Dignity (Bob Dylan song)

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Song by Bob Dylan
from the album Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits Volume 3
ReleasedNovember 15, 1994
RecordedMarch–April 1989 (original recording); 1994 (mixing and overdubbing)
GenreFolk rock
Songwriter(s)Bob Dylan
Producer(s)Brendan O'Brien

"Dignity" is a song by Bob Dylan, first released on Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits Volume 3 on November 15, 1994 and also released as a CD single a month later. It was originally recorded in the spring of 1989 during the Oh Mercy studio sessions, but was not included on the album.


The difficulties recording the song during the Oh Mercy sessions are described by Dylan in his autobiography, Chronicles, Vol 1. It was originally recorded with Dylan accompanied by Brian Stoltz and Willie Green. Though they managed to complete a polished performance, producer Daniel Lanois suggested something more ambitious with a Cajun band. Curious to see what Lanois had in mind, Dylan agreed to recut the song. The next evening, a session was held with Rockin' Dopsie and His Cajun Band, but the results were disastrous. The group experimented with different keys and tempos, but according to Dylan, everyone was frustrated with the results.[1]

Dylan still preferred the original version recorded the previous day, but neither he nor Lanois considered it finished. As the session continued into the early morning hours, the group gave up and began playing old standards like "Jambalaya", "Your Cheatin' Heart", and "There Stands the Glass". The next day, they listened to every take of "Dignity" recorded with Dopsie and his band, and all of them were rejected. "Whatever promise Dan had seen in the song was beaten into a bloody mess", Dylan recalled. "Where we had started from, we'd never gotten back to, a fishing expedition gone nowhere. In no take did we ever turn back the clock. We just kept winding it. Every take another ball of confusion."[2] "Dignity" was set aside, never to be revisited for the remainder of the sessions.


The song as released in 1994 was remixed and overdubbed by Brendan O'Brien (who also played organ on the song on MTV Unplugged the same year). Although this particular re-recording is compositionally similar to the 1989 session (despite extended lead guitar interludes between verses and the outro in the 1994 version), the only element retained from the 1989 session was Dylan's lead vocal. A fresh rhythm track (bass guitar and drums, the latter by The Black Crowes drummer Steve Gorman), keyboards, guitars (electric and acoustic), banjo and tambourine were added during the 1994 session for "Dignity". The driving slide guitar heard throughout the original was omitted.

Other versions[edit]

A live version of the song, recorded on November 18, 1994 for MTV, was released as a single on April 11, 1995, and also appears on MTV Unplugged and Live 1961-2000: Thirty-Nine Years of Great Concert Performances.

A recording of the song from the original March–April 1989 Oh Mercy sessions was issued on Touched by an Angel: The Album in 1998, and subsequently included on compilation albums: The Best of Bob Dylan, Vol. 2, some editions of The Essential Bob Dylan, and Dylan.

A piano demo version of the song, recorded early in the Oh Mercy sessions, possibly in February 1989, was included as part of a six-song sampler in promo editions of Dylan's autobiographical Chronicles Vol. 1. This demo version was also released on Dylan's The Bootleg Series Vol. 8: Tell Tale Signs in 2008, along with a previously unreleased version of the song from the original March–April 1989 recording sessions.[3]

Plagiarism suit[edit]

An ultimately meritless federal plagiarism lawsuit was filed against Bob Dylan and Sony Records in 1995 by James Damiano; among the songs cited in the suit was "Dignity". The suit was dismissed in 1997, with the judge stating "there is no substantial similarity in the structure, instrumentation or melody of the two songs."[4] An appeal was filed by Damiano and was dismissed in 1998.[5]


  1. ^ Dylan, B., (2004), Chronicles: Volume One. Simon & Schuster. p. 186
  2. ^ Dylan, B., (2004), Chronicles: Volume One. Simon & Schuster. p. 191
  3. ^ Heylin, C., (2010), Still on the Road: The Songs of Bob Dylan, 1974-2006. Chicago Review Press. pp. 331-338
  4. ^ "Music Copyright Infringement Resource - Sponsored By USC Gould School of Law".
  5. ^ "166 F.3d 1204 :: James Damiano v. Sony Music Entertainment, Inc., Bob Dylan :: U.S. Federal Courts of Appeals Cases :: Justia". Justia Law.

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