Who wrote “Blowin’ in the Wind”? Not Lorre Wyatt
(Ed. – Peter Stone Brown wrote this remembrance in response to a previous article of mine in Muddy Water, about the song “Restless Farewell.” In that piece, the issue of Lorre Wyatt was brought up, as well the Newsweek article claiming Dylan bought "Blowin' in the Wind" from Wyatt, who had once claimed to be the actual author.”)
Way back, in fact not long after I saw Pete Seeger sing those Freedom Songs and Dylan’s “Hard Rain,” while I was in camp in Maryland, my family moved to Millburn, NJ, a suburb about 20 miles southwest of Manhattan. Millburn was a very straight, for the most part, very Republican town, that included Short Hills, at the time the wealthiest place in New Jersey. We were anything but rich and were anything but Republicans. This was the year
I discovered Bob Dylan and it didn't take long before I learned about one Lorre Wyatt who had just graduated Millburn High School. Everyone in the town at that time believed, and many people still believe his story – that he was the real writer of “Blowin’ in the Wind.”
In November of that year, a week after JFK was shot, I saw Bob Dylan at the Mosque Theater in Newark, NJ for the first time. He sang quite a few songs that soon would appear on The Times They Are A-Changin’, and other songs that wouldn't be released legitimately for decades, such as “Who Killed Davey Moore,” "Walls of Redwing,” and “Talkin' John Birch.” The encore for the show was “With God on our Side.” When he sang “Blowin' in the Wind,” his intro was, “Here's the song Newsweek magazine said I didn't write.”
Lorre Wyatt was a member of the Milburnaires, a high school activity folk group. They wore jackets and ties, were all men, and were one of those big groups with about ten members. They even made an album they put of themselves that had “Blowin' In The Wind” on it.
In October 1965, when Bob Dylan returned to the same theater in Newark, though the name had been changed to Symphony Hall, I bought a ticket on the day of the concert, and it ended up being front row center. Seats had been added on stage and over the orchestra pit. The ticket said stage site on it, and until I was led to my seat, I thought I'd be sitting on the stage. After buying the ticket early in the afternoon, as I took my seat on the bus to go home, I saw a Cadillac limo heading back towards the theater, and what looked like a lot of hair in the back window. I didn't have enough money to get off the bus.
When I arrived at the theater that night, there were quite a few kids from my class in the lobby. This was a bit surprising, as Bob Dylan was pretty much universally despised in that town. But Dylan was now a rock ’n’ roll star. “Like A Rolling Stone” had been a huge hit that summer, and “Positively 4th St.” was the current hit, both receiving tons of airplay on the New York City Top 40 AM radio stations. Even though I'd lived there for two years, I was still the outcast out of towner, and plus I was the longhair, anti-war freak. The term hippie wouldn’t come into use until a couple of years later. Anyway, these kids, all wearing jackets and ties, said to me, (at my fourth Bob Dylan concert), “What are you doing here?” I responded, “The question is, what are you doing here?”
Somewhere around that time, Lorre Wyatt returned to Millburn to play a show in the high school cafeteria one Saturday night. I figured I'd go down and check him out. One of the songs he sang was Eric Andersen's “Take off Your Thirsty Boots.” The song had not been released on album yet, but I’d seen Andersen sing it at Broadside Hoots at the Village Gate, and it was published in Broadside. I saw my chance. When Wyatt took a break, I approached him and said, “Mr. Wyatt, since you wrote such great songs as 'Blowin' In The Wind,' that song you sang, ‘Thirsty Boots’ or something, did you write that?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “Like hell you did. Eric Andersen wrote that.” The last thing Wyatt was expecting in Millburn was someone to know who Eric Andersen was. So then he says, “Oh, I thought you said ‘Thirsty Blues.’ I wrote a song called ‘Thirsty Blues.’ ” The only problem was, he didn't sing any song called “Thirsty Blues” during his set.
Wyatt eventually recanted the whole “Blowin’ in the Wind” story, would go on to have a minor folk singer songwriting career and get published in Broadside, sing on Pete Seeger's Clearwater ship, and even have Seeger record one of his songs.