Ring Them Bells (song)

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"Ring Them Bells"
Song by Bob Dylan
from the album Oh Mercy
ReleasedSeptember 18, 1989
RecordedMarch/April 1989
Studio Mobile studio at 1305 Soniat St., New Orleans
Genre Folk, gospel, soft rock
Length3:00
Label Columbia
Songwriter(s) Bob Dylan
Producer(s) Daniel Lanois
Oh Mercy track listing
10 tracks
  1. "Political World"
  2. "Where Teardrops Fall"
  3. "Everything Is Broken"
  4. "Ring Them Bells"
  5. "Man in the Long Black Coat"
  6. "Most of the Time"
  7. "What Good Am I?"
  8. "Disease of Conceit"
  9. "What Was It You Wanted?"
  10. "Shooting Star"

"Ring Them Bells" is a song written and performed by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released in 1989 as the fourth track on his album Oh Mercy . It is a piano-driven, hymn-like ballad that is considered by many to be the best song on Oh Mercy [1] and it is the track from that album that has been covered the most by other artists. [2]

Contents

The song has been anthologized on the albums Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits Volume 3 in 1993 and Dylan in 2007. It was produced by Daniel Lanois.

Composition and recording

In their book Bob Dylan All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Track, authors Philippe Margotin and Jean-Michel Guesdon cite the Gospel of Matthew as Dylan's main source of inspiration in writing the lyrics: "The bells ring to announce the celestial reign of God, who sent his son Jesus Christ to fulfill his divine will on earth and put the 'lost sheep' back on the right track. These bells proclaim the end of humankind". [3]

In his memoir Chronicles: Volume One , Dylan praised Daniel Lanois' role as producer in creating this specific track: "Lanois captured the essence of it on this, put the magic into its heartbeat and pulse. We cut this song exactly the way I found it...two or three takes with me on the piano, Dan on guitar and Malcolm Burn on keyboards". [4]

Critical reception

An article in The Daily Telegraph about Dylan's "30 greatest songs" ranked "Ring Them Bells" 27th, calling it a "post-apocalyptic gospel prayer" and praising its "stately piano chord progression" and Dylan's lyrics for their "Biblical richness and elegance". [5]

Spectrum Culture included it on a list of "Bob Dylan's 20 Best Songs of the 1980s". In an article accompanying the list, critic Justin Cober-Lake sees it as an example of Dylan "step(ping) deep into spiritual waters, with churches and saints and holy tintinnabulation. Across a sacred piano and plenty of Lanois-produced void, Dylan sings of St. Peter (possibly the person and the basilica) and proclaims the end of time, liberation for the poor, healing for the blind and deaf. In the world of the song, judgment comes to right the world, and Dylan peaceably watches it come in". [6]

In their book Bob Dylan All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Track, authors Philippe Margotin and Jean-Michel Guesdon note that the "dynamic of the arrangement and the keen harmonic sense of the song establish 'Ring Them Bells' as one of the triumphs of this album'". [7]

Bruce Springsteen, in an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in 2020, cited it as one of his three favorite Dylan songs (along with "Like a Rolling Stone" and "Visions of Johanna"). [8]

Dylan scholar and musicologist Eyolf Ostrem considers it to be one of Dylan's most complex songs ever from a musical perspective (along with 1967's "Dear Landlord", 1980's "In the Garden" and 2020's "Black Rider"). [9]

A USA Today article ranking "all of Bob Dylan's songs" placed "Ring Them Bells" 86th (out of 359). [10] A 2021 Guardian article included it on a list of "80 Bob Dylan songs everyone should know". [11]

The song is prominently featured in Larry Clark's 2014 film The Smell of Us . [12]

Other versions

The Bootleg Series Vol. 8: Tell Tale Signs: Rare and Unreleased 1989–2006 contains two different versions of the song: an alternate version recorded during the Oh Mercy sessions and a live full-band acoustic version from Dylan's residency at the Supper Club in New York City on November 17, 1993. [13]

Dylan performed the song with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra in Nara, Japan as part of a UNESCO-backed concert titled The Great Music Experience in 1994. It was the first time Dylan had ever played with an orchestra, which was conducted by Michael Kamen. The concert was broadcast on television in 50 countries and earned Dylan rave reviews. [14]

Live performances

Between 1989 and 2005 Dylan performed the song 34 times in concert on the Never Ending Tour. [15] A live performance from E. Rutherford, New Jersey on November 13, 1999 was made available to stream on Dylan's official website in March 2000. [16] A live version from the Supper Club in New York City (the early show on November 16, 1993), a different performance from the one included on The Bootleg Series Vol. 8, was made available to stream on Dylan's official website in September 2001. [17]

Notable covers

There have been dozens of covers of "Ring Them Bells". Among the most notable:

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References

  1. "Ring them bells: more Times a-Changing than religious treatise | Untold DylanUntold Dylan". 2015-05-12. Retrieved 2021-01-06.
  2. "Cover versions of Ring Them Bells written by Bob Dylan | SecondHandSongs". secondhandsongs.com. Retrieved 2021-01-06.
  3. Margotin, Philippe (27 October 2015). Bob Dylan : all the songs : the story behind every track. Guesdon, Jean-Michel (First ed.). New York. ISBN   978-1-57912-985-9. OCLC   869908038.
  4. Dylan, Bob, 1941- (2004). Chronicles. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN   0-7432-2815-4. OCLC   56111894.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. "Bob Dylan: 30 greatest songs". The Telegraph. 2015-07-24. ISSN   0307-1235 . Retrieved 2021-01-06.
  6. "Bob Dylan's 20 Best Songs of the '80s". Spectrum Culture. 2020-09-04. Retrieved 2021-05-05.
  7. Margotin, Philippe; Jean-Michel Guesdon (2015). Bob Dylan : all the songs : the story behind every track (First ed.). New York. ISBN   1-57912-985-4. OCLC   869908038.
  8. "Can You Guess Bruce Springsteen's Favorite Bob Dylan Songs? - YouTube". www.youtube.com. Retrieved 2021-01-06.
  9. "Black Rider – Dylan's most complex song ever – things twice" . Retrieved 2021-05-01.
  10. "Ranking all of Bob Dylan's songs, from No. 1 to No. 359". For The Win. 2015-11-06. Retrieved 2021-01-02.
  11. "Beyond Mr Tambourine Man: 80 Bob Dylan songs everyone should know". the Guardian. 2021-05-22. Retrieved 2021-05-22.
  12. The Smell of Us (2014) - IMDb , retrieved 2021-02-27
  13. "The Bootleg Series, Vol 8: Tell Tale Signs | The Official Bob Dylan Site". www.bobdylan.com. Retrieved 2021-01-06.
  14. Egil (2017-05-22). "May 22: Bob Dylan The Great Music Experience, Nara, Japan 1994 (video)". All Dylan - A Bob Dylan blog. Retrieved 2021-01-06.
  15. "Bob Dylan Tour Statistics | setlist.fm". www.setlist.fm. Retrieved 2021-01-02.
  16. "Online Performances (bobdylan.com)". searchingforagem.com. Retrieved 2021-03-06.
  17. "Online Performances (bobdylan.com)". searchingforagem.com. Retrieved 2021-05-05.
  18. "Gordon Lightfoot -- Christmas 2020 - YouTube". www.youtube.com. Retrieved 2021-01-06.
  19. "The Roots, Patti Smith Highlight Dylan Tribute". Billboard. Retrieved 2021-04-16.
  20. "Chris Cornell - Ring Them Bells (Bob Dylan) - YouTube". www.youtube.com. Retrieved 2021-01-25.