Blind Willie McTell had a foundational role in the formation of American blues music*. Bob Dylan wrote this song to commemorate that singer and his role. While celebrating McTell’s talent, Dylan artfully captures the milieu in which the blues arose with such phrases as, “ghosts of slavery ships” and “Hear the cracking of the whips / Smell that sweet magnolia blooming.” The Band does an excellent job with the song. You can also hear Dylan’s recording of the song here.
* "Blind Willie McTell" from a blog post of mine from January, 2012.