In 1970, Roger McGuinn and his band, The Byrds, had their last major hit with “Chestnut Mare.” And in 1975, Bob Dylan, who knew McGuinn well, released his Blood on the Tracks album, which included a song, “Idiot Wind,” on which he sang: “Visions of your chestnut mare/Shoot through my head and are makin’ me see stars.”
Surely, this was not a coincidence. But why did Dylan do it?
“It was difficult to figure out anything Dylan ever wrote,” said McGuinn in a recent interview on on WBAI-FM‘s “Morning Dew” show. “It’s all abstract stuff. He’s a great poet.
“Some people think he was talking to me, about being an idiot,” McGuinn continued, with a laugh. “I think it was just some woman. But I’m not sure.”
And he doubts he’ll ever know for sure. “He won’t tell you,” McGuinn said, “So we’ll probably never find out.”
McGuinn did the interview to promote some upcoming solo shows in New Jersey and New York, including one at the South Orange Performing Arts Center, May 4. (Click here to listen to the entire interview.)
McGuinn co-wrote “Chestnut Mare” with lyricist Jacques Levy, and it was originally intended for a country musical they were working on that was loosely based on Henrik Ibsen’s “Peer Gynt” (and transferred the action from Norway to the American West).
“There was a scene in ‘Peer Gynt’ where a deer goes off a cliff, and we decided to make that the chestnut mare,” McGuinn said.
Elsewhere in the interview, McGuinn discusses a Byrds recording session that Dylan and members of The Beatles attended; his participation in Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue Tour of 1975, and the all-star Dylan tribute concert at Madison Square Garden in 1992; and making his 1976 Cardiff Rose album with Dylan’s Rolling Thunder band.