Bob Dylan went over to Van Ronk and requested permission to cover his rendition of “The House of the Rising Sun.” Because he was getting ready to record it for his future album, Van Ronk didn’t want him to. Sadly for Van Ronk, it was already too late.

“Everything was going fine and, ‘Hey, would it be okay for me to record your arrangement of “House of the Rising Sun?”‘ Oh, s***. ‘Jeez, Bobby, I’m going into the studio to do that myself in a few weeks. Can’t it wait until your next album?’ A long pause. ‘Uh-oh.’ I did not like the sound of that. ‘What exactly do you mean, Uh-oh?’ ‘Well,’ he said sheepishly, ‘I’ve already recorded it.'”

According to Van Ronk, he was forced to cease singing the song in public.

In the documentary No Direction Home, he claimed, “After he recorded it, I had to stop singing the song because people were constantly accusing me of having got the song from Bobby’s record.” That was really, really annoying.

Dave Van Ronk said Bob Dylan with more than just this song

Van Ronk claims that Bob Dylan learned a lot about music via plagiarizing other musicians. He didn’t want anyone to assume that he was being taught by them.

Van Ronk said, per the book Down the Highway by Howard Sounes, “You could almost say he could not acquire anything except by stealing it. That is to say that he would watch, and if you tried to explain to him, he would [affect a lack of interest].”

The Animals recorded the most famous version of ‘House of the Rising Sun’

On his album Just Dave Van Ronk, Van Ronk recorded his rendition of the song in 1964. But neither this rendition nor Dylan’s is the most well-known. The Animals released their rendition of the song in 1964. The song was shorter and had a different chord pattern than Dylan and Van Ronk’s.

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