The original track ‘To Ramona’ is taken from Dylan’s fourth album ‘Another Side of Bob Dylan’, released in 1964. This release saw Dylan shift away from the previously politically orientated, ‘The Times They Are a-Changin’’ to a more personal perspective. ‘To Ramona’ is played in waltz time and may have been adapted from a 1930s folk tune, though claims have also been made that the melody is Mexican in origin.
It is not hard to imagine a Mexican version of this song, though that is perhaps more due to its time signature than its melodic origins. Dylan began writing the song whilst he was in Greece with Nico which has generated speculation that the song may have been written about her, though another school of thought suggests that Joan Baez may have been the focal point of the song. The song shows regret and sorrow for Ramona whilst acknowledging that she and the world she inhabits cannot be helped whilst also seeming to speak to the 60s counter-culture of individualism and self- determination with the lines:
“From fixtures and forces and friends
Your sorrow does stem
That hype you and type you
Making you feel
That you gotta be just like them”
That such a variety of artists have recorded ‘To Ramona’ song is a testament to its intriguing nature and the variety of interpretations that it generates. The ten selections below feature a range of instrumentation, tempo, mood and in the case of two of the tracks, language; specifically Dutch and Spanish:
These United States – Indie rock guitars coalesce with pedal steel to create an uptempo gritty feel.
David Gray – Gray’s vocals are ideally suited for this live cover with the instrumentation gradually building over the course of the song.
Ernst Jansz – Sung in Dutch with harmonica, pedal steel and ukelele, the beauty of this song really shines through on this rendition.
Lissie – The pain inherent in the lyrics of the song are brought to the fore in Lissie’s version.
Sinead Lohan – Lohan’s beautiful voice accompanied by sympathetic musicians create a rich and mellow interpretation.
Texas Tornados – Texas Tornados bring the accordion and a fitting Mexican influence to the proceedings.
Rich Lerner and the Groove – Rich Lerner and the Groove give a gentle touch with some fine instrumentation.
Lee Hazlewood – Hazlewood’s vocals are what makes this version giving the song a rich depth.
The Flying Burrito Brothers – Ramona gets the country-rock treatment.
Kerry Fearon – Northern Ireland’s Fearon adds some satin vocals to the rich country feel of this version.