In the span of his career, Bob Dylan has released countless classics and this includes a very soulful song entitled “Blind Willie McTell.” The song itself takes you to a melancholic journey through the past. It creates a different world for you, with its stripped down piano and electric guitar riffs. That is accompanied by Dylan’s harmonica and a cool bass beat.

The song honors both the talent and passion of the blues legend as well as the kind of environment that he thrived in during his time. “Blind Willie McTell”  was first heard in “The Bootleg Series, Vol 1-3: Rare & Unreleased.” Come, take a listen to it right here!

But ever wonder who is the man behind the song? Read more to find out!

Humble Beginnings

Willie Samuel McTell was blind. Yes, he was blind. But according to some accounts, he was not born blind. He lost his eyesight in his late childhood. However, he did not let his blindness stop him from living and his extraordinary hearing and sense of touch were impeccable.

McTell was born into a musical home: his father and mother were both guitarists and his uncle is the famed Rev. Thomas A. Dorsey. His first instruments were the harmonica and the accordion. But soon, he answered the call of the guitar and they became inseparable since. He became very adept at the instrument with a very unique playing style at that time. He injected such an elegant slide and fingerpicking style that made his playing sound like there was more than one guitar playing.

The Legendary Blues Man

Any artist will tell you that the Blues are inherently biographical. McTell’s hit “Statesboro Blues” is one of the best examples of storytelling in music. His musicality seamlessly blended styles like ragtime, spirituals, country, blues, and jazz with his compelling lyrical stories.

Although he was never really commercially successful, he had a great following in Atlanta. Throughout the years, his songs and his influence bled through modern music and much of the art scenes. McTell’s songs have been covered and recorded by other artists. And there is this wonderfully gritty song Dylan dedicated to the blues icon.

Listen to McTell’s song “Statesboro Blues” here!

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