Wasn’t Born To Follow (1968)

The Byrds

The Notorious Byrd Brothers
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“Wasn’t Born To Follow” gushed forth from the never-ending spring of the Carole King and Gerry Goffin song-writing partnership that gave the world “Locomotion,” “Up On The Roof” and “(You Make Me Fell Like A) Natural Woman.”

“Wasn’t Born” was a thematic departure for the duo, who would divorce shortly after the composition was finished and handed over to The Byrds. In the last verse, indeed, lyricist Goffin addresses his soon-to-be ex.

The Byrds, who had a knack for transforming the songs of others – most notably Bob Dylan – turned the tune into a freedom-living anthem, a quiet Psychedelic-Country gem that even today seems to distill one of the many strains of feeling running through the late-’60s: be free, act free.

The innovative cross-phasing, the interplay between the electric and country slide guitars and the vibrating background generate a strange, far-out sense of open spaces – and anticipate tragedy.

The song is featured in the 1969 landmark hippie film Easy Rider, a movie that ends with the two freak-flag-flying heroes being shotgunned to death on a highway in the rural South. “The Ballad Of Easy Rider,” a sort of reprise of “Wasn’t Born To Follow,” composed by Dylan and chief Byrd Roger McGuinn in the form of a solemn lament, closes the movie.

“Wasn’t Born To Follow” is a celebration of all that is good about LSD, road-tripping, the open air, the inner and outer possibilities that only the young can savor, if only in retrospect. Soaring, swooping, throttling, aching for a bright future:

Oh, I’d rather go and journey where the
Diamond crescent’s flowing
And run across the valley
Beneath the sacred mountain
And wander through the forest
Where the trees have leaves of prisms
That break the light up into colors
That no one knows the names of

And when it’s time I’ll go and wait
Beside the legendary fountain
Till I see your form reflected
In its clear and jeweled waters
And if you think I’m ready
You may lead me to the chasm
Where the rivers of our visions
Flow into one another

And I’ll stay awhile and wonder
At the mist that they’ve created
And lose myself within it
Cleanse my mind and body
And I know at that moment
As I stand in that cathedral
I will want to dive
Beneath the white cascading water

She may beg and she may plead
And she may argue with your logic
Mention all the things I’ll lose
That really have no value
Though I doubt that she will ever
Come to understand my meaning