Lay Lady Lay

Last updated
"Lay Lady Lay"
Single by Bob Dylan
from the album Nashville Skyline
B-side "Peggy Day"
ReleasedJuly 1969
Format 7" single
RecordedFebruary 14, 1969
Studio Columbia Studio A, Nashville, Tennessee
Genre Country rock [1]
Label Columbia
Songwriter(s) Bob Dylan
Producer(s) Bob Johnston
Bob Dylan singles chronology
"I Threw It All Away"
"Lay Lady Lay"
"Tonight I'll Be Staying Here with You"
Nashville Skyline track listing
12 tracks
Side one
  1. "Girl from the North Country"
  2. "Nashville Skyline Rag"
  3. "To Be Alone with You"
  4. "I Threw It All Away"
  5. "Peggy Day"
Side two
  1. "Lay Lady Lay"
  2. "One More Night"
  3. "Tell Me That It Isn't True"
  4. "Country Pie"
  5. "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here with You"
Audio sample
"Lay Lady Lay"

"Lay Lady Lay", sometimes rendered "Lay, Lady, Lay", [2] [3] is a song written by Bob Dylan and originally released in 1969 on his Nashville Skyline album. [4] Like many of the tracks on the album, Dylan sings the song in a low croon, rather than in the high nasal singing style associated with his earlier (and eventually later) recordings. [5] The song has become a standard and has been covered by numerous bands and artists over the years, including the Byrds, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, the Everly Brothers, Melanie, the Isley Brothers, Bob Andy, Duran Duran, Magnet, Hoyt Axton, Angélique Kidjo, Ministry, Malaria! and Lorrie Morgan. [4] [6]

Song composition for voice(s)

A song is a musical composition intended to be sung by the human voice. This is often done at distinct and fixed pitches using patterns of sound and silence. Songs contain various forms, such as those including the repetition of sections. Through semantic widening, a broader sense of the word "song" may refer to instrumentals.

Bob Dylan American singer-songwriter, musician, author, and artist

Bob Dylan is an American singer-songwriter, author, and visual artist who has been a major figure in popular culture for six decades. Much of his most celebrated work dates from the 1960s, when songs such as "Blowin' in the Wind" (1963) and "The Times They Are a-Changin'" (1964) became anthems for the Civil Rights Movement and anti-war movement. His lyrics during this period incorporated a wide range of political, social, philosophical, and literary influences, defied pop-music conventions and appealed to the burgeoning counterculture.

<i>Nashville Skyline</i> 1969 studio album by Bob Dylan

Nashville Skyline is the ninth studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on April 9, 1969, by Columbia Records as LP record, reel to reel tape and audio cassette.


Bob Dylan's version

"Lay Lady Lay" was originally written for the soundtrack of the movie Midnight Cowboy , but wasn't submitted in time to be included in the finished film. [7] [8] Dylan's recording was released as a single in July 1969 and quickly became one of his top U.S. hits, peaking at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100. [9] The single did even better in the United Kingdom where it reached #5 on the UK Singles Chart. [10] Like many of the tracks on Nashville Skyline, the song is sung by Dylan in a warm, relatively low sounding voice, rather than the more abrasive nasal singing style with which he had become famous. [5] Dylan attributed his "new" voice to having quit smoking before recording the album, but some unreleased bootleg recordings from the early 1960s reveal that, in fact, Dylan had used a similar singing style before. [4]

A soundtrack, also written sound track, can be recorded music accompanying and synchronized to the images of a motion picture, book, television program, or video game; a commercially released soundtrack album of music as featured in the soundtrack of a film, video, or television presentation; or the physical area of a film that contains the synchronized recorded sound.

<i>Midnight Cowboy</i> 1969 film by John Schlesinger

Midnight Cowboy is a 1969 American buddy drama film. Based on the 1965 novel of the same name by James Leo Herlihy, the film was written by Waldo Salt, directed by John Schlesinger, and stars Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman, with notable smaller roles being filled by Sylvia Miles, John McGiver, Brenda Vaccaro, Bob Balaban, Jennifer Salt, and Barnard Hughes. Set in New York City, Midnight Cowboy depicts the unlikely friendship between two hustlers: naive prostitute Joe Buck (Voight), and ailing con man "Ratso" Rizzo (Hoffman).

