Highway 61

Bob Dylan in 1965

In 1965, Bob Dylan released two albums, “ Bringing It All Back Home ” and “ Highway 61 Revisited ”, both forging a path far removed from his early folk music into a new musical hybrid that included folk, rock ‘n roll, literature and blues, everything mixed up into this irresistible whirlwind. The next year, Dylan released a double album, “ Blonde on Blonde ”, and the 34 songs from these three albums are, in my opinion, the greatest achievement by any musician at any time. The lyrics of these songs were instrumental in Dylan being awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 2016.

The crossroads

The real highway 61 divides the United States and stretches 1,400 miles from New Orleans, Louisiana to Wyoming, Minnesota. Highway 61 is also known as the Blues Highway because it runs through the Mississippi Delta, the area most associated with the development of blues music. The junction of Highway 61 and US 49 in Clarksdale, Mississippi is the famous crossroads where legend has it that Robert Johnson sold his soul to the Devil in return for his incredible talent. Blues songstress Bessie Smith also died on this stretch of highway in a car crash in 1937.

My arrangement of “ Highway 61 ” is taken straight out of Muddy Waters’ fifties versions of “ I’m A Man ” and ” Mannish Boy. ” It is played in the classic “power trio” style of a lot of 60s bands like Cream, the Jimi Hendrix Experience and, one of my favourites, BLT (Jack Bruce, Bill Lordan and Robin Trower), a collaboration that lasted for all of one album!

The lobby of the Capitol theatre

In 1968, both Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience played the magnificent Capitol Theatre in Ottawa, only a few weeks apart. I couldn’t afford to see both concerts so I went to see Clapton (Cream) and a friend of mine went to see Hendrix. My friend couldn’t believe that Hendrix set his guitar on fire! As for me, Cream played so loud that my ears are still ringing 50 years later!

A victim of the new and nearby National Arts Centre, the Capitol Theatre closed its doors in 1970. Shortly afterwards, one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture in Canada was demolished and replaced by yet another ugly square office building. The Ontario provincial government, ever behind, only enacted heritage protection legislation 5 years later.

Richard Séguin – voice, electric guitar, electric bass
Roch Tassé – drums

Highway 61

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