I Want You (Bob Dylan song)

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"I Want You"
Single by Bob Dylan
from the album Blonde on Blonde
B-side"Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" (live version)
ReleasedJune 20, 1966 (1966-06-20)
Format7-inch single
RecordedMarch 10, 1966
GenreFolk rock[1]
  • 3:07 (album version)
  • 2:54 (single edit)
Songwriter(s)Bob Dylan
Producer(s)Bob Johnston
Bob Dylan singles chronology
"Rainy Day Women #12 & 35"
"I Want You"
"Just Like a Woman"

"I Want You" is a song recorded by Bob Dylan in 1966.[2]

Recorded in the early morning hours of March 10, 1966, the song was the last one recorded for Dylan's double-album Blonde on Blonde.[3] It was issued as a single that June, shortly before the release of the album.

There were three complete takes of "I Want You", with the final take and a guitar overdub comprising the master. The recording session was released in its entirety on the 18-disc Collector's Edition of The Bootleg Series Vol. 12: The Cutting Edge 1965–1966 in 2015, with the penultimate take of the song also appearing on the 6-disc and 2-disc versions of that album.[4]

Dylan performed "I Want You" as a slow ballad during his 1978 world tour, as heard on Bob Dylan at Budokan, released in 1979. Dylan also revisited the song in 1987 on a co-tour with the Grateful Dead; their version was released in 1989 on the Dylan and the Dead album.

The single's B-side was a live version of "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" recorded in Liverpool, England at the Odeon Theatre on May 14, 1966. (This was the first released recording of Dylan live with the Hawks, later the Band.)


Sean Wilentz sees numerous failures documented in early drafts for the lyrics; "deputies asking him his name... lines about fathers going down hugging one another and about their daughters putting him down because he isn't their brother".[5] Finally Dylan arrives at the right formula. The song's sentimental aspect was partially explained in a 1966 interview: "It's not just pretty words to a tune or putting tunes to words... [It's] the words and the music [together]—I can hear the sound of what I want to say."[6]

Andy Gill observed that the song's tension is achieved through the balance of the "direct address" of the chorus, the repeated phrase "I want you," and a weird cast of characters "too numerous to inhabit the song's three minutes comfortably", including a guilty undertaker, a lonesome organ grinder, weeping fathers, mothers, sleeping saviours, the Queen of Spades, and "a dancing child with his Chinese suit".[7][2] Gill reports that "the dancing child" has been interpreted as a reference to Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones, and his then girlfriend Anita Pallenberg.[8] Clinton Heylin agrees there may be substance to this because the dancing child claims that "time was on his side", as a reference to "Time Is On My Side", the Stones' first U.S. hit.[9]

Chart performance[edit]

Billboard magazine recorded the release of "I Want You" in its June 25 issue, and predicted it would reach the Top 20.[10] The track entered the Billboard Hot 100 charts on July 2, 1966 at #90, and Billboard tapped the single as a "star performer"—a side "registering greatest proportionate upward progress this week".[11] It peaked at #20 on July 30.[12]

"I Want You" entered the Cash Box charts at #59 on July 2, and was tapped for strong upward movement.[13] It rose slowly, and peaked at #25 on August 6.[14] It was also a major hit in the UK, where it peaked at #16.

Cover versions[edit]

