Entry count: 4082
Dylan tells about loss and longing

Bob Dylan

I Was Young When I Left Home

Released: December 21st, 1961

Tracks Bob Dylan

The events we write about at Gaslight Records happened in some form or another 50 years ago to the day. Roll along with us and imagine you are back in 1969.

Support Gaslight Records

The first time I heard this song, it became the soundtrack to a difficult and depressing period in my life. It was 2009, and I was going through a prolonged break-up. I was living far from my family and was generally lamenting life amongst the emotionally desolate environment of a big city.

The song's lyrics – which described a young man turning his back on his family and leaving home, only to learn years later that his mother had died and that he couldn't bring himself to return home in his current, impoverished state – led to many deep, sorrowful sighs that came emanating from my diaphragm as I listened to the track on long train commutes around Sydney.

The version I first felt a connection with, however, was not Dylan's but instead was a cover performed by British vocalist, Antony, and The National guitarist, Bryce Dessner, for the fantastic 2009 charity compilation album, Dark Was The Night.

Dylan tells about loss and longing
Bob Dylan in New York 1961

The song's dark and murky undertones pulsed with sadness, a longing for lost loved ones, and a desire for a simpler life. It struck a chord with my overly emotional frame of mind, and at the time I accredited that to the brilliance of Antony and Dessner in their performance of the piece.

Upon hearing Dylan's beautifully simple rendition, however, laden with his gentle acoustic picking and hushed vocals; and then also learning that Dylan's version was a reinterpretation of the classic folk tune 'Nine hundred Miles'; my understanding of the universal and enduring appeal of this song and it's context was forever altered.

It made me realize that regardless of the performer, this song carries the weight of generations of heartbreak, and no matter how you play it, those emotional ancestors dig their way to the surface.

I'm sure a young Bob Dylan felt that weight when he recorded his version in a Minneapolis apartment in 1962. As I'm sure that same sense of loss and longing connected with Antony and Dessner when they chose to give the tune a new breath of life many years later.

'I was young when I left home' has definitely left a lasting impression on many throughout history, including a journalist in his mid 20′s from Sydney. And it's that enduring legacy that makes me believe that as long as there is heartbreak and homesickness out there, this track will continue to rear its sad head throughout musical history for many chapters to come.

Other versions of this track

More recent news

Watch Roy Orbison perform 'Oh, Pretty Woman' with Johnny Cash last week

News

October 4th, 1969: Watch Roy Orbison perform "Oh, Pretty Woman" with Johnny Cash last week

Orbison appeared on The Johnny Cash Show in Nashville

 
Mixtape October 1969

Mixtapes

October 1st, 1969: Mixtape October 1969

It's the end of Summer 1969, here's what I'm listening to.

 
Tyrannosaurus Rex released a new single 'Pewter Suitor' this week - Listen

News

October 1st, 1969: Tyrannosaurus Rex released a new single "Pewter Suitor" this week - Listen

The new single was left off the band's album Unicorn, from earlier this year.

 
'I was just about all through as a man' Johnny Cash talks to Richard Green of NME

Interviews

October 1st, 1969: "I was just about all through as a man" Johnny Cash talks to Richard Green of NME

Cash gave a brief interview recently while visiting London

 
The Beatles have released their new album Abbey Road - Listen

News

September 26th, 1969: The Beatles have released their new album Abbey Road - Listen

In the same week as John Lennon quit the band, The Beatles have released a new album

 
Listen to alternate takes of Bob Dylan's 'Lay Lady Lay' and 'I Pity The Poor Immigrant'

News

September 26th, 1969: Listen to alternate takes of Bob Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay" and "I Pity The Poor Immigrant"

Alternate cuts of tracks from Dylan's last two albums

 
Billy Preston releases new album produced by George Harrison: Listen

News

September 26th, 1969: Billy Preston releases new album produced by George Harrison: Listen

His new album features contributions from George Harrison, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton and Doris Troy

 
The Doors headlined the Toronto Rock 'n' Roll Revival last Saturday night

News

September 24th, 1969: The Doors headlined the Toronto Rock 'n' Roll Revival last Saturday night

With John Lennon watching from the front row, The Doors included part of "Eleanor Rigby" in their solo - Listen

 
The Band release follow-up album to Music From Big Pink - Listen

News

September 23rd, 1969: The Band release follow-up album to Music From Big Pink - Listen

The new self-titled album was recorded in Los Angeles and New York this year. Read a review by Mike Jahn and find the group's upcoming tour dates.

 
Watch Creedence Clearwater Revival perform on American Bandstand last Friday

News

September 23rd, 1969: Watch Creedence Clearwater Revival perform on American Bandstand last Friday

CCR interviewed with Dick Clark and performed "Green River"

 
'The group's over, I'm leaving.' John Lennon quits The Beatles

News

September 23rd, 1969: "The group's over, I'm leaving." John Lennon quits The Beatles

John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were signing their new recording contract when Lennon dropped the news

 
Watch Ramblin' Jack Elliott perform on 'The Johnny Cash Show' last night

News

September 19th, 1969: Watch Ramblin' Jack Elliott perform on "The Johnny Cash Show" last night

Ramblin' Jack and Cash performed a duet of "Take Me Home"

 
Loading more