I’ve known about this song for 15 years, but country-music artist Marty Stuart revealed in a recent story in American Songwriter magazine that his 1999 song “The Observations of a Crow” drew its inspiration during a stop on Route 66.
Stuart explained how the song happened:
It was when I was writing “The Pilgrim.” My antenna was up really high if you know what I mean. And I was riding through the West. I think we were pulling off of the interstate and we pulled off on Route 66 somewhere just to get fuel in the bus. It was like one of the places, it looked like a ghost town. There was just a few locals around.
But I happened to look up. And there was a crow sitting on the electrical line. And I couldn’t take my eyes off him. I’ve always been fascinated by crows, I’ve always loved crows. But as people would come and go, the few people that there were, that crow never left. He kept hanging out. And I thought, “The Observations Of A Crow.” And it was that simple but it was an occurrence that came to me on Route 66 somewhere.
Alas, Stuart didn’t elaborate where on Route 66 this occurred. And the range of the typical American crow is very wide.
Here’s a performance of the song on Stuart’s terrific RFD-TV television show, with an arrangement very close to the original:
Incidentally, a few Bob Dylan fans thought Stuart ripped off part of Dylan’s “Things Have Changed.” I’m highly skeptical, because Stuart’s song was out a year before Dylan’s. Anyway, it turns out Dylan was a big fan of Stuart’s song. Stuart told American Songwriter:
Well, actually, one night, this is probably close to ten years ago now, Bob and I hung out. I took him to my warehouse to see all the country music treasures I have. Bob said, “Hey, I like that ‘Crow’ song. I might borrow something out of that someday. I said, “Well, I probably borrowed it from you in the first place. Go ahead.”
Stuart didn’t exactly deny the resemblance between the songs. And Dylan has his own alleged history of lifting melodies from other artists.
(Image of Marty Stuart at the Grand Ole Opry in March 2008 by Karen Miller via Flickr)