Dylan cover a day “I was young when I left home” and an emotional connection

By Tony Attwood

Some people don’t show emotions, some at the other extreme can be swamped by them.  For most of us, it is not a choice, it is just how it happens to be. I’m at the far end of the second option.  I do emotions big time.

And quite possibly never more so than this moment, for having lived my life as an only child, a week ago I was contacted by a gentleman three years older than myself telling me that he thought he was my brother.   And indeed so it turns out to be.  I can’t begin to describe the emotions.  I have spent my life wishing I had a sibling; now I find he was there all the time.  And he’s such a nice guy.

Now I am not going to go into all the details surrounding how I could have lived a long and active life and never known I had a brother, but I would say that the emotions I perceive in “I was young when I left home” ring a bell with me at this point.   Except “ring a bell” is a woefully inadequate and misleading image.   My story is not that described by Dylan in this song, but it involves a family breaking up, and me spending my entire life without ever knowing what happened.  Thankfully in the end my brother took it upon himself to face the emotions and tracked me down.

And now, despite the fact that I have spent my life writing, and indeed still do spend my time writing, I find it completely impossible to describe the emotions on the discovery that through my entire life there has been a brother of mine living in the same country as me – and indeed for three years living, not 20 miles from where I lived – without me knowing.

Such thoughts have dominated my head for the past week or so,  and welled up once more as a full emotional onslaught on listening to “I was young when I left home” for the first time in a few years.  And I would stress this song today wasn’t planned and it wasn’t a choice.  It is simply the next song in the alphabetical list of Dylan songs for which there are cover versions.

It’s a simple and beautiful song of regret; nothing to do with my life and this last week of a  glorious turmoil of tears and smiles, but still a song of a family being torn apart.

And to my surprise, there are a few covers….

Big Thief is the name given on the video above, but the Wiki article on the band makes no mention of this track which appeared on the compilation album “Decoration Day”.   There is a beautiful wistfulness about this version but I am not sure what the extraneous background sounds are about.

Marcus Mumford stays closer to Dylan, and as you would expect gives a performance of perfection, with every note carefully crafted and exquisitely executed.  And miraculously he holds the emotion all the way through without it ever feeling too much.

And I think when I decided to be brave and tackle this song today I expected the Marcus Mumford version would be enough for me, but no, I can still find more emotion in the version from Antony + Bryce Dessner

The final version is refreshing in that it is not tearing my emotions apart, because it doesn’t sound to me that the singer feels the music as in the earlier versions above, and for once in my life I am grateful for this, as I need something to bring me back to myself.

And I am glad that by pure chance a song of a family being torn apart (although I must stress that although I have now learned that my family broke up, the events are not related to those Dylan describes) turns up now as the next “cover a day” that is there for me to write about.  Had I got here one week earlier, I’d have written the review without any knowledge that my life was about to be turned inside out.  Such a thing makes everything seem so much more real.


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