All of the songs from the Desire sessions are collaborations between Dylan (words and music) and Levy (words), with the exception of “Sara,” “Abandoned Love,” “One More Cup of Coffee,” and “Golden Loom,” all written by Dylan alone. It is of course uncharacteristic of Dylan to work with another writer-this marks only the first or second time he ever shared credit for the lyrics of a song, and still stands as his most extensive collaboration with another songwriter.
~Paul Williams (Bob Dylan: Performing Artist, Vol 2: The Middle Years 1974-1986)
From the Paul Zollo (SongTalk) interview with Bob Dylan – April 1991:
SongTalk: Your collaborations with Jacques Levy came out pretty great.
Bob Dylan: We both were pretty much lyricists. Yeah, very panoramic songs because, you know, after one of my lines, one of his lines would come out. Writing with Jacques wasn’t difficult. It was trying to just get it down. It just didn’t stop. Lyrically. Of course, my melodies are very simple anyway so they’re very easy to remember.
This is a great interview from May 2004 uploaded to YouTube 2013. Sadly enough Levy passed away in September 2004.
Jacques Levy (29 July 1935 – 30 September 2004) was an American songwriter, theatre director, and clinical psychologist.
Levy was born in New York City in 1935, and attended City College. He received a doctorate in psychology from Michigan State University. Levy was a trained psychoanalyst, certified by the Menninger Institute for Psychoanalysis in Topeka, Kansas. He later returned to New York and became a clinical psychologist.
In 1965, Levy directed Sam Shepard’s play Red Cross. The following year he directed two of the short plays in Jean-Claude van Itallie’s America Hurrah. In 1969, Levy directed the off-Broadway erotic revue Oh! Calcutta!, after which, Levy approached Roger McGuinn of The Byrds to collaborate on a project inspired by Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt. The musical stalled, but one song, “Chestnut Mare,” co-written by McGuinn and Levy, became the single released from the album (Untitled) in 1970. Many further Levy-McGuinn songs appeared on Byrds and McGuinn albums during the 1970s. In 1973, Levy and Van Itallie reunited for Mystery Play, which starred Judd Hirsch and had a brief run off-Broadway at the Cherry Lane Theatre.
In the mid-seventies, Levy met Bob Dylan through McGuinn. Shortly after, the two collaborated on “Isis” and another six songs which appeared on Dylan’s 1976 album Desire. These included “Hurricane” about imprisoned boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, and “Joey” about the mafia gangster and hit man, Joe Gallo. In 1975, Levy effectively directed Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue. Levy’s lyrics also entered the repertoires of Joe Cocker,Crystal Gayle, and Carly Simon.
This is insightful stuff, like getting a glimpse into the creative process.
Continue reading Jacques Levy on working with Bob Dylan