- I’ve Made Up My Mind To Give Myself To You (2020) part 1
- I’ve Made Up My Mind To Give Myself To You (2020) part 2
- I’ve Made Up My Mind To Give Myself To You (2020) part 3
- I’ve Made Up My Mind To Give Myself To You (2020) part 4: I see thy glory
- I’ve Made Up My Mind To Give Myself To You (2020) part 5: A bottle of gin loosed her muse
by Jochen Markhorst
VI I knew Margo could sing it
Take me out traveling, you’re a traveling man Show me something that I’ll understand I’m not what I was, things aren’t what they were I’m going far away from home with her
It is a brilliant mistake, to have Sinatra sing an opera duet. His co-star in the mawkish It Happened In Brooklyn (1947) is the classically trained, enchanting Kathryn Grayson, and when they sing “Là Ci Darem La Mano” from Mozart’s Don Giovanni together, the contrast between the two convincingly demonstrates that a crooner is not an opera singer. In the same film, Sinatra shines with the perfect world premiere of the beautiful song “Time After Time” – unintentionally accentuating the difference between a romantic jazz ballad and a romantic opera duet.
Sinatra’s acting is less awkward. And he knows what he is singing, apparently. “Là Ci Darem La Mano” is officially a duettino – it only becomes really a duet in the last part, when Zerlina gives in. Before that, Mozart brilliantly captures what the song truly is: not a duet, but a duel. Don Giovanni, shortly before her wedding, tries to lure the lovely peasant girl Zerlina into his bedroom – and as long as Zerlina resists, her lyrics have a different melody to the Don’s. Only when she gives in do the melodies also flow together.
But in whatever performance, it remains a “real” duet; a musical composition for two performers. Solo versions of duets also exist plenty, of course. “Boots Of Spanish Letter”, for instance, the song in which Dylan himself does all the dialogue: both the guilt-ridden, departing lady and the resentful whiner who stays home. Or, slightly more sophisticated: double tracking, which we’ve known since Buddy Holly, where a previously recorded part lets the singer sing along with himself – but solo duets are of all times, of course.
Either way, the division of roles is always clear. Either because you simply hear two voices, or because it is clear from the text, from the dialogue, names, personal pronouns or otherwise, who is speaking and when. But in the twenty-first century, Dylan no longer makes it that easy for the listener. True, by now we are used to a sudden, confusing change of perspective (as in “Tangled Up In Blue”), or a surprising introduction of an unsuspected interlocutor (like the “you” in the last stanza of “Desolation Row”), but in this second bridge of “I’ve Made Up My Mind To Give Myself To You” Dylan goes one step further.
Until this sixth stanza, we had the impression to be listening to a dramatic monologue, one like Dylan has done dozens of times before; a protagonist telling his story to an otherwise invisible antagonist. The opening line tilts that perspective, or at least confuses it: “Take me out travelling, you’re a travelling man.” The suggestion so far was: a man who, after careful consideration, decides to share his life with a lady. Well, the “you” seemed to be a lady, anyway. This one addition “man” changes the perception;
– either the perspective now tilts, and the female antagonist comes into play,
– or Dylan, in a rather unique burst of gay emancipatory belligerence, describes the inner turmoil of a gay man,
– or we have been listening to a dialogue already from stanza 1, and should re-evaluate our understanding of the lyrics so far.
All possible… until the closing line of this bridge: “I’m going far away from home with her”. Changed both in the live versions and in the official publication, on the site, to “I’m going to go far away from home with her”, but that doesn’t clarify anything more; it remains a confusing juggling of personal pronouns. In fact, the last word, “her”, insinuates the introduction of a third person (after “I” and “you”), and thus a fatal love triangle.
Indeed, the music video accompanying the cover of Cowboy Junkies (2021) elegantly suggests this solution to capture the whole thing in an all-encompassing, narrative plot. The first-person in the clip is indeed a lady, hopelessly in love with a married man (presumably; in any case, a man who cannot just give himself away). We may then understand the pain point “away from home with her” as “away from where she, your lawful wife, is”. Laborious perhaps, but in doing so this verse, the only verse with a third person singular, and thus the only verse that obscures the initially uncluttered plot, does fit into a narrative. At least: in the alternative narrative, the narrative told by Cowboy Junkies’ music video.
It is, incidentally, an exceptionally successful cover, which when released, on the bonus CD Dylan Revisited with Uncut magazine on the occasion of Dylan’s 80th birthday, immediately breaks through to the Top 10 Most Beautiful Dylan Covers of All Time. Supreme Cowboy Junkie Michael Timmins is responsible for the surprising choice:
“When Uncut came to us, Dylan had just put that record out and I loved it. I’ve Made Up My Mind was definitely in our wheelhouse, and I knew Margo could sing it. Everyone did their parts, and it was very easy to pull together. I figured everyone else [on the tribute CD] would be covering songs from the late-’60s era and that it would be cool to do something Dylan had just put out a few weeks ago.”
(interview The Arts Fuse, 10 April 2022)
“I knew Margo could sing it,” Michael says with great sense of understatement about his little sister’s sky-rocketing vocal qualities. After all, Margo Timmins’ shrouded, goose-bumps inducing voice has long been the Canadian band’s secret weapon. As we could already hear on their Dylan covers “Girl From The North Country”, the slow, compelling “License To Kill”, and the brilliant, ferocious, debauched “If You Gotta Go, Go Now” – equally elevated to the peerage thanks to Margo’s drawling vocals.
Yep, Margo can sing “I’ve Made Up My Mind”. It is absolutely no longer a duet, though. But what the heck.
To be continued. Next up I’ve Made Up My Mind To Give Myself To You part 7: The Philosophy Of Modern Song
Jochen is a regular reviewer of Dylan’s work on Untold. His books, in English, Dutch and German, are available via Amazon both in paperback and on Kindle:
- Blood on the Tracks: Dylan’s Masterpiece in Blue
- Blonde On Blonde: Bob Dylan’s mercurial masterpiece
- Where Are You Tonight? Bob Dylan’s hushed-up classic from 1978
- Desolation Row: Bob Dylan’s poetic letter from 1965
- Basement Tapes: Bob Dylan’s Summer of 1967
- Mississippi: Bob Dylan’s midlife masterpiece
- Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits
- John Wesley Harding: Bob Dylan meets Kafka in Nashville
- Tombstone Blues b/w Jet Pilot: Dylan’s lookin’ for the fuse
- Street-Legal: Bob Dylan’s unpolished gem from 1978
- Bringing It All Back Home: Bob Dylan’s 2nd Big Bang
- Time Out Of Mind: The Rising of an Old Master
- Crossing The Rubicon: Dylan’s latter-day classic
- Nashville Skyline: Bob Dylan’s other type of music