“He Was a Friend of Mine” Traditional Song
For articles with similar titles, see Friend of Mine (disambiguation). "He Was a Friend of Mine" is a traditional folk song in which the singer laments the death of a friend.
The earliest known version of the song is titled "Shorty George" (Roud10055) and was first recorded by musicologist couple John and Ruby Terril Lomax in 1939 at the Clemens State Farm in Brazoria County, Texas in a version performed by African-American inmate Smith Casey, who accompanied himself on guitar.
Alan Lomax described the song as a "blues" that was "a dirge for a dead comrade."
The song has since been recorded by many artists, including Bob Dylan, Dave Van Ronk, The Washington Squares, Bobby Bare, Mercury Rev, The Black Crowes, The Mitchell Trio, Willie Nelson, Nanci Griffith, Cat Power and, in a reworded version, The Byrds. [3-4] The version recorded by Willie Nelson was used in the film
inaccurately credits Bob Dylan as the songwriter. Dylan had
arranged an early version of the tune in 1962 and his version can be heard on
the compilation album The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 (Rare &
Unreleased) 1961–1991.  Brokeback
The Byrds' version "He Was a Friend of Mine"
Song by The Byrds from the album Turn! Turn! Turn! Released
December 6, 1965
November 11, 1965,
Studios, Columbia Hollywood, CA
Genre Folk rock, folk Label Columbia Writer Traditional, new words and arrangement Jim McGuinn Producer Terry Melcher
Turn! Turn! Turn! track listing
The Byrds included a recording of "He Was a Friend of Mine" on their 1965 album Turn! Turn! Turn! (see 1965 in music). In The Byrds' version, the song's melody is altered and the lyrics are changed to lament the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
The band's lead guitarist Jim McGuinn rewrote the song's lyrics in late 1963 to give it a more contemporary slant and transform it into a eulogy for President Kennedy.
McGuinn explained the origins of the song in an interview: "I wrote the song the night John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I suppose you could say it's one of the earliest Byrds songs. The arrangement used was as I'd always sung it. I just thought it was a good idea to include it on the Turn! Turn! Turn! album."  Due to the extensively rewritten lyrics of The Byrds version, the officially registered songwriting credit for the song is "Traditional/new words and arrangement McGuinn".
Following its appearance on the band's second album, the song would go on to become a staple of The Byrds' live concert repertoire, until their final disbandment in 1973.  The band also performed the song during their appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival on
17, 1967, where band member David Crosby made controversial
remarks alleging that Kennedy had not been killed by Lee Harvey Oswald alone,
but was actually the victim of a U.S. Government conspiracy.  The
Byrds’ performance of "He Was a Friend of Mine" at
was included in the 2002 The Complete Monterey Pop Festival Monterey DVD box
In 1990, a reformed line-up of The Byrds, featuring Roger McGuinn, David Crosby and Chris Hillman, re-recorded the song for The Byrds box set. 
Other cover versions
The Briarwood Singers, a five-piece folk group, released a version of the song that reached #126 on the Billboard charts in December 1963.  Bobby Bare also recorded "He Was a Friend of Mine" in 1964, in memory of air crash victim Jim Reeves. That same year, Petula Clark released a French version of the song under the title "Toi qui m'as fait pleurer", with Bobby Bare credited as writer.
Tom Goodkind of the Washington Squares sang the song with Marco Sin of Dirty Looks on bass and Billy Ficca of Television on drums at NYC's Paladium as a tribute to friend Abbie Hoffman. Dave Van Ronk sang the song at the memorial concert for Phil Ochs in
Madison Square Garden Felt Forum, in May 1976, after Ochs' suicide. The English
band, The Bishops, have also covered the song on their 2009
album, For Now. The song was featured in an episode of the reality
television series Jacob and Joshua: Nemesis Rising when the gay pop
duo Nemesis recorded it for the album Rise Up. This version
was produced by Barry Manilow and released New York City June 26, 2007.
The Grateful Dead commonly performed a song called "He Was a Friend of Mine" during live concerts between 1966 and 1970, but that song was in fact based on the Mark Spoelstra song, "Just a Hand to Hold".
^ a b "Archive of American Folk song: Afro-American Blues and Game Songs". Library of Congress/The
. Retrieved 2012-02-28. American Folklife
^ a b Hjort, Christopher. (2008). So You Want To Be A Rock 'n' Roll Star: The Byrds Day-By-Day (1965-1973). Jawbone Press. p. 70. ISBN 1-906002-15-0.
^ Fricke, David. (1996). Turn! Turn! Turn! (1996 CD liner notes).
^ a b c Rogan, Johnny. (1998). The Byrds: Timeless Flight Revisited (2nd ed.). Rogan House. p. 145. ISBN 0-9529540-1-X.
^ Rogan, Johnny. (1998). The Byrds: Timeless Flight Revisited(2nd ed.). Rogan House. p. 641. ISBN 0-9529540-1-X.
^ Hjort, Christopher. (2008). So You Want To Be A Rock 'n' Roll Star: The Byrds Day-By-Day (1965-1973). Jawbone Press. p. 134. ISBN 1-906002-15-0.
^ Rogan, Johnny. (1998). The Byrds: Timeless Flight Revisited(2nd ed.). Rogan House. p. 219. ISBN 0-9529540-1-X.
^ "The Complete Monterey Pop Festival - Menu Options".Allmovie. Retrieved 2010-01-19.
^ Rogan, Johnny. (1998). The Byrds: Timeless Flight Revisited(2nd ed.). Rogan House. p. 439. ISBN 0-9529540-1-X.
Dave Van Ronk - He Was A Friend Of Mine
Dave Van Ronk! Suddenly it's 1964, the Village, Phil Ochs, Mark Wenner and I going to see Gordon Lightfoot, running into Arlo Guthrie in a bearskin coat in the snow, all of us going across to the Bitter End to meet a new group, the Jefferson Airplane, that would help bring all the folk singers to an end. I haven't heard this since 1966, probably, and it's even better than I remember. I can't remember anyone ever saying anything bad about Dave Van Ronk. Universal affection for him.
Some of the comments on this video are incredible. Happy I posted something that resonated with so many people.
I remember sitting in a basement cafe on
Street in the Village listening to Dave singing
"Keep of Trucking Mama" "Salty Dog" and "Baby Let Me
Follow You Down" 1964-1965. James Taylor was singing at the Night Owl. I
had to stand outside because the Night Owl was expensive. Seems like yesterday.