A Dylan Cover a Day 142: Tears of Rage

By Tony Attwood

Tears of Rage has lyrics by Bob Dylan and music by Richard Manuel of The Band (who tragically passed away in 1986).   It was first recorded in 1967 and appeared the following year on the Band’s first album with Richard Manuel singing the lead.  This version is very different from the original Dylan version.  Here’s the 1967 edition:

Coming back to it after many years I’m struck by how much of this original version I have forgotten.  It really is a truly remarkable song – made all the more so because the music does things that we wouldn’t expect from Bob.

What makes the song so unusual is that the music (not being written by Bob) modulates, changing from G major temporarily to B, and then quickly back again.  Really, that’s not Bob at all.

Here’s the Band’s version

Richard Manuel performed the song himself.  My personal view of this version is that there is more added to the song through the arrangement than is needed.  The song is beautiful and painful in equal measure, andis a brilliant composition, and so doesn’t need extra emotion or variation – there is already enough within the initial recordings.  But it was Richard Manuel’s co-composition, so of course he could do as he wishes.   From the outside I just don’t think it helps… there is now too much within the song.  Sometimes less is better.

Howard Fishman

I’ve chosen this as the next version as it is the perfect contrast with Richard Manuel’s production of the piece.  Fishman, who I think is primarily known as a writer, has approached the song in a much more delicate way, emphasising the sadness which I think is appropriate for a song with the repeated line “And life is brief”.  Also, please, please, please stay with this version long enough to get to the instrumental break played with a magical viola part.    And not just that, consider the way the vocals return thereafter.  This, for me, is what this song is all about.

Francesco Garolfi also finds the wonderful and painful inherent beauty in this song – if you don’t know his work there is a good introduction in English here.  I love the harmonies, and the refusal to get carried away by the emotion, for the song simply doesn’t need that for us to feel everything that is expressed therein.   Garolfi keeps it simple: he understands what is within.

Gene Clark

Having been with the Byrds Gene Clark of course knows what the song is all about and others have particularly rated this version.   I’m less sure; I feel it goes a little too fast for my feelings in terms of what is in the lyrics – especially in the chorus.   But those who know more than I do, do rate this version, and the White Light album, particularly highly.

And that’s it.  I leave you to choose, but can only hope you find some of the depth in one or two of the versions presented here.   If not, there are quite a few others available.  And perhaps if you have time, play the Francesco Garolfi version again.  It truly is worth it.


  1. What the song (Fisherman) is all about…in contrast to version by Manuel himself even!

    No transferrable ‘objective’ evidence support at all …,just happens to be what the commenter himself likes to listen to ….

    Fine and dandy, but ….

  2. I don’t understand your point Larry. There is no evidence (or at least none that I have seen) from the performers as to what they were wanting to express in one version or another. That is how it normally is: artists normally express but don’t explain. So we are free to speculate and try to put forward coherent explanations as to the thinking process going on. So why the “but…” at the end?

    Please explain, because I don’t see what anyone trying to get a deeper insight into a work of art can do, other than speculate around what he/she sees, hears and feels.

  3. Thanks for reply ,…

    I can’t fathom how one can speculate that one version works better, gets rated higher than another,
    just because it ‘works’ for an analyst thereof

    Another human being getting into another’s head space, soul, brain, emotional state, whatever – in short, going ‘deeper’, is a dubious and rather dark path to travel down.

    Garifoli is fine and dandy, but deeper????

  4. If we cannot speculate about successful or less successful art then all commentary about art is pointless, this website is pointless beyond being a list of songs Dylan wrote and copies of recordings, my own (admittedly often poor) attempts to understand what Bob is doing in the music, and the explanations of others as to what he is doing in the lyrics, are pointless. So why are you writing about Dylan? I would genuinely like to know.

  5. Nevertheless, any hope of finding Dylan’s art to be based on a hard-line Structuralist format (that goes astray here and there)is going to met with dismay.

    If you do not know why I write about Dylan by now, Tony, you will never know.

  6. I did not say we can’t speculate …..

    The opposite in fact!

    It’s the ‘grand’ assertion that one version betters another that can be troubling….

    When based solely it seems on the emotional effect the song has on a particular indivdual.

    In such a case I’d go for “Sad Eyed Lady.”

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