A Classic In 30 Minutes: 'Four Strong Winds' In this segment of the What's in a Song series, Ian Tyson tells of writing the classic folk song "Four Strong Winds" after hearing Bob Dylan sing at an East Village bar. Inspired by Dylan, Tyson sat down with a guitar, writing the folk classic in half an hour.

A Classic In 30 Minutes: 'Four Strong Winds'

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There was something in the air and on the streets of Greenwich Village in the early '60s that set the pulse of America. It also left an indelible imprint on the culture.

This week's What's in a Song, from the Western Folklife Center, captures the musical weather of the time with Ian and Sylvia's enduring hit song "Four Strong Winds."

Mr. IAN TYSON (Songwriter-Musician): I'm Ian Tyson and I'm a songwriter and a singer of what you would call western folk music. Bob Dylan was on MacDougal Street, as the rest of our little group was - and which consisted of Peter, Paul and Mary and little Ann Chandler and Tom Paxton. We were all a little group hanging out.

(Soundbite of song, "Four Strong Winds")

Mr. TYSON And Ms. SYLVIA TYSON: (Singing) Four strong winds that blow lonely, seven seas that run high. All those things that don't change, come what may...

Mr. TYSON: We used to hang out at a bar called the Kettle of Fish. And one autumn afternoon, I was in the Kettle of Fish and Bob Dylan came in and sang me a song that he was working on. I want to say it's "Blowing in the Wind," but I'm not sure that's the case. But it was one of those songs from the era.

(Singing) Think I'll go out to Alberta. Weather is good there in...

Mr. TYSON: You know, he's just rattling it off and, you know, he was developing that style.

(Soundbite of mimicry)

Mr. TYSON: You know? And I thought I can do that. How hard can this be?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TYSON: You know?

(Singing) Still, I wish you'd change your mind if I asked you one more time...

So I got a hold of Albert Grossman, who became our manager, who was the only one that had a roof over his head. And I said, you know, can I use your apartment tomorrow, cause I want to try and write and song? And he said, yeah, sure you can. And that's what happened. I went over there and it was a funky, little apartment. Took my guitar and just opened up the case and started to fooling around and strumming. And it took half an hour.

(Singing) But by then it would be winter, there ain't too much for you to do. And those winds sure can blow cold way out here...

And I didn't think anything of it, really. But it took off.

(Singing) Four strong winds that blow lonely...

Ms. SARAH MCLACHLAN (Singer-Songwriter): ...seven seas that run high...

Mr. JOHN DENVER (Singer-Songwriter): (Singing) All these things that don't change, come what may...

Mr. NEIL YOUNG (Singer-Songwriter): (Singing) If the good times are all gone and I'm bound for moving on...

Mr. TYSON: I thought, well, I can write a couple of those a week. But I found out quite quickly that you don't write a couple of them a week - at all.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TYSON And Ms. TYSON: (Singing) I'll look for you if I'm ever back this way.

HANSEN: What's in a Song is produced by Hal Cannon and Taki Telonidis of the Western Folklife Center.

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

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