Sep 16

When I Paint My Masterpiece


When I Paint My Masterpiece

Illustration credit: Rick and Dall-E


When I Paint My Masterpiece is a 1971 song written by Bob Dylan. It was first released by The Band, who released it exactly 52 years ago on September 15, 1971. Dylan released his version (produced by Leon Russell) on his Greatest Hits Volume II album (highly recommended) a couple of months later.

Basically, I guess I was introduced to this song from his Greatest Hits album when I was an 18-year-old sophomore at NYU.  How could you not appreciate a song that began: “Oh, the streets of Rome are filled with rubble, ancient footprints are everywhere,” even if that were the only lyrics!

Interesting fact about the lyric ‘When I ran on the hilltop following a pack of wild geese’: (From Wikipedia) The story is that when the Republic of Rome was under attack from the Gauls in 390BC, Rome seemed about to fall and the Romans were besieged.  Despite low food supplies during the siege the Romans kept their sacred geese fed, and this turned out to be a shrewd idea, because as the Gauls attacked, the geese honked as they do, woke up the guards, who then resolutely defeated the attackers. The Gauls gave up their attack and withdrew, Rome was rebuilt, and the sacred geese were remembered forever with an annual parade in which a golden goose is the heart of the celebration.

I’ve included some lyrics (‘sailin’ round the world in a dirty gondola…’) that for some reason have been dropped from many performances, but I like the chord changes. I’ve omitted the last verse about arriving in Brusssels and ‘newspapermen eating candy’ because I didn’t feel like singing such silly lyrics – even from Dylan.

Anyway, enjoy.

Dr. Weiss

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