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Wigwam (Bob Dylan song)

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Single by Bob Dylan
from the album Self Portrait
B-side "Copper Kettle"
Released 1970
Format 7" single
Recorded March 1970
Genre Country rock
Length 3:06 (album version)
3:28 (single version)[1]
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Bob Dylan
Producer(s) Bob Johnston
Bob Dylan singles chronology
"Tonight I'll Be Staying Here with You"
"If Not for You"
Audio sample
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"Wigwam" is a song by Bob Dylan that was released on his 1970 album Self Portrait. It was a hit single that reached the Top 10 in several countries worldwide. The song's basic track, including "la-la" vocals, was recorded in early March 1970 in New York City. Later that month, producer Bob Johnston had brass instrument overdubs added to the track; these were recorded in Nashville, Tennessee at a session without Dylan present.

Critical appraisal of "Wigwam" has been mostly positive, and reviewers have called it a highlight of Self Portrait. Several artists have covered the composition, including Drafi Deutscher, whose version of it was a Top 20 hit in Germany.


"Wigwam" was recorded during the sessions for Dylan's Self Portrait album, and produced by Bob Johnston.[2] The basic track was put on tape on March 4, 1970,[3] at Columbia Studio A in New York City,[4] and was labelled "New Song 1" on the recording sheet.[4] The musicians on the basic track were Dylan, vocals and guitar; David Bromberg, guitar; Al Kooper, piano.[3] On April 20, 2013, this early version of "Wigwam" was released as a single for Record Store Day,[5] and on August 27 of the same year, it appeared on The Bootleg Series Vol. 10 – Another Self Portrait (1969–1971).[3][6]

On March 17, 1970, at Columbia Recording Studios in Nashville, Tennessee, instrumental overdubs were recorded for "Wigwam" and several other songs.[2] Dylan was not present for the overdubs, and they were overseen by Johnston.[7]

In the song, Dylan sings "la-la" vocals, accompanied by horns,[8] in an arrangement that has been called "mariachi-like",[9] and "Tex-Mex".[10] The feeling of the song has also been described as "campfire music"[11] and as having a "hazy glow".[12]


"Wigwam" was released on Self Portrait on June 8, 1970,[13] and as a single in June or July.[4][14][15] The single's B-side is "Copper Kettle".[1][14] The single was a Top 10 hit in Belgium,[16] Denmark (in 1972),[17] France,[18] Malaysia,[19] the Netherlands,[1] Singapore,[20] and Switzerland,[21] and was a Top 40 hit in Canada[22] and Germany.[23] In the US, the song reached No. 41 on the Billboard Hot 100,[24] and No. 13 on the Billboard Top 40 Easy Listening chart.[25]

Years later, in the early 2000s, "Wigwam" appeared on the "Limited Tour Edition" of The Essential Bob Dylan.[26][27] The song was also included on the soundtrack to the film The Royal Tenenbaums (2001),[12] as well as on the compilations One Hit Wonders and Hard to Find Classics (2003),[28] Radio 2 - De Topcollectie '70 Vol. 2 (2010),[29] Top 40 Hitarchief - 1970 (2011),[30] and Remember the 70s Vol. 5.[31]


Reactions to the song have been generally positive. A review in Billboard magazine describes the track as "winning".[10] Biographer Rober Shelton includes "Wigwam" among the "quality" songs on Self Portrait, describing it as "hard to forget";[32] it is also one of the "AllMusic Picks" of the highlights of Self Portrait,[13] and Michael Gray similarly rates it as one of the "best tracks" on the album.[33] Greil Marcus is likewise positive about the track, calling it "a great job of arranging".[11] PopMatters reviewer Tom Useted calls the song "more than worthy",[34] while NME writer Paul Stokes qualifies it as "melodious" and as demonstrating Dylan's "versatility and impact".[35] In a review of The Royal Tenenbaums soundtrack, critic Heather Phares writes that the "hazy glow" of the song "add[s] to the album's strangely timeless but emotionally direct atmosphere."[12] Critic Sean Egan writes that "Dylan la-las against a big brass arrangement in a not disagreeable way—but is 'not disagreeable' supposed to be what a Dylan track amounts to?"[8]

On a more negative note, writer Seth Rogovoy describes "Wigwam" as a "bizarre, wordless vocal tune".[9] Critic Anthony Varesi considers the instrumentation on "Wigwam" to be an example of "horns misplaced", and "evidence of flaws" in Bob Johnston's production choices on Self Portrait.[36] Pitchfork writer Rob Mitchum characterizes the song as "moaning along with the brass section" and "rather unpleasant".[37]


Artists who have covered "Wigwam" include the New Christy Minstrels,[38] Sounds Orchestral,[39] and the French orchestra leaders Raymond Lefèvre[40] and Caravelli.[41] Drafi Deutscher released a version with German lyrics, entitled "Weil ich dich lieb" ("Because I Love You"), that was a Top 20 hit in Germany in 1970.[42]


Chart (1970) Peak
Belgian Charts 9[16]
Canadian RPM Singles Chart 17[22]
Dutch Single Top 100 3[1]
German Singles Charts 33[23]
Malaysia Top 10 8[19]
Swiss Music Charts 9[21]
US Billboard Hot 100 41[24]
US Billboard Top 40 Easy Listening 13[25]