Hero Blues: the song that almost replaced the magnificent “One to Many Mornings”

by Tony Attwood

Hero Blues is, to tell the truth, nothing special, and in my original list of compositions of 1962, I didn’t include it.  It was only because I realised that Dylan had revived it some years later that I thought it ought to be in the chronology.

In short it’s a 12 bar blues which has gone through a few re-writings, composed in 1963, amended in 1964 and then again as a full band version in 1974.  The original acoustic version finally appeared on the Witmark Demos CD.

Here’s the Freewheelin outtake

During the rewrite the song changed and became darker than originally composed, but that’s not really the thing that made me think we ought to include it here.

Rather it is the fact that Dylan actually thought that this should be included on “Times” instead of the overwhelmingly important and beautiful “One too many mornings”.   I have been sitting here for hours wondering why, trying to find an explanation, and really I can’t save that what Dylan wants to say at this moment is always more important than the overall artistic merit of some other song.

As for the full band version, maybe the revival in interest in the song came because Dylan wanted to say something about hero worship to his audience – that would make sense in relation to the fact that the song was chosen as the opener for the couple of concerts where it appeared.

Certainly the theme of a woman wanting her man to be a big time hero is one that has seemed on occasion to be something that concerns Dylan.   In the end Dylan didn’t use this song to express this view, but rather “I shall be free number 10” which opens with

I’m just average, common too
I’m just like him, the same as you
I’m everybody’s brother and son
I ain’t different from anyone
It ain’t no use a-talking to me
It’s just the same as talking to you

“Hero Blues” is only different because it is nasty while “I shall be free 10” seems less angry, slightly more reflective, lighter and with more humour.

Yes, the gal I got
I swear she’s the screaming end
She wants me to be a hero
So she can tell all her friends

In this song it is all the woman’s fault – she expects the man to be the superhero and be the man she ordered from the robotics store, rather than a regular human being.  (Actually I ought to try and write something along those lines – with the robot bit in it).

She reads too many books
She got new movies inside her head
She reads too many books
She got movies inside her head
She wants me to walk out running
She wants me to crawl back dead

You need a different kinda man, babe
One that can grab and hold your heart
Need a different kind of man, babe
One that can hold and grab your heart
You need a different kind of man, babe
You need Napoleon Boneeparte

and so on.   It’s not that important, and I wouldn’t mention it all, were it not for the fact that we nearly didn’t get “One to many…” which was absolutely one of my all time favourite folk songs when I first heard it and which I can still listen to and find interesting.

If you have not heard the Witmark album version do go back and listen – it is of course on Spotify, but you really should have the album.   The two versions (Witmark and the electric re-write) really are quite different.

Overall the song was played 5 times between 1963 and 1974 here’s the 74.  And for that we should give thanks so that we have the lines

You need a different kind of man, babe
One that can hold and grab your heart
You need a different kind of man, babe
You need Napoleon Boneeparte

Oh yes.

The Discussion Group

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The Chronology Files

There are reviews of Dylan’s compositions from all parts of his life, up to the most recent writings, but of late I have been trying to put these into chronological order, and fill in the gaps as I work.

All the songs reviewed on this site are also listed on the home page in alphabetical order – just scroll down a bit once you get there.





  1. The 1970 vinyl double bootleg that I have “Zimmerman: Looking Back”of the 1963 NY Town Hall gig has ‘Hero Blues’on it where the audience laughs at the ‘Boneepart part, different from the Witmark version.

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