My Top 1000 Songs #235: Ballad Of Easy Rider

[I've been writing up my Top 1000 songs on a daily basis--you can see them all in descending order by hitting the All My Favorite Songs tag.]

Adding a little more Byrds to the list, this time with the title track from their 1969 album--and, of course, from that year's film of the same name (representing the second Byrds tune off that soundtrack). It's one of those rare soundtrack cuts which works absolutely perfectly for the movie for which it was created; yet exists independently of the film as a fully-realized song which is every bit as memorable if you have no idea of the cinematic connection.

According to legend, Bob Dylan was initially approached to write the song. He declined, but jotted down the opening line and gave it to the Byrds' Roger McGuinn. And even for Dylan, it's a pretty damn stunning opening line: "The river flows, it flows to the sea. Wherever that river goes, that's where I want to be." It captures both the movie's theme and, arguably, encapsulates the romanticized vision of the late 60s more concisely than anything before or since. (Of course, Dylan being Dylan, he insisted that he not be credited as a co-writer.)

Of course, it's just one line, and McGuinn turned it into a brilliant piece, with some drop-dead gorgeous Americana fingerpicking and a beautiful melody. It's one of the obvious highlights from the band after the original incarnation had scattered in the wind.