I'll Be Your Baby Tonight

People occasionally ask me why I don't include vocals on the recordings we use for our Community Guitar classes. To which I reply: why learn to sing from me, of all people? If you want to mimic someone, mimic someone whose vocals are better—or at least more distinctive—than mine. Take, for example, those of Mr. Bob Dylan.

Now hold on, hold on...I didn't suggest you take a class in vocal technique from the guy. That could get you a bad case of vocal nodules, and the mumbles. Still, no one puts across a Bob Dylan song like Bob Dylan. So if you want to know how the vocal to this song goes, start at the source: this take from Dylan's 1967 album John Wesley Harding.

Audio Clip: Bob Dylan sings I'll Be Your Baby Tonight

If you've got the sort of female plumbing that includes a really good set of pipes, you could put on some big ol' hoop earings and belt it with a hint of burlesque like Linda Ronstadt did in 1969—pre-fame, pre-fortune—on Hand Sown, Home Grown.

Audio Clip: Linda Ronstadt sings I'll Be Your Baby Tonight

Or maybe you'd rather slip into something more comfortable and sing it all slinkily, as Maria Muldaur had a year earlier. This was with then-husband Geoff on Pottery Pie and well before she struck gold round Midnight at the Oasis.

Audio Clip: Maria and Geoff Muldaur, I'll Be Your Baby Tonight


OK...time for a pop quiz. If you want to play the game, let not your eyes drift beyond the link below. Your mission: name the singer and, for extra credit, the record label for this intimate 1971 take on the tune. You might want to dim the lights for this one:

Audio clip: Mystery singer on mystery label, offering to be your baby tonight.

Recognize him? If not, try this early hit by the same artist:

Audio clip: Same mystery artist, new song, featuring water.

And if you need one last hint, here's another signature statement from this musical cameleon.

Audio Clip: Same man of mystery, new song, still featuring water.

Quite the quick-change of musical costumes, eh? Whether clad as a rock idol, pop crooner or folky, you could do worse than borrow your vocal styling from another Bob, our mystery artist, Bobby Darin. Only his hard-core fans could be expected to recall that in the late 60's Darin tried to escape the Vegas lounge and trade his tux for a denim jacket, rebranding himself as an earnest, guitar-plucking singer-songwriter. How earnest, you ask? By the standards of the day, reasonably so. By today's...off the charts.

But you be the judge of that. Here he is performing a song he himself penned (though Tim Hardin had the hit with it). When Simple Song of Freedom was released as a single, I'll Be Your Baby was the B side of this gentle anthem, (which, truth be told, gets a lot more heavily produced and reminiscent of the label on which it was recorded as the arrangement develops. )

Audio Clip: Simple Song of Freedom, written and performed by Bobby Darin

Which reminds me, I promised you extra credit if you knew the aforementioned record label for Darin's recordings of Simple Song and I'll Be Your Baby. If you said Vanguard, or Folkways, or even Capitol Records, you lose, but with dignity. If you knew the actual answer—would you believe, Motown?—I hope you are earning big mojitos cyber-filing music criticism from a hammock in the West Indies.

If you failed the quiz utterly, as I would have, take heart. The only prize being offered to winners and losers alike is the opportunity to add another playable, singable song to your repertoire of great jam tunes. This one does have a bridge that we didn't hear in the samples above, so be sure to pick up or download a complete version of the song featuring your favorite singer to get the full vocal. Then close your eyes, close the door, grab your guitar...and let's play it.