Taylor Swift and Bob Dylan are very different artists, however, one of the songs from Swift’s album Folklore wouldn’t be the same without Dylan. Specifically, one of the songs from the album drew inspiration from some classic Dylan music. Here’s a look at what one of the song’s writers had to say.
This Taylor Swift song is supposed to sound like one of Bob Dylan’s most famous albums
Swift got her start in country music before she evolved into a major pop diva. Her album Folklore, however, was a change of pace. It was significantly less flashy than some of her previous releases and incorporated genres like folk, soft rock, and Americana music. Given the strong folk influence on the album, it’s no surprise Swift drew inspiration from Dylan, one of the most famous figures from the 1960s American folk music revival.
During an interview with Vulture, one of Swift’s co-writers, Aaron Dessner of The National, discussed Swift’s hit “Betty.” “This one Taylor and William [Bowery] wrote, and then both Jack [Antonoff] and I worked on it.” For the record, “William Bowery” is a pseudonym of Swift’s boyfriend, Joe Alwyn. “We all kind of passed it around. This is the one where Taylor wanted a reference.”
Then Dessner explained how Dylan’s influence entered the picture. “She wanted it to have an early Bob Dylan, sort of a Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan feel,” he recalled. “We pushed it a little more towards John Wesley Harding, since it has some drums. It’s this epic narrative folk song where it tells us a long story and connects back to ‘Cardigan.’ It starts to connect dots and I think it’s a beautifully written folk song.”
How the Bob Dylan albums that inspired a Taylor Swift song performed compared to ‘Folklore’
Swift clearly drew from Dylan while crafting Folklore. This raises an interesting question: Was Folklore more popular than the Dylan albums Swift and Dessner had on their minds? The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan reached No. 22 on the Billboard 200. It clearly wasn’t a massive hit upon its first release. However, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan went on to become one of the most famous albums of all time. It’s so famous it even became a plot point in the Tom Cruise thriller Vanilla Sky.
On the other hand, John Wesley Harding performed significantly better, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard 200. However, neither album reached the commercial heights of Folklore, which reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200.
In addition, “Betty” was a minor hit in its own right, reaching No. 42 on the Billboard Hot 100. While it wasn’t one of Swift’s biggest hits, it performed better on the charts than most modern folk songs. “Betty” wouldn’t be the same without Dylan — but it attained a level of success that its inspirations did not.