‘Mississippi’ is one of Bob Dylan’s greatest achievements, and thanks to the wonder of his Bootleg Series, fans now have no fewer than four versions from which to choose (not counting Sheryl Crow’s cover).
Here is the second Bob Dylan song in this two-week series, and interestingly, the first Sheryl Crow song I’ve featured. I’m not a huge Sheryl Crow fan, but I’m surprised I went 1,034 songs without choosing one of hers.
‘Mississippi’ is an interesting case because Crow covered it before Dylan’s original was even released. Dylan first recorded the song in 1997 for Time Out of Mind but decided to leave it off of that album. Instead he allowed Crow to record it for her 1998 album The Globe Sessions.
Dylan would revisit the song three years later for 2001’s Love and Theft, and it’s that version that has become the definitive one.
Twenty-six years and 16 albums after Blood on the Tracks, the fifth of the six albums I consider Bob Dylan’s absolute masterpieces, he released Love and Theft — the sixth. 1997’s Time Out Of Mind was his Grammy-winning comeback album but Love and Theft left it in the dust, proving he was not only back but better than ever.
While Time Out Of Mind is obsessed with mortality, Love and Theft is brimming with life and humor. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard Dylan have as much mischievous fun as he does on this album. Certainly it’s the first Dylan album to feature the phrase “booty call” and the first that I know of to include a knock-knock joke.