Why does Dylan like “We had it all”?

By Tony Attwood and Aaron Galbraith

In this series, “Why does Dylan like,” many of the songs that we have looked at have been suggested by Aaron, with the commentary written up by Tony – as is the case here.  And most of the time I (that is Tony) have been able to see at once what Bob Dylan finds so interesting and exciting in the song in question.

But not this time.  Which is of course a failing on my part, no one else’s.  But I am nonetheless writing up the details of the song in the hope that maybe one or two readers might be able to explain why I have failed so miserably to see anything in this song.

Bob Dylan certainly liked it – he played in 32 times in 1986, and here it is with the lyrics written below…

I can hear the wind a blowing in my mind
Just the way it used to sound
Through the Georgia pines
And you were there to answer when I called
You and me we had it all
Remember how I used to touch your hair?
While reaching for the feeling
That was always there

You were the best thing in my life
I can recall you and me we had it all
I know that we can never live those times again
So I let my dreams take me back
To where we have been
Then I’ll stay with you girl as long as I can
Oh it was so good oh it was so good
Oh it was so good when I was your man

I’ll never stop believing in your smile
Even though you didn’t stay
It was all worthwhile
You were the best thing in my life
I can recall you and me we had it all
You and me we had it all

The song was written by Troy Seals and Donnie Fritts and originally recorded by Waylon Jenning on the 1973 album “Honky Tonk Heroes”.

Now these composers are no occasional song writers.  Troy Seals has had his compositions recorded by such luminaries as Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis etc etc.  Donny Fritts has been Kris Kristofferson’s keyboard player for forever, and was in (among other films) Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.

Within a year of the song being published it was used as the title track for Scott Walker’s tenth studio album – his last such before reforming The Walker Brothers.

So, what makes it so special?  Most obviously the lyrics are incredibly successful in portraying one of the three great themes of popular music – lost love.  It is an absolute statement of lost love – the couple had everything, it was perfection, and then she walked away.   But he still remembers her with absolute affection and love, despite her departure, because the affair was the best thing ever.

So no surprise that there have been 25 recordings of it.  Here is one of the composer’s own versions…

And the other composer

Which leaves the question that I have been skirting around – why does Bob Dylan like it so much?  There are after all many other songs of lost love

My only guess is that he loves the lyrics because they mean something very special to him.  He is talking about the lady who has left him in or just before 1986 I guess.

Looking for clues at this time we also have in 1986 the Dylan absolute classic “To Fall in Love with You.”

Does Dylan associate “We had it all” with the same event that “To Fall in Love with You” was written about?   Of course we can’t possibly know, but it’s the best guess I have got.

And of course Bob has been writing lost love songs from the start – Tomorrow is a long time being a perfect example.  And if that’s not enough, then we might consider Girl from the North Country and Bob Dylan’s Dream

I guess it meant a lot to Bob just at the time her performed it, because of the lyrics, and then as Bob so often does, he just moved on.  For as Robert Johnson said, “You gotta keep moving.”

 

 

 

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3 Responses to Why does Dylan like “We had it all”?

  1. Aaron G says:

    The Rolling Stones also did an amazing version of this track with Keef on vocals. Unreleased at the time it was included on the Some Girls deluxe set from a few years ago. One wonders if Keith picked this one because of his marriage troubles with Anita at the time. Maybe Bob was going through a similar situation… although didn’t he get married in 86? Maybe that’s why he dropped it from the set list

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ObFs54QssSE

  2. Morten Jonsson says:

    Why does he like it? Because it’s a beautiful song? A universal sentiment, an appealing melody, a heartbreaking performance of it by Waylon Jennings? What else do you need? No one likes a song because of the theme; they like it because of the way it expresses the theme. Maybe Bob was thinking of a particular situation when he sang this song, but there’s no reason to assume that. (Waylon, for what it’s worth, wasn’t going through any personal heartbreak in 1973, when he recorded the song; he’d married the love of his life four years earlier, and he was having a great time.)

    If you want to get a little more specific about why it might have appealed to him, listen to his arrangement of it. He’s given it a gospel feel, bringing out something latent in the song. If you want something of his to compare it to, try “I’ll Remember You,” which sounds almost like a rewrite of this song.

    I’ll remember you
    When the wind blows through the piny wood
    It was you who came right through
    It was you who understood

    Compare that to

    I can hear the wind a blowin’ in my mind
    Just the way it used to sound, through the Georgia pines
    You were there to answer when I called
    You and me we had it all

  3. Robert Ford says:

    Listen to how Dylan reverses the first and third lines as he sings them. As with his lovely cover of ‘ 1952 Vincent Black Lightning ‘ he changes the words as he sings them to enable him to feel the song. He often does this with his cover songs such as ‘ The Boxer ‘ when he changes ” glove ” to the universal ” blow “.

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