Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan: Story of an impossible meeting… with a sit-in included

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Elvis Presley I was only six years older than Bob Dylan. But, when the one from Minnesota was a teenager, the one from Tupelo was already beginning his reign. Zimmerman idolized him, he wanted to be like him. And it didn’t take long to reach Olympus. There came a day when Presley also admired Dylanrecorded his compositions and I wanted to meet him. But the Nobel rejected him…and, in his own words, he even stood him up. This is the story of an impossible encounter.

Bob Dylan idolized Elvis Presley. She was his hero. His talent impressed her. The creator of ‘Blowin’ in the wind’ has never hidden that ‘The King of Rock’ He was the man who inspired him in his career and in his life. “The first time I heard Elvis’s voice, I knew that I was not going to work for anyone and that no one would be my boss.“, he said in Us Weekly on the 10th anniversary of his death, in 1987. And he added: “When I heard him for the first time it was like coming out of jail.”. He is the supreme deity of rock and roll. I have thought many times that Freedom, for me, was Elvis Presley singing ‘Blue Moon of Kentucky’. “I thank God for Elvis.”

Therefore, as a teenager, that key influence led the Minnesotan to play in various rock bands doing covers of Little Richard and Elvis Presley. And therefore, we are not surprised that Dylan I was shocked, and at the same time honored, when his admired idol recorded some of his songs. The first of them, ‘Tomorrow is a long time’was a ballad that Presley recorded during a session in Nashville in June 1966. Elvis liked that songnot because I had heard it from Bob. I knew it because the folk singer Odetta had recorded it in 1965. His version exceeded 5 minutes, becoming the longest studio recording he had ever made. It was included in the film’s soundtrack ‘Spinout’ in which he himself starred in 1966.

Therefore, in 1966 Bob Dylan lived the “highlight of his career.” He revealed it himself in Rolling Stone: “Elvis Presley recorded a song of mine. That is the recording that I keep as my greatest treasure. It’s called ‘Tomorrow is a long time’. “I wrote it, but I never recorded it.” That’s where the famous quote from the prolific genius comes from: “The highlight of my career?” That’s easy, Elvis recording one of my songs.”

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan / Bettmann

It should be clarified that it was not just “one of my songs.” There were more. The classic that Dylan wrote in 1962, ‘Don’t think twice, It’s all right’included on his second album ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’, was another of the songs that Elvis Presley decided to make his own. Although he recorded a 12-minute version (including coughing) in May 1971 in Nashville, the first time it was released was in an edition of less than 3 on the 1973 ‘Elvis’ album.

To this we should add a improvised informal performance (of only two stanzas) that made ‘I shall be released’, also in May 1971, and later the box set ‘Walk a mile in my shoes’ was released. Besides, there is another gem. A home recordingJune 1966, with the loud voice of Elvis performing – “How many roads must a man travel before you call him a man?… The answer, my friend, is floating in the wind” – ‘Blowing in the wind’one of the great songs of all time.

Certainly, everything indicates that Bob’s respect and admiration for Elvis was not unidirectional. Dylan’s statements to Rolling Stone magazine in 2009 are therefore incomprehensible: ““I never met Elvis because I didn’t want to meet him.”. And he explained: “Elvis was in his cinematographic period of the sixtiesan unstable time, with ups and downs. It was like I had fallen from grace. The music scene passed by him and no one bought his albums. The young people I didn’t want to listen to him or be like him. Nobody was going to see his movies, as far as I know. He was no longer on anyone’s mind. He didn’t really come back until ’68.”

Elvis' special comeback in '68

Elvis’ special comeback in ’68 / NBC

And that’s not all. Elvis Presley tried several times meet the author of ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ and received a negative response. “The two or three times we were in Hollywood, He sent his people from the Memphis Mafia to where we were to take us to see him. But none of us wanted. Why go It seemed kind of sad.”. Unfortunately, they were the years in which the ‘King’s’ career was plummeting and Dylan excuses himself: “I don’t know if I would have wanted to see him like that. I wanted to see the powerful and mythical Elvisthe one that had landed on American soil like a burning star. The Elvis who was full of life. That’s the Elvis who inspired us in life. And that Elvis was gone, he had left the building.”

George Harrison and Bob Dylan performing at Madison Square Garden in 1971

George Harrison and Bob Dylan performing at Madison Square Garden in 1971 / Michael Ochs Archives

He even stood him up. Apparently, in 1972, Bob Dylan and George Harrison went to an Elvis concert at Madison Square Garden in New York. After the performance, rumors spread of that the three were going to get together to record a song but what Presley had not shown up. However, in a 2017 interview, published on his official website, Bill Flanagan asked Dylan if that was true: “He did show up. “We were the ones who didn’t do it.”

When Elvis Presley died on August 16, 1977, Dylan was devastated. His grief was so great that he could not speak to anyone for a week. His 2005 book ‘Inspirations’ tells it: “I reviewed my entire life. I went back through my entire childhood. I couldn’t talk to anyone for a week. If it hadn’t been for Elvis and Hank Williams, I would never have been able to do what I have done.”


Written by

Christopher Johnson

Christopher Johnson is a dedicated writer and key contributor to the WECB website, Emerson College's student-run radio station. Passionate about music, radio communication, and journalism, Christopher pursues his craft with a blend of meticulous research and creative flair. His writings on the site cover an array of subjects, from music reviews and artist interviews to event updates and industry news. As an active member of the Emerson College community, Christopher is not only a writer but also an advocate for student involvement, using his work to foster increased engagement and enthusiasm within the school's radio and broadcasting culture. Through his consistent and high-quality outputs, Christopher Johnson helps shape the voice and identity of WECB, truly embodying its motto of being an inclusive, diverse, and enthusiastic music community.