Single (music) Type of music release usually containing one or two tracks

In the music industry, a single is a type of release, typically a song recording of fewer tracks than an LP record or an album. This can be released for sale to the public in a variety of different formats. In most cases, a single is a song that is released separately from an album, although it usually also appears on an album. Typically, these are the songs from albums that are released separately for promotional uses such as digital download or commercial radio airplay and are expected to be the most popular. In other cases a recording released as a single may not appear on an album.

Don Everly of the Everly Brothers recounted in a 1986 Rolling Stone interview that Dylan performed parts of the song for them after a late 1960s appearance by the duo in New York, as they were "looking for songs, and he was writing "Lay Lady Lay" at the time." [11] Despite a popular story that the Everly Brothers rejected the song due to misunderstanding the lyrics as sexual in nature, Everly continued "He sang parts of it, and we weren't quite sure whether he was offering it to us or not. It was one of those awestruck moments." [11] In a 1994 interview Don Everly further explained the encounter, stating that "It really wasn't a business meeting ... It wasn't that kind of atmosphere." [12] The Everly Brothers later covered the song on their EB 84 album, 15 years after Dylan's release.

The Everly Brothers American rock and roll band

The Everly Brothers were an American country-influenced rock and roll duo, known for steel-string acoustic guitar playing and close harmony singing. Consisting of Isaac Donald "Don" Everly and Phillip Jason "Phil" Everly, the duo were raised in a musical family, first appearing on radio singing along with their father Ike Everly and mother Margaret Everly as "The Everly Family" in the 1940s. When the brothers were still in high school, they gained the attention of prominent Nashville musicians like Chet Atkins, who began to groom them for national attention.

<i>Rolling Stone</i> American magazine focusing on popular culture, based in New York City

Rolling Stone is an American monthly magazine that focuses on popular culture. It was founded in San Francisco, California in 1967 by Jann Wenner, who is still the magazine's publisher, and the music critic Ralph J. Gleason. It was first known for its musical coverage and for political reporting by Hunter S. Thompson. In the 1990s, the magazine shifted focus to a younger readership interested in youth-oriented television shows, film actors, and popular music. In recent years, it has resumed its traditional mix of content.

<i>EB 84</i> 1984 studio album by The Everly Brothers

EB 84 is a 1984 album by The Everly Brothers, and the duo's first album of new material in 11 years.

According to country musician Johnny Cash, Dylan played the song first in a circle of singer-songwriters at Cash's house outside of Nashville. Cash claimed that several other musicians also played their own new, unheard songs.[ citation needed ]

Johnny Cash American singer-songwriter and actor

Johnny Cash was an American singer-songwriter, guitarist, actor, and author. He is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than 90 million records worldwide. Although primarily remembered as a country music icon, his genre-spanning songs and sound embraced rock and roll, rockabilly, blues, folk, and gospel. This crossover appeal won Cash the rare honor of being inducted into the Country Music, Rock and Roll, and Gospel Music Halls of Fame.

Nashville, Tennessee State capital and consolidated city-county in Tennessee, United States

Nashville is the capital and most populous city of the U.S. state of Tennessee. The city is the county seat of Davidson County and is located on the Cumberland River. The city's population ranks 24th in the U.S. According to 2017 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, the total consolidated city-county population stood at 691,243. The "balance" population, which excludes semi-independent municipalities within Davidson County, was 667,560 in 2017.

Drummer Kenny Buttrey has said that he had a difficult time coming up with a drum part for the song. Dylan had suggested bongos, while producer Bob Johnson said cowbells. In order to "show them how bad their ideas were", Buttrey used both instruments together. Kris Kristofferson, who was working as a janitor in the studio at the time, was enlisted to hold the bongos in one hand and the cowbell in the other. Buttrey moved the sole overhead drum mic over to these new instruments. When he switches back to the drums for the choruses the drumset sounds distant due to not being directly mic'd. The take heard on the album is the first take and is one of Buttrey's own favorite performances. [13]

Aaron Kenneth Buttrey was an American drummer and arranger. According to CMT, he was "one of the most influential session musicians in Nashville history".

Bongo drum type of drum

Bongos are an Afro-Cuban percussion instrument consisting of a pair of small open bottomed drums of different sizes. In Spanish the larger drum is called the hembra (female) and the smaller the macho (male). Together with the conga or tumbadora, and to a lesser extent the batá drum, bongos are the most widespread Cuban hand drums, being commonly played in genres such as son cubano, salsa and Afro-Cuban jazz. A bongo drummer is known as a bongosero.

Cowbell (instrument) musical instrument

The cowbell is an idiophone hand percussion instrument used in various styles of music including salsa and infrequently in popular music. It is named after the similar bell historically used by herdsmen to keep track of the whereabouts of cows.

