Bob Dylan and George Harrison Play Tennis, 1969


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Bob Dylan’s mys­te­ri­ous motor­cy­cle acci­dent in 1966—an event that has pro­voked all sorts of wild spec­u­la­tion—gave the over­worked mer­cu­r­ial star an oppor­tu­ni­ty to become a full-fledged recluse, which he seemed to need, whether it was war­rant­ed by his injuries or not. He skipped out on Wood­stock, turned his back on the flower pow­er rock scene, and in 1967, record­ed what I con­sid­er his absolute best album, John Wes­ley Hard­ing (go ahead and yell about my tastes in the com­ments). By 1969, he had recov­ered enough musi­cal­ly to expand his palate and record my sec­ond favorite of his albums, the full-on coun­try Nashville Sky­line. He had also recov­ered enough phys­i­cal­ly to play ten­nis with George Har­ri­son, as you can see above.


Har­ri­son, mean­while, had quit The Bea­t­les in Jan­u­ary, then was coaxed back into the band, which more or less broke up lat­er that year. But he had been busy—recording two most­ly-instru­men­tal solo albums and writ­ing his Hin­du gospel hit “My Sweet Lord” and the rest of his incred­i­ble 1970 triple album All Things Must Pass. Some­how amidst all the tur­moil and tran­si­tion, as Har­ri­son began his most pro­duc­tive solo peri­od and Dylan pre­pared to release what near­ly every­one con­sid­ers his worst record, Self Por­trait, the two found time to hit some balls before Dylan’s per­for­mance at the Isle of Wight fes­ti­val. Dylan was appar­ent­ly a long­time ten­nis fan. His 1964 “I Shall be Free No. 10” con­tains ref­er­ences to the sport. The pho­tos were released by the Har­ri­son fam­i­ly for the 2011 Mar­tin Scors­ese-direct­ed doc George Har­ri­son: Liv­ing in the Mate­r­i­al World (trail­er below).

via Retro­naut/Dan­ger­ous Minds

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear the Nev­er-Before-Released Bob Dylan Song “Pret­ty Saro” (1970)

The 1969 Bob Dylan-John­ny Cash Ses­sions: Twelve Rare Record­ings

George Har­ri­son in the Spot­light: The Dick Cavett Show (1971)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Comments (7)
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  • Kind of sur­prised you men­tioned Har­rison’s “My Sweet Lord” with­out ref­er­enc­ing the pla­gia­rism suit it inspired. I final­ly got around to look­ing into it — learned that the song he bor­rowed from is called “He’s So Fine”, record­ed in 1963 by The Chif­fons (you can lis­ten to it here: The sim­i­lar­i­ty of the melodies is unmis­tak­able. Which is not to sug­gest George Har­ri­son was­n’t a tal­ent­ed song­writer … just a brief obser­va­tion, plus an excuse for won­der­ing why suits of this kind weren’t more fre­quent. Rock‑n’-roll songs, after all, are plen­ti­ful and tend to be melod­i­cal­ly sim­ple.

    • tommym says:

      MindTheR­ant, you must be young! “He’s So Fine” was a real­ly real­ly big hit, and a great love song for us as young teens. When “My Sweet Lord” came out, what can I say — it did­n’t ring a bell for me, but it sure did for mem­bers of The Tokens, a FIFTIES group from Brook­lyn, who’d writ­ten “She’s So Fine” — and made a pret­ty pen­ny more off of it than did the Chif­fons, the fetch­ing black girls that had sang it to #1…The rest is his­to­ry. George prob­a­bly did­n’t rec­og­nize it either. But it inspired anoth­er hit of his, “The Sue You Sue Me Blues.” What goes around…

      • MindTheRant says:

        Well, every­body’s younger than some­one. I was 8 in 1963 … so no, I was­n’t lis­ten­ing to Top 40 music on the radio. As for “Sue You Sue Me Blues”, thanks for the ref­er­ence — I lis­tened to it over on YouTube. I guess the guy who wrote “Tax­man” was nev­er more inspired than when he was pissed off about some­one hav­ing a hand in his pock­et.

  • Droy says:

    After Har­rison’s law­suit, which he lost, he bought the rights to “He’s So Fine” so he could­n’t be sued again.

  • albert says:

    One thing I nev­er under­stood about pop song copy­rights cas­es: if they have any valid­i­ty at all, Chuck Berry would be rich­er than Bill Gates.

  • dagwood says:

    I don’t think John Wes­ley Hard­ing was Dylan’s best, but I think very high­ly of it and lis­ten to some of it fre­quent­ly to this day. I like it much bet­ter than most peo­ple do, I guess. Most of us, when JWH came out, were blown away, got Nabo­kov­ian spine-tin­gles from it. I also loved its rad­i­cal turn away from ever-more-out­ra­geous/­com­plex acts of psy­che­delia. So it was also a press of the reboot but­ton, very lib­er­at­ing for the music scene.

  • pseudanko says:

    Pick­ing a favourite Dylan album is a bit of a fools errand — hell these days I am like­li­er to lis­ten to Love and Theft than any of the oth­er records — but John Wes­ley Hard­ing is def­i­nite­ly a joy from start to fin­ish.

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