“I’m a poet and I know it — hope I don’t blow it” winked an ascendant, acclaimed 23-year-old folk singer in 1964. You’d have to bend over backwards to say Bob Dylan – who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016 – ever blew it, but the mercurial artist’s lengthy career has certainly given disciples and detractors plenty of ammo over the last six decades.
There isn’t merely one other side of Bob Dylan – the singer-songwriter contains multitudes, including a creative streak that is willfully weird. With the news that Universal Music Publishing has purchased the icon’s entire catalog of songs from 1962 to the present, we’re rounding up Bob Dylan’s 10 Weirdest Songs, including a few co-writes performed by other artists. Whether they’re delightful or disappointing, confounding or comforting is entirely in the ear of the beholder.
“Talkin’ Hava Negeilah Blues,” The Bootleg Series Vol. 1-3 (recorded in 1962, released in 1991)
Dylan introduces his yodel-augmented take on the Israeli folk stomper as “a foreign song I learned in Utah” before faux struggling to pronounce each syllable as if it’s the first time he’s encountered the words. Who says Dylan doesn’t have a sense of humor?
“Wigwam,” Self Portrait (1970)
With a bit of Tex-Mex flavor and heapin’ helping of da-da-da, la-la-la wordless warbling, this Self Portrait oddity reached No. 41 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“Father of Night,” New Morning (1970)
A minute and a half of rhyming lyrics based on the Amidah, the Jewish prayer. Who else would even try? Your fave could never.
“Man Gave Names to All the Animals,” Slow Train Coming (1979)
Besides the shock of seeing Dylan be born again, Slow Train also comes with this song, about, well, naming animals. Spoiler alert: It ends with a snake.
Greg Lake’s “Love You Too Much,” Greg Lake (1981)
Did Dylan really write a song with one of the guys from Emerson, Lake & Palmer and backup singer Helena Springs? Yes he did, and the proof is on Greg Lake’s self-titled 1981 album.
“Night After Night,” Hearts of Fire soundtrack (1987)
The mid-eighties were a tough time for Dylan, who somehow wasn’t able to convincingly portray an aging, enigmatic rock star in Hearts of Fire, a movie that never even made it to DVD. This was his only original contribution to the soundtrack that’s not available elsewhere – for a reason.
“Ugliest Girl In the World,” Down In the Groove (1988)
A co-write with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, this straightforward MOR rocker opens with Dylan wheezing, “Well the woman I love she got a hook in her nose” before informing us, “She speaks with a stutter and walks with a hop / I don’t know why I love her but I just can’t stop.” Look, Dylan wasn’t the only ’60s legend struggling in the ’80s, so don’t judge too harshly.
“Wiggle Wiggle,” Under the Red Sky (1990)
This is basically a nursery rhyme set to adult contemporary rock – but with Slash on guitar.
Michael Bolton’s “Steel Bars,” Time, Love & Tenderness (1991)
Something about co-writers brings out the weird in Dylan. This one was written by Dylan, Bolton and hard rock producer Bob Halligan Jr., who also wrote “Make Rock Not War” for Blue Öyster Cult.
Gene Simmons’ “Waiting for the Morning Light,” A**hole (2004)
There are better songs about being awake all night – some by KISS, some by Dylan – but this is the one that appeared on an album titled A**hole. That’s gotta be worth something, right?