"I used to listen to that one record, 'Lay Lady Lay', in my brother's bedroom in the basement of our house," recalled Madonna. "I'd lie on the bed and play that song and cry all the time. I was going through adolescence; I had hormones raging through my body. Don't ask me why I was crying – it's not a sad song. But that's the only record of his that I really listened to." [14]

Madonna (entertainer) American singer-songwriter and actress

Madonna Louise Ciccone is an American singer, songwriter, actress and businesswoman. Referred to as the "Queen of Pop" since the 1980s, Madonna is known for pushing the boundaries of songwriting in mainstream popular music and for the imagery she uses onstage and in music videos. She has frequently reinvented her music and image while maintaining autonomy within the recording industry. Although having sparked controversy, her works have been praised by music critics. Madonna is often cited as an influence by other artists.

Adolescence transitional stage of physical and psychological development that generally occurs during the period from puberty to legal adulthood

Adolescence is a transitional stage of physical and psychological development that generally occurs during the period from puberty to legal adulthood. Adolescence is usually associated with the teenage years, but its physical, psychological or cultural expressions may begin earlier and end later. For example, puberty now typically begins during preadolescence, particularly in females. Physical growth and cognitive development can extend into the early twenties. Thus, age provides only a rough marker of adolescence, and scholars have found it difficult to agree upon a precise definition of adolescence.

Music and lyrics

Bob Dylan's "Lay, Lady, Lay" chord progression features a descending chromatic line in the upper voice:
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) Bob Dylan "Lay, Lady, Lay" verse.png
Bob Dylan's "Lay, Lady, Lay" chord progression features a descending chromatic line in the upper voice: . ( Loudspeaker.svg Play  )
Chromatic descending 5-6 sequence (I-V-VII-IV) from which "Lay, Lady, Lay" sequence is derived, through use of the parallel minor on the second and fourth chords (I-iii-VII-ii) (
Play (help*info)
) Chromatic descending 5-6 sequence.png
Chromatic descending 5-6 sequence (I-V-VII-IV) from which "Lay, Lady, Lay" sequence is derived, through use of the parallel minor on the second and fourth chords (I-iii-VII-ii) ( Loudspeaker.svg Play  )

Written in the key of A major, or A Mixolydian, [17] the song's chord progression features a descending chromatic line and Dylan's voice occupies a range from F#2 to D4. [18] The bass is most often based on the chromatic descent or otherwise emphasizing the modal center of A. The chief hook in "Lay Lady Lay", a song with far more hooks than is typical for Dylan, is a recurring four-note pedal steel guitar riff. [4] The song's distinctive drum part is performed by Kenny Buttrey, who regarded his contribution to the song as one of his best performances on a record. [19] Lyrically the song speaks of romantic and sexual anticipation as the singer beseeches his lover to spend the night with him. [4]

Live performances and other releases

Dylan played the song live for the first time at the Isle of Wight on August 31, 1969; a recording is included on Isle of Wight Live, part of the 4-CD deluxe edition of The Bootleg Series Vol. 10: Another Self Portrait (1969–1971) . Performances of the song from 1974 and 1976 are included on the Before the Flood and Hard Rain live albums. The song has frequently been performed by Dylan since the late 1980s during his Never Ending Tour.

"Lay Lady Lay" also appears on Dylan's quintuple-platinum Greatest Hits, Volume II album, as well as on the Masterpieces , Biograph , The Best of Bob Dylan, Vol. 1 , and The Essential Bob Dylan compilation albums. [4] [20]

Chart history



The Byrds' version

"Lay Lady Lay"
1969 Dutch picture sleeve.
Single by The Byrds
B-side "Old Blue"
ReleasedMay 2, 1969
Format 7" single
RecordedMarch 27, 1969, Columbia Studios, Hollywood, CA
April 18, 1969, Columbia Studios, Nashville, TN
Genre Rock
Label Columbia
Songwriter(s) Bob Dylan
Producer(s) Bob Johnston
The Byrds singles chronology
"Bad Night at the Whiskey"
"Lay Lady Lay"
"Wasn't Born to Follow"

