Brother Bill: How William S. Burroughs Influenced Bob Dylan

1960s: Days of Rage

“Bob Dylan’s classic album Highway 61 Revisited was released in August 1965. The first song on the album, ‘Like A Rolling Stone,’ reached number two on the Billboard charts. It was kept from the top spot only by The Beatles and their demand for ‘Help!’ The second track on Dylan’s album, ‘Tombstone Blues,’ features more than a dozen named characters, including one who might be William S. Burroughs.

Now I wish I could give Brother Bill his great thrill
I would set him in chains at the top of a hill
Then send out for some pillars and Cecil B. DeMille
He could die happily ever after.

Iggy Pop thinks ‘Brother Bill’ is a reference to Burroughs. At least he said as much in a 2014 BBC radio documentary on Burroughs’ life and influence. However, as with most things Dylan has touched and said, written and lived, there are competing…

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