Owed To Bobby Allen: A Joan Baez Revelation

Owed To Bobby Allen:
A Joan Baez Revelation

By Larry Fyffe

Yet another well-kept secret about Dylan uncovered!

“Now you’re telling me
You’re not nostalgic
Then give me another word for it
You who are so good with words
And at keeping things vague
Because I need some of that vagueness now
It all comes back too clearly
Yes I loved you dearly
And if you’re offering me diamonds
and rust
I’ve already paid”
(Joan Baez: Diamonds And Rust)

Baez speaks about Robert Allen Zimmerman, telling him she owes him nothing; she’s already paid.

But what are the words that Joan needs to hear from Bob? Surely not “Rose Bud”, the rusty old sled that turns out to be the only real love object of Citizen Kane?

“She read that the prince had returned to the stage
Hovering near treacherous waters
A friend saw her drifting and caught her
Unguarded fantasies fly too far
Memories tumbling like sweets from a jar”
(Joan Baez: Winds Of The Old Days)

Sounds as though the required words have something  to do with ‘sweets”.

In other song lyrics, there are more clues as to why Joan Baez is so upset with Dylan.

“In Scarlet Town where I was born
There was a fair maid dwellin’
And her name was known both far and near
And they called her Barbara Allen

Barbara Allen was buried in the old churchyard
Sweet William was buried beside her
Out of Sweet William’s heart grew a red, red rose
Out of Barbara Allen’s, a briar”
(Bob Dylan: Barbara Allen)

The much earlier bootlegged ‘Ode To Barbara Allen’, featured on the Amazing Kony Fone Record Label, demonstrates there Dylan sings, not “Sweet William”, but instead the words “Poor William”.

“In Charlottetown not far from here
There was a fair maid dwellin’
And her name was known both far and near
And her name was Barbary Allen

‘Twas in the merry month of May
Green buds they were swellin’
Poor William on his death bed lay
For the love of Barbary Allen”
(Bob Dylan: Barbara Allen)

It appears that the word “Sweet”, to Dylan, becomes somewhat of an obsession; there’s something’s on his mind.

The answer to what that is blows in the wind coming down from the Great White North. The lyrics of the following song clearly show that the song is absolutely not about sweet Buffy Sainte-Marie, the Canadian folksinger of ‘Universal Soldier’, in spite of this being thought so by a number of critics.

“Well, I don’t know how it happened, but the
Riverboat captain, he knows my fate
But everybody else, even yourself
They’re just gonna have to wait

Well, I got the fever down in my pockets
The Persian drunkard, he follows me
Yes, I can take him to your house but I can’t unlock it
You see you forgot to leave me with the key
Oh, where are you tonight, Sweet Marie?”
(Bob Dylan: Absolutely Sweet Marie)

Instead, the song’s definitely about  “Sweet Marie”, the name of a peanut and caramel chocolate bar invented in Canada, and easily available there; not so in Iran, nor in Britain, nor in the United States Of America.

So Dylan hides the bars securely away when he has possession of some. You see, it’s so hard to get his hands on a “Sweet Marie”.

Little wonder Joan feels nothing’s owed to Bobby Allen after she finds his stash of Sweet Marie chocolate bars, and realizes that Bob’s real obsession happens to be candy.


You might also enjoy: Oh Sister: Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, exchanging thoughts through song.

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