The Byrds' recording of "Lay Lady Lay" was released as a single on May 2, 1969 and reached #132 on the Billboard chart but failed to break into the UK Singles Chart. [31] [32] The song was recorded as a non-album single shortly after the release of the Byrds' seventh studio album, Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde . [33] The Byrds decided to cover the song after Bob Dylan played the band his newly recorded Nashville Skyline album at band leader Roger McGuinn's house. [34] The Byrds recorded "Lay Lady Lay" on March 27, 1969, but producer Bob Johnston overdubbed a female choir on to the recording on April 18, 1969 without the Byrds' consent. [35] The single was then released and it was only after it had been issued that the band became aware of the addition of the female choir. [34] [35] The group were incensed, feeling that the choral overdub was incongruous and an embarrassment. [36] The Byrds were so upset at Johnston's tampering with the song behind their backs, that they never again worked with him. [34]

Despite the band's displeasure with the finished single, many critics felt that the presence of the female choir added a dramatic touch which heightened the song's emotional appeal. [34] Journalist Derek Johnson, writing in the NME , commented "The harmonic support behind the solo vocal is really outstanding, largely because the Byrds have been augmented by a girl chorus. This, plus the familiar acoustic guitars, the attractive melody and the obstructive beat, makes it one of the group's best discs in ages." [34] When "Lay Lady Lay" was released on The Byrds box set in 1990, it was presented without its choral overdub at McGuinn's insistence. [36] [37] This alternate version, without the female choir, was included as a bonus track on the remastered Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde CD in 1997. [36] It was also included on the 2002 reissue of The Byrds Play Dylan and the 2006 box set, There Is a Season . [38] [39]

Duran Duran's version

Duran Duran recorded a pop rock version of the song, appearing as track five on their 1995 covers album, Thank You . [40] The band released the song as a single in Italy to promote the album. [41] Nick Rhodes has stated on the band's official website (answering an Ask Katy question in 2008 about the second single taken from Thank You) "I seem to remember my concern at that time was, in fact, our record label's - Capitol in America and EMI for the rest of the world - deciding to split their decision on their choice for the first single, "White Lines" in the US and "Perfect Day" for the rest of the world. Hence, there was no worldwide focus and both territories forced to use the other track as their second single, so it didn't really work out to be an ideal situation for anyone. I'm not sure what I would've chosen for a second single, possibly "Lay Lady Lay", but then I am still very happy with the way "Perfect Day" turned out." [42]

Ministry version

"Lay Lady Lay"
Ministry - Lay Lady Lay single artwork.jpeg
Single by Ministry
from the album Filth Pig
B-side "Paisley"
ReleasedFebruary 1996
Format 7" single, CD
Recorded1995, Chicago Trax Studios, Chicago, Illinois
Genre Industrial metal, alternative metal
Length5:44 (album version)
5:11 (edit)
Label Warner Bros.
Songwriter(s) Bob Dylan
Producer(s) Hypo Luxa, Hermes Pan
Ministry singles chronology
"The Fall"
"Lay Lady Lay"
Music video
“Lay Lady Lay” on YouTube

American industrial metal band Ministry covered "Lay Lady Lay" during the eighth Bridge School Benefit charity concert in October 1994, with Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder performing backing vocals. [43] Studio version of the song was recorded and released as a single from Ministry’s sixth studio album, Filth Pig , in February 1996. [44] The song also appears on the band's 2008 covers album, Cover Up . [45] Initially, frontman Al Jourgensen wanted to cover Jimmy Webb song "Wichita Lineman", but had to choose another song after watching Urge Overkill performing it live. [46] During the recording, Bill Rieflin was asked to perform drums, but he rejected and quit the band shortly after, [47] with Rey Washam replacing him and thus making his debut with Ministry. [46]

The single release included two versions of "Lay Lady Lay"; one being the standard album version and the other being a shorter edited version. [48] In the Rolling Stone magazine’s review of Filth Pig, critic Jon Wiederhorn wrote that the cover "amalgamates a deep distorted bass line, clicking electronic percussion, jangling acoustic guitars, ominous curls of feedback and [Al] Jourgensen's trademark howls." [49]

CD single track listing

1."Lay Lady Lay" (edit)5:11
2."Lay Lady Lay" (album version)5:44
4."Scarecrow" (live)8:18


Other covers

Many other cover versions of the song have been recorded by numerous performers, including: [6]

Related Research Articles

The Byrds American rock band

The Byrds were an American rock band formed in Los Angeles, California in 1964. The band underwent multiple lineup changes throughout its existence, with frontman Roger McGuinn remaining the sole consistent member. Although they only managed to attain the commercial success of contemporaries like the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and the Rolling Stones for a short period in the mid-1960s, the Byrds are today considered by critics to be nearly as influential as those bands. Their signature blend of clear harmony singing and McGuinn's jangly twelve-string Rickenbacker guitar was "absorbed into the vocabulary of rock" and has continued to be influential.

