♫ Mighty Quinn ♫

This has been a week, hasn’t it?  I feel like I’ve been on a roller coaster ride that lasted … well, for a week.  We all knew the election would be … contentious, to say the least, but to have the highest office in the land soiled as it has been these last two weeks is demoralizing.  So, in picking tonight’s song, I chose one that reflects a character who “changes despair into joy and chaos into rest …”  I don’t know about you guys, but I could use some joy and also some rest.

This was written by Bob Dylan, but British rock group Manfred Mann was the first to record it.  It was rare for Dylan to let anyone record one of his songs before he did, but Quinn The Eskimo was an exception. Mike D’Abo of Manfred Mann explains …

“We met in a publisher’s house as Bob Dylan was making some new material available to other artists. We heard about 10 songs and I thought ‘This Wheel’s On Fire’ would be the one to do, but Manfred liked The Mighty Quinn, which was called ‘Quinn The Eskimo’ then. It was sung in a rambling monotone but Manfred had recognized its potential. He sold me on the idea of doing this song, but I had to make up some of the words as I couldn’t make out everything he was saying. It was like learning a song phonetically in a foreign language. I have never had the first idea what the song is about except that it seems to be ‘Hey, gang, gather round, something exciting is going to happen ’cause the big man’s coming.’ As to who the big man is and why he is an Eskimo, I don’t know.”

Typical of Bob Dylan, the lyric is vivid but vague, telling the story of the eagerly anticipated Quinn the Eskimo. It’s possible that Dylan came up with the idea after seeing the 1959 Nicholas Ray movie The Savage Innocents. In that movie, Anthony Quinn plays an Eskimo named Inuk. The film is also notable as the first screen appearance of Peter O’Toole, who demanded that his name be removed from the film as all of his dialog was dubbed by another actor.

Dylan released his version in 1970 on his album Self Portrait. While the Manfred Mann version was titled Mighty Quinn, Dylan’s was Quinn the Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn). It also appears on his 1972 album More Greatest Hits. Ron Cornelius was Dylan’s guitarist for the Self Portrait sessions.  According to Cornelius …

“There’s everybody and his brother flying into Nashville to play on that thing. If you look at the credits, it’s amazing how many people were delighted to come and play on it. Out of everybody I’ve worked with, I don’t know of anyone who’s been any nicer than Bob Dylan.”

The song was featured in a 1989 movie with the same name starring Denzel Washington as a police officer named Xavier Quinn. The song is performed in the movie by Sheryl Lee Ralph.

Nearly two decades after the song’s 1967 release, The Grateful Dead started playing The Mighty Quinn in concert in 1985. It became a favorite encore among the Grateful Dead’s fans, and remained so to the end of their career.

Mighty Quinn topped the charts at #1 in the UK, #3 in Canada, and #10 in the U.S.

Mighty Quinn
Manfred Mann

Come on without
Come on within
You’ll not see nothing like the Mighty Quinn
Come on without
Come on within
You’ll not see nothing like the Mighty Quinn

Everybody’s building
Ships and boats
Some are building monuments
Others dummy pound notes
Everybody’s in dispair
Every girl and boy
But when Quinn the eskimo gets here
Everybody’s gonna jump for joy

Come on without
Come on within
You’ll not see nothing like the Mighty Quinn

I like to go just like the rest
I like my sugar sweet
But jumping queues and making haste
Just ain’t my cup of meat
Everyone’s beneath the trees
Feeding pigeons on a limb
But when Quinn the eskimo gets here
All the pigeons gonna run to him

Come on without
Come on within
You’ll not see nothing like the Mighty Quinn
Come on without
Come on within
You’ll not see nothing like the Mighty Quinn

Let me do what I wanna do
I can’t decide on my own
Just tell me where to put ’em
And I’ll tell you who to call
Nobody can get no sleep
Cause there’s someone on everyones toes
But when Quinn the eskimo gets here
Everybody’s gonna wanna doze

Come on without
Come on within
You’ll not see nothing like the Mighty Quinn
Come on without
Come on within
You’ll not see nothing like the Mighty Quinn

31 thoughts on “♫ Mighty Quinn ♫

  1. The words you write are not the words I hear. Even now, when the chorus comes along, I hear when Quinn the Eskimo gets the itch, which comes clear at the end on the song, when Quinn the Eskimo gets the itch, everybody’s gonna want a dose. Oh, what a wanton mind conjures to hear. Like when Trump the Genius tells a lie, everybody (who worships him) hears it as truth.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jill, interesting history. I did not know Dylan wrote this until we saw Joan Osborne do a tribute to Dylan’s music. She cut a CD of many of Dylan’s song and offers a nice interpretation, allowing for the lyrics to come through. My brother gets mad at me when I say Dylan’s singing does not excel like his writing. Keith

    Liked by 2 people

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