Traditional - He was a Friend of Mine

First performance: 04/03/1988


Coverinfo

Bruce covered the song only once:
 
1988-03-04 - DEAN E. SMITH STUDENT ACTIVITIES CENTER, CHAPEL HILL, NC
 
As far as it’s known Bruce covered the song only once during a fascinating soundcheck of 60’s songs during the "tunnel of love tour". Never played during the show. Soundcheck tracks include covers of "Let It Be Me" (The Everly Brothers), several Byrd's songs ("He Was A Friend Of Mine", "Goin' Back", "Mr. Tambourine Man") and Bob Dylan's "My Back Pages" (also covered by The Byrds) and "Just Like A Woman". Springsteen also soundchecks three Van Morrison tracks - "Brown Eyed Girl", "Tupelo and "Crazy Love".
 
other songs:
 
 
 

Songinfo

"He Was a Friend of Mine" is a traditional folk song in which the singer laments the death of a friend. Alan Lomax, first to collect the song, in 1939, described it as a "blues" that was "a dirge for a dead comrade."The earliest known version of the song is titled "Shorty George" (Roud 10055). A performance by African-American inmate Smith Casey, who accompanied himself on guitar, was first recorded by musicologist couple John A. and Ruby Terrill Lomax in 1939 at the Clemens State Farm in Brazoria County, Texas. The professional singer who first picked up the song from the Library of Congress recordings was Rolf Cahn. He recorded the song on his influential 1961 Folkways album Rolf Cahn & Eric von Schmidt, where the song for the first time was titled "He Was a Friend of Mine". Bob Dylan picked up the song from the Cahn recording and made some changes to the song when he recorded it for his first album on November 20, 1961. However, Dylan's recording was not included in the album. It did show up on various Dylan bootleg albums which received wide distribution soon thereafter. That recording of the song eventually had its official issuance in 1991 on volume 1 of Columbia Records' Dylan Bootleg Series. When Dave van Ronk recorded Dylan's version of the song on his own 1962 Prestige album Dave Van Ronk, Folksinger, he incorrectly listed Dylan as the song's author. The Byrds included a reworded version of "He Was a Friend of Mine" on their 1965 album Turn! Turn! Turn!  In The Byrds' version, the song's melody is altered and the lyrics are changed to lament the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
 
 

Bruce on the artist

Lyrics

He was a friend of mineHe was a friend of mine
Every time I think about him now
Lord I just can't keep from cryin'
'Cause he was a friend of mine
He died on the road
He died on the road
He never had enough money
To pay his room or board
And he was a friend of mine
I stole away and cried
I stole away and cried
'Cause I never had too much money
And I never been quite satisfied
And he was a friend of mine
He never done no wrong
He never done no wrong
A thousand miles from home
And he never harmed no one
And he was a friend of mine
He was a friend of mine
He was a friend of mine
Every time I hear his name
Lord I just can't keep from cryin'
'Cause he was a friend of mine.