“Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright,” was written and recorded by Bob Dylan. Musically, the tune is lifted from Paul Clayton’s version of the old folk chestnut “Scarlet Ribbons for Her Hair.” Clayton also adopted the song from a song about a father trying to find ribbons for his daughter on Christmas Eve after all the stores have closed. It’s also a goodbye song to a lover who wonders who will buy ribbons for his ex-lover after he has gone.
Clayton sued Dylan because of this but the case settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. Peter, Paul, and Mary recorded this in 1963 shortly after Dylan. In addition, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard also covered the song on their 2015 Django & Jimmie album. Glen Campbell also covered this for his 2017 album Adiós. This devastating breakup song did not obviously devastate other country artists.
The song is said to be a rather devastating breakup song to Bob Dylan’s then-girlfriend, Suze Rotolo. He met her in New York and their relationship lasted about two years. It was very tempestuous love affair and Dylan evidently grew tired of the drama. Contrary to the song, Dylan’s heart was broken after Rotolo, left him to study at the University of Perugia in Italy. Out of that pain, arose this classic breakup ballad. Dylan re-imagined their parting here as him leaving her. Rotolo can be seen walking with Dylan on the cover of Dylan’s The Freewheelin’ album. Regarding the lyrics,
“When your rooster crows at the break of dawn, look out your window, and I’ll be gone.”
Rotolo gave details in her account that they used to live near a poultry supplier in their Greenwich Village apartment. Every now and then, they would stay up all night and hear the roosters crowing at the break of dawn. By the time the world heard this, they were pretty much done as a couple. The song is one of Dylan’s earliest scornful songs of someone in his social circle. Word got out to Rotolo that she was being insulted and she was said to be quite distraught and astounded. Dylan’s friends were also upset and worried that they would be the next theme of his acid pen.
The inspiration for this song, Rotolo, an artist and civil rights activist, died on February 24, 2011, at age 67.
What Bob Dylan Thinks of the Song
Bob Dylan cited in the liner notes of this track:
“A lot of people make it sort of a love song – slow and easygoing. But it isn’t a love song. “
He added that it is a statement you can say to make yourself feel better as if you were talking to yourself.