  • Gary Burton, in 1966. His version is included on a German compilation by BMG May Your Songs Always Be Sung Again (2001)
  • Cher recorded the song for her 1966 album Cher
  • A French version was recorded by Marie Laforêt titled "D'être à vous" in March 1969
  • The Hollies covered the song for their album Hollies Sing Dylan (1969)
  • Dutch singer Herman van Veen, on the 1969 album Herman van Veen II (as Ik wil jou - Dutch Translation by Rob Chrispijn)
  • Bruce Springsteen covered this song live, prior to his success with Born to Run, during the famous "Main Point show" held on February 5, 1975, and released unofficially on numerous bootleg albums
  • Icelandic rock musician Árni Steinsson covered this on Þjóðhátíð in 1988
  • The song was covered by Sophie B. Hawkins in 1992 on her album Tongues and Tails.
  • Brazilian band Skank did a Portuguese version entitled "Tanto" in 1993, and covered the song in 2004
  • Wolfgang Niedecken does a German version for his album Leopardefell (1995)
  • Arjen Anthony Lucassen covered this song on his 1997 album Strange Hobby
  • Steve Gibbons with his Dylan-Project: The Dylan Project (1998)
  • Cliff Eberhardt, on the tribute compilation A Nod To Bob: An Artists Tribute To Bob Dylan (2001)
  • Icelandic Singer Hjálmar Benónýsson covered this on Paddys 2003
  • Cyril Neville does a version which is included on the compilation Blues On Blonde On Blonde (2003)
  • Craig Nylon recorded it in 2003 for the record The Hits Of Bob Dylan Performed By Craig Nylon
  • English singer-songwriter James Blunt covered the song on the 2005 tribute album Listen to Bob Dylan: A Tribute
  • Dave's True Story, on their tribute-album Simple Twist Of Fate: DTS Does Dylan (2005)
  • Les Fradkin released a cover of it on his 2006 CD Jangleholic
  • The version by Rutherford is on the tribute 2CD Million Dollar Bash: Missouri Salutes Bob Dylan (2006)
  • How Many Roads from Germany covered this song for their tribute album From Broadway To The Milky Way (A Tribute To Bob Dylan (2007)
  • Ernst Schultz recorded a German version for his album Dylan : Deutsch - Es ändern sich die Zeiten (2008)
  • Automatiq, on the French compilation album Dylan Mania (2009)
  • Pat Guadagno & Tired Horses recorded it live for his tribute 2CD That's A Bob Dylan Song: Bob Fest '09 (2009)
  • Sternberg which is a German Dylan Tribute Band, recorded a version for their album Dylan (2011)
  • Deep Schrott recorded an instrumental version for their album Plays Dylan & Eisler (2011)
  • Francis Cabrel recorded a French version for his album Vise Le Ciel: Ou Bob Dylan Revisité (2012)
  • Icelandic singer Magnús Már covered ar home 2015
  • Old Crow Medicine Show covered the song on their 2017 tribute album 50 Years of Blonde on Blonde.
  • Musician Steve Adey covered the song on his 2017 LP "Do Me a Kindness".
  • Ralph McTell did a slower, piano-based version on his album Water of Dreams
  • Belgian singer Bart Peeters did a Dutch version entitled "Ik Wil Je (Nooit Meer Kwijt)" on his album Slimmer Dan De Zanger
  • The Tallest Man on Earth covered the song
  • Ximena Sariñana covered the song for Amnesty International's tribute album honoring the songs of Bob Dylan
  • Ali Campbell, the former UB40 frontman, covered the song on his solo album "Silhouette", alongside former bandmates Mickey Virtue and Astro.


  1. ^ Neal Walters, Brian Mansfield, MusicHound Folk: The Essential Album Guide (Visible Ink Press, 1998), ISBN , pp. 239.
  2. ^ a b Gilliland 1969, show 40, track 1.
  3. ^ Heylin 2009, pp. 311–312.
  4. ^ "Bob Dylan - The Cutting Edge 1965-1966: The Bootleg Series Vol. 12". Archived from the original on 2016-02-07. Retrieved 2015-11-29.
  5. ^ Wilentz 2009, p. 124
  6. ^ Heylin 2009, pp. 312–313.
  7. ^ Gill 1998, pp. 99–100
  8. ^ Gill 1998, p. 100
  9. ^ Heylin 2009, p. 312
  10. ^ Billboard magazine, June 25, 1966; p. 16
  11. ^ Billboard magazine, July 22, 1966; p. 19
  12. ^ Billboard magazine, July 30, 1966
  13. ^ "Cash Box Magazine Charts (July 2, 1966)". Cash Box Magazine (charts)/cashboxmagazine.com (website). Retrieved March 27, 2011.
  14. ^ "Cash Box Magazine Charts (August 6, 1966)". Cash Box Magazine (charts)/cashboxmagazine.com (website). Retrieved March 27, 2011.


External links[edit]