I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight

I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight is significant for two reasons. First, like Down Along the Cove, it’s a marked departure from the other songs on John Wesley Harding. Viewed in retrospect, they are both obvious precursors to the new country-rock sounds of the next album, Nashville Skyline. Second, the style of the song is quite different. I’ll Be Your Baby could easily pass for mainstream, easy-listening country, maybe something from the pen of say, Mac Davis. The country lilt is established via the soaring pedal steel guitar of Peter Drake. Charley McCoy’s simple bass line is reminiscent of early Johnny Cash recordings.

Dylan employs a fairly typical verse/verse/verse/bridge/verse pattern, similar to Hank Williams’ Cold, Cold, Heart. Dylan later wrote several other songs using a similar style and sound, such as Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here with You, Lay, Lady, Lay, I Threw  It  All Away, If Not for You, and You Ain’t Going Nowhere.

I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight is one of  Dylan’s most successful attempts at country music. Although he didn’t release it as a single himself, other artists immediately recognized its potential commercial appeal. It’s been covered by a tremendous number of artists including, not surprisingly, many country artists. Some of the better or more usual covers are linked to below.

The lyrics are quite different than anything else on the album (besides Down Along the Cove). While the other songs deal with themes of salvation, apocalypse, deceit, and deception, these two offer thoughts of “shelter from the storm” via the love of a good woman. Kind of a pedestrian idea, but I suppose there’s not much to argue with. He’s right.

Dylan had this to say about the song in the liner notes of Biograph.

“There’s not too much to say about this…maybe it was tongue in cheek, I don’t know. It’s just  a simple song, a simple sentiment. I’d like to think it was written from a place where there is no struggle but I’m probably wrong…sometimes you  may be burning up inside but still do something that seems so  cool and calm and collected. Maria Muldaur called me soon after this album came out, said she recorded it. Actually, it could have been written from a baby’s point of view, that’s occurred to me.”

Dylan has some ever vigilant lawyers, so sometimes it’s hard to find live performances to link to.

A few of the zillion cover versions.


Close your eyes, close the door
You don’t have to worry anymore
I’ll be your baby tonight

Shut the light, shut the shade
You don’t have to be afraid
I’ll be your baby tonight

Well, that mockingbird’s gonna sail away
We’re gonna forget it
That big, fat moon is gonna shine like a spoon
But we’re gonna let it
You won’t regret it

Kick your shoes off, do not fear
Bring that bottle over here
I’ll be your baby tonight

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