Dylan Obscuranti: Track 5 – Love is just a four letter word

Dylan Obscuranti – the tracks so far.

This is an imaginary album consisting of lesser known Dylan songs performed either by himself or (mostly) other people.

You can hear the opening tracks on our You Tube channel or via the articles…

Now… Love is Just a Four Letter Word


In “Don’t Look Back”, a documentary of Dylan’s 1965 tour of the UK, Baez is shown in one scene singing a fragment of the then apparently still unfinished song in a hotel room late at night. She then tells Dylan, “If you finish it, I’ll sing it on a record”.  It turned up on the album “Any Day Now”, as well as on a compilation album and a live album.

Dylan never released a version of his song, and, according to his website, he has never performed the song live – but then given the way the music goes, I suspect he, like 99% of other singers would struggle with the range.

The lyrics that Joan Baez sings have only a passing resemblance to the lyrics on the official website although it starts off in the same direction.  So I guess Dylan did some re-writing.

However Joy of Cooking are more on track with the lyrics.  But they go a step further musically exploring every possible harmony that could be introduced.  This works particularly well for this unusual song with line after line.  They also add the fifth verse that the Dylan site ignores.


It is so hard to perform, and both sing accurately and yet bring something fresh to the score that very few have performed it.  Those who have, have either made a mess of a beautiful piece, or been true and straightforward in their interpretation.  All credit to anyone who has done that because it is so hard to perform.

John Winn however is amazing, not just for taking it on but actually giving a very fine rendention.

And here’s another thing.  Dylan wrote this in 1965 straight after “Farewell Angelina” (which he also never recorded.”  And after that he wrote… “Subterranean Homesick Blues.”

Quite a varied approach to song writing he had that year.

If I really were putting an album together (and Aaron has said that this is certainly possible on our You Tube channel, ) then it is the Joy of Cooking version I’ll have, because of those wonderful harmonies.   I am really sure, no one has ever before or since made harmonies like that.  Just how long did it take them to rehearse that?

Seems like only yesterday
I left my mind behind
Down in the Gypsy Café
With a friend of a friend of mine
She sat with a baby heavy on her knee
Yet spoke of life most free from slavery
With eyes that showed no trace of misery
A phrase in connection first with she I heard
That love is just a four letter word

Untold Dylan

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  1. i’m sure Bob recorded 4 letter word. but maybe it’s bad and fuzzy etc.
    i talked with Bob in 89 and wanted to ask him about 4 letter word
    but we got interrupted/separated. but i think he makes tapes of all
    songs he writes such as this. but his version of Farewell Angelina is
    not up with the Baez version. i got to hear Baez do both songs opening
    back to back and it was amazing. But 4 letter word is a very deep song
    for such a young guy. But talking with Bob was fun. Shaking hands.!!!!!
    what a guy.

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