In July 1996, Stephen Scobie/Maureen Scobie firstname.lastname@example.org asked (in rec.music.dylan/hwy61-l):
Or, more seriously, can any of the apposite Edlis experts elucidate how much of this song ["Seven Curses"] is traditional, and how much was written by Dylan?
Ben Taylor bptaylor@LAGUNA.DEMON.CO.UK replied:
The only other note I have for "Seven Curses" is that "Anathea" (composer?), recorded by Judy Collins (album & year?), tells a similar story. I too am interested in the answer to your question!
I also noticed the striking similarities between Judy Collins' "Anathea" and Dylan's "Seven Curses."
"Anathea" appears on "Judy Collins No. 3" (Elektra EKS 7243, released 3/64).
In "Judy Collins," Flash Books, New York/London, 1977, Vivian Claire writes about the song:
"Anathea", the first cut on the album, is an eerily beautiful song generally credited to Lydia Wood.
"Anathea" tells the story of a woman who tries to trade her virginity to save her imprisoned brother. Her brother tells her this won't work, the judge will simply use her and will still hang him...
From Judy Collins' liner notes:
I think "Anathea" is an ingenious combination of *traditional-sounding* lyrics and melody.
I am told that Lydia Wood was given the poem when she was in Paris a few years ago, and set the lovely melody to this story of cruel justice.
In "The Judy Collins Songbook," Grossett & Dunlap, New York, 1969, the song is credited to Neil Roth (words) and Lydia Wood (music), © 1963 by Fall River Music, Inc., 200 W. 57th St., New York, N.Y.
According to Clinton Heylin ("Stolen Moments"), Dylan's "Seven Curses" was first recorded as a Witmark and Sons demo in May 1963 (p. 41) and copyrighted on June 10, 1963 (p. 323). The released version on "The Bootleg Series" is dated Aug 6, 1963.
If Judy Collins is correct about Lydia Wood getting "the poem when she was in Paris a few years ago", then Dylan indeed seems to have been "inspired" by this poem (or Judy Collins' rendition if she performed it live prior to the album release).
EMAIL RECEIVED FROM JUDY COLLINS:
Date: Wed, 24 Jul 1996 11:30:03 -0400
Absolutely, the Seven Curses are related to Anathea. There are old themes, world themes, centuries old dramas that get worked out in the creative process by artist after artist. Thanks for all the good work, and I'm glad you are doing this.
I see what Dylan has always done is to connect with this inner, subterranean river of the subconscious. It is what every artist must do. The fame, the records, the success -- these are all simply manifestations of the fact that the universe needs to hear the story again!!!