"My Back Pages" is a song written by Bob Dylan and included on his 1964 album Another Side of Bob Dylan. It is stylistically similar to his earlier folk protest songs and features Dylan's voice with an acoustic guitar accompaniment. However, its lyrics—in particular the refrain "Ah, but I was so much older then/I'm younger than that now"—have been interpreted as a rejection of Dylan's earlier personal and political idealism, illustrating his growing disillusionment with the 1960s' folk protest movement with which he was associated, and his desire to move in a new direction. Although Dylan wrote the song in 1964, he did not perform it live until 1988.

<i>Ballad of Easy Rider</i> (album) 1969 studio album by The Byrds

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<i>Turn! Turn! Turn!</i> (album) 1965 studio album by The Byrds

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<i>Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde</i> 1969 studio album by The Byrds

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<i>Untitled</i> (The Byrds album) 1970 studio album / Live album by The Byrds

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"It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" is a song written and performed by Bob Dylan and featured on his Bringing It All Back Home album, released on March 22, 1965 by Columbia Records. The song was recorded on January 15, 1965 with Dylan's acoustic guitar and harmonica and William E. Lee's bass guitar the only instrumentation. The lyrics were heavily influenced by Symbolist poetry and bid farewell to the titular "Baby Blue." There has been much speculation about the real life identity of "Baby Blue", with possibilites including Joan Baez, David Blue, Paul Clayton, Dylan's folk music audience, and even Dylan himself.

"This Wheel's on Fire" is a song written by Bob Dylan and Rick Danko. It was originally recorded by Dylan and the Band during their 1967 sessions, portions of which comprised the 1975 album, The Basement Tapes. The Band's own version appeared on their 1968 album, Music from Big Pink. Live versions by the Band appear on their 1972 live double album Rock of Ages, as well as the more complete four-CD-DVD version of that concert, Live at the Academy of Music 1971, and the 2002 Box Set of The Last Waltz.

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"Ballad of Easy Rider" is a song written by Roger McGuinn, with input from Bob Dylan, for the 1969 film, Easy Rider. The song was initially released in August 1969 on the Easy Rider soundtrack album as a Roger McGuinn solo performance. It was later issued in an alternate version as a single by McGuinn's band the Byrds on October 1, 1969. The Byrds' single reached number 65 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was issued in most international territories, although it was not released in the United Kingdom.

Lady Friend 1967 single by The Byrds

"Lady Friend" is a song by the American rock band the Byrds, written by band member David Crosby and released as a single on July 13, 1967. The single reached number 82 on the Billboard Hot 100, but failed to chart in the United Kingdom. "Lady Friend" is the only song penned solely by David Crosby to appear on the A-side of a Byrds' single.

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Preflyte is a compilation album by the American folk rock band the Byrds and was released in July 1969 on Together Records. The album is a collection of demos recorded by the Byrds at World Pacific Studios in Los Angeles during 1964, before the band had signed to Columbia Records and become famous. It includes early demo versions of the songs "Here Without You", "You Won't Have to Cry", "I Knew I'd Want You", and "Mr. Tambourine Man", all of which appeared in re-recorded form on the band's 1965 debut album.

<i>The Byrds Greatest Hits Volume II</i> 1971 greatest hits album by The Byrds

The Byrds' Greatest Hits Volume II is the second greatest hits album by the American rock band The Byrds. It was released in the United Kingdom on October 29, 1971 by CBS Records as a follow-up to the band's first compilation album, The Byrds' Greatest Hits. The album appeared following the band's successful appearance at the Lincoln Folk Festival on July 24, 1971 and may have been issued by CBS as a reaction to the band's previous studio album, Byrdmaniax, having failed to chart in the UK.

<i>Never Before</i> (album) 1987 compilation album by The Byrds

Never Before is a compilation album by the American rock band the Byrds, consisting of previously unreleased outtakes, alternate versions, and rarities. It was initially released by Re-Flyte Records in December 1987 and was subsequently reissued on CD in 1989, with an additional seven bonus tracks.

<i>In the Beginning</i> (The Byrds album) 1988 compilation album by The Byrds

In the Beginning is a compilation album by the American folk rock band the Byrds and was released in August 1988 by Rhino Records. It features demo recordings made during 1964, before the band became famous.


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