Positively van Gogh

Written by Bob Dylan
Recorded in a Denver Hotel Room, 12-13 March 1966
Tabbed by Eyolf Østrem

Capo 4th and/or 2nd fret (Sounding key E and D major)
Drop C tuning (C-A-d-g-b-e')

One can list six "takes" of this song:

  1. Capo 2nd fret, first verse only. Breaks off and moves the capo to the 4th fret.
  2. Capo 4th fret. The most complete version. Breaks off at the beginning of the fifth verse.
  3. Change of rhythm, from triple to duple time. Parts of fifth verse only.
  4. Capo 2nd fret again. Mostly working out the "lead guitar part" ("Very funky. Ah, it's not very funky, it's very sweet"), which ends up going something like this:
      G       F         C       F         C
      :   .   .   .     :   .   .   .     :
    Contains the whole fifth verse. Breaks off after a long stretch with C-Csus4 doodling ("Oh, this is a great part here")
  5. "This is the part about Camilla. This is all about Camilla." First half of the sixth verse.
  6. More fooling around with the "lead guitar part". Also back in triple time, mostly, and back in the fifth verse again. (Could this actually be "Take 4"?)

Different versions of the strumming pattern:

  :   .   .     :   .   .
  :   .   .     :   .   .
C      032010
Csus4  033010
F      003210 or 033210 or 033211
G7     220001
Am     x02210
Em     x22000
           C                           F
           :   .   .     :   .   .     :   .   .     :   .   .
When I'd   asked why the painting was  deadly                no - body...
         C                        F
When I'd ask why the painting was deadly
Nobody could pick up my sign
              F                    C
'Cept for the cook, she was always friendly
          F                         C
But she'd only ask, "What's on your mind?"
      F                               C
She'd say that especially when it was raining
    C    G7  F       C
I'd say "Oh, I don't know"
               F                                C
But then she'd press and I'd say, "You see that painting?
       F                           C
Do you think it's been done by Van Gogh?"
    C             G7       F  C
The cook she said call her Maria
      F                                     C
She'd always point for the same boy to come forth
            F                            C
Saying, "He trades cattle, it's his own idea
       F                       C
And he also makes trips to the North
         Am                  Em
Have you ever seen his naked calf bleed?"
    C                        Am
I'd say, "Oh no, why does it show?"
           C             Csus4           C
Then she'd whisper in my ear that he's a half-breed
        F                      G7             C
And I'd say, "Fine, but can he paint like Van Gogh?"
          C          F             G7
I can't remember his name he never gave it
      F              G7          C
But I always figured he could go home
              F           G7              C
Til when he'd gave me his card and said, "Save it"
        Am         F           C
I could see by his eyes he was alone
           Am                    Em
But it was sad how his four leaf clover
C                         Am
Drawn on his calling card showed
                  C             Csus4      C
That it was given back to him a-many times over
            Am                             C
And it most definitely was not done by Van Gogh.
              C          F            C
It was either she or the maid just to please me
         F                         C
Though I sensed she could not understand
               F                              C
And she made a thing out of it by saying, "Go easy
       Am                                         C
He's a straight, but he's a very crooked straight man."
        F                                   C
And I'd say, "Does the girl in the calendar doubt it?
Am                               Em
 And by the way is it Marilyn Monroe?"
                   C         Csus4               C
But she'd just get salty and say, "Why you wanna know about it?"
        Am                                                 C
And I'd say, "I was just wondering if she ever sat for Van Gogh."
              C          F                     C
It was either her or the straight man who introduced me...
That's the wrong beat I'm playing all the way
Change in rhythm:
Strumming pattern:
  C                         F
  :   .   .   .     :   .   .   .


  C                         Csus4
  :   .   .   .     :   .   .   .


  C                         F
  :   .   .   .     :   .   .   .
              C          Csus4                 C
It was either her or the straight man who introduced me
F              C
To Jeanette, Camilla's friend
    F                   C
Who later on falsely accused me
   F                       C
Of stealing her locket and pen
       Am                     Em
When I said "I don't have the locket"
              C                 Csus4                C
She said "You steal pictures of everybody's mother I know"
And I said "There's no locket
No picture of any mother I would pocket
  F                          C
Unless it's been done by Van Gogh."
          C     Csus4        C
Camilla's house stood on the outskirts
    F                        C
How strange to see the chandeliers destroyed...