Other people’s songs: “Can’t help falling in love”

By Aaron Galbraith and Tony Attwood

Aaron: “Can’t Help Falling in Love” is a song recorded by Elvis Presley for the album Blue Hawaii.

From Wikipedia: The melody is based on “Plaisir d’amour”, a popular French love song composed in 1784 by Jean-Paul-Égide Martini. The song was initially written from the perspective of a woman as “Can’t Help Falling in Love with Him”, which explains the first and third line ending on “in” and “sin” rather than words rhyming with “you.”

Bob’s version appeared on his 1973 studio album, Dylan

Tony: An unusually melodic harmonica part from Bob at the start.  And a bit of a feeling that as he sings he always makes a grab at the word “help” for some reason, which I find a bit odd – but as ever that’s just me.  It’s a nice, relaxing recording, but it is not something of Bob’s that I’d ever feel like listening to when I could choose what to play next.

Although I must admit the subtle changes made on the middle 8 “Like a river flows” are interesting.  Plus the slight changes to the melody on occasion are enjoyable.

But there are oddities too, that I am not at all sure about.  Such as why suddenly the setting of the organ is changed at 2’26” – it just seems a sudden jolt.

I suppose the answer to why this was recorded would be as a tribute, and if there are indeed many people who thoroughly enjoy this and play it often, then clearly it is a success on that score.  So I guess it is just that I am not one of them, and in my old age I’m getting grumpy!

Aaron: In 1993, British reggae band UB40 covered it as the first single from their 1993 album, “Promises and Lies”. The song climbed to No. 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100, staying there for seven weeks and the United Kingdom where it topped the chart for two months.

Tony:   I like this – which is not to say that I am going to play it again, but rather is a reflection of the way the accompaniment travels its own route while the melody keeps the traditionally restrained approach – and indeed the crowded conditions of the mock performance in the tunnel add to the fun.  It’s jolly, and it made me feel good in a way that neither Bob’s nor Elvis’ version ever does.

Aaron: Emmylou Harris recorded a version of the original French lyric in 2003 for her wonderful Stumble into Grace album.

Tony: Now that accordion part does work for me, and seems to be in keeping with the whole arrangement.  Suddenly I enjoy the song – and the chord change (at the “joy of love”) from all the other versions also works for me, as does the instrumental.

I think it is the simplicity of the whole piece and the gentleness of the entire performance that attracts me.  Plus the fact that there is no attempt to spin it out.  It is a short song, and this performance lets it be just that: a sort song.

And so as I play through the selected recordings it finally hits me.  Bob’s version is four minutes 20 seconds long, and that really is stretching the song beyond its natural boundaries for me.

Aaron: As an added treat here is Christine McVie covering it for an obscure movie soundtrack

Tony: I can’t resist Christine McVie’s voice, so I am expecting to like this right from the start, and she doesn’t let me down.  There’s no attempt to take the song beyond its own simplicity and self-imposed limitations – which as I noted above is what I feel the Dylan version does.  Emmylou Harris still gets my vote as the best of these examples, and I am playing it now for the third time as I conclude my rambling notes, and even though it is only just gone 10am and there is a load of work waiting for me in my in-box I really don’t want to do anything else except listen to it again.

Previously in this series…

  1. Other people’s songs. How Dylan covers the work of other composers
  2. Other People’s songs: Bob and others perform “Froggie went a courtin”
  3. Other people’s songs: They killed him
  4. Other people’s songs: Frankie & Albert
  5. Other people’s songs: Tomorrow Night where the music is always everything
  6. Other people’s songs: from Stack a Lee to Stagger Lee and Hugh Laurie
  7. Other people’s songs: Love Henry
  8. Other people’s songs: Rank Stranger To Me
  9. Other people’s songs: Man of Constant Sorrow
  10. Other people’s songs: Satisfied Mind
