Why does Dylan like Johnny Cash’s Train Of Love..,

By Tony Attwood

This article is part of the Influences on Bob Dylan series or articles.

Train of Love is a classic lost love song that Bob Dylan performed as a tribute to Johnny Cash in 1999, and both from the simple fact that Dylan selected the song and because he sang it with a fair amount of vim and vigour, it is clear that he likes this particular track.  Here is the original…

And Bob’s tribute

The recording was made at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City.  Bob says…

“Hey Johnny, I wanna say Hi and I’m sorry we can’t be there, but that’s just the way it is. I wanna sing you one of your songs about trains. I used to sing this song before I ever wrote a song and I also wanna thank you for standing up for me way back when.”

So it clearly is a song from Dylan’s youth – and that means it is something that hit his consciousness probably in 1957 or very soon thereafter.   Bob was born in 1941, so we are talking about a song heard when he was 16 or so.

In terms of Dylan compositions we have When I got troubles by Dylan dated as 1959, the earliest composition we’ve been able to date on this site, so that fits with Bob hearing the song in 1957 or 1958 – before he wrote any songs.

As for the song itself, the single by Johnny Cash reached number one on the “Most Played C&W in Juke Boxes chart” from Billboard.

Here are the lyrics…

Train of love’s a-comin’, big black wheels a-hummin’
People waitin’ at the station, happy hearts are drummin’
Trainman tell me maybe, ain’t you got my baby
Every so often everybody’s baby gets the urge to roam
But everybody’s baby but mine’s comin’ home.

Now stop your whistle blowin’, ’cause I got ways of knowin’
Your bringin’ other people’s lovers, but my own keeps goin’
Train of love’s deceivin’, when she’s not gone she’s leavin’
Every so often everybody’s baby gets the urge to roam
But everybody’s baby but mine’s comin’ home

Train of love’s now hastin’, sweethearts standin’ waitin’
Here and there and everywhere, there’s going to be embracin’
Trainman tell me maybe, ain’t you got my baby
Every so often everybody’s baby gets the urge to roam
But everybody’s baby but mine’s comin’ home

Train of love’s a-leavin’, leavin’ my heart grievin’
But early or late, I sit and wait, because I’m still believin’
We’ll walk away together, though I may wait forever
Every so often everybody’s baby gets the urge to roam
But everybody’s baby but mine’s comin’ home

So we can guess Bob particularly likes it because it was an early song that made an impact – and it probably made an impact because of the “lost love” theme – with the twist that everyone else is ok but I am the one poor person whose lover is not returning.

Given that at this age we may take it that Bob had not had too many lovers, and probably none who had left him and taken a train ride and then refused to return, this is a typical teenage fantasy of the land of being grown up.  Being grown up here means being old enough to have had a lover and lost her and for her not to return – it is a case of having the emotions that affect people much later in life.

There is also an element of the isolated wanderer that has been such a part of so many Bob Dylan songs – the hobo, the man bidding his restless farewell, the woman sung about by Elvis Presley in his first record, “My Baby Left Me”.

It might be a woman that is the cause, as with the Presley song and with this Cash song, but it doesn’t have to be – just something inexplicable happens and the lady moves on – and in this case refuses to return.

By 1962 Dylan was himself writing songs within this tradition such as Down the Highway and was taking others as his own such as Corrina Corrina.

In fact we see this theme being used over and over again during the year with a number of other compositions such as

Clearly Dylan loved the theme and his love of this song is, I suspect, a reflection of that feeling for this type of song.

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  1. great cover. I’ve never heard Dylan do a bad cover including hearing him sing Moon River live years back in Indiana. but this cover of Train of Love is very nice. Too bad he can’t perform this well now. He was still really like Dylan on this video. Dylan does wonderful covers. Sometimes you get only one chance to hear him do them.

  2. ” He was really like Dylan on this video” , sorry but this is one of the most misguided and insulting statements I have ever heard. For many,many Dylan fans throughout the world who attend his current concerts he is performing better now than he was 10 years or 20 years ago. His most important attribute is his voice and in the last few years he been singing superbly both in the studio on the magnificent ‘Shadows in the Night’, ‘Fallen Angels’ ,etc and on the stage. Dylan’s inimitable piano playing has gone from strength to strength and he is so engaged in his role as bandleader and so committed in the art of performing that he is still able to surprise. ‘Moon River’ performed live on the 6th November 2018 is better in my opinion than the same song performed in Indiana 1990. Sorry, Bob Dylan will always be Bob Dylan ( and,yes, Dylan does wonderful covers ).

  3. I read some years ago that this one-take video was shot by Bob’s manager, Jeff Rosen. Any corroborations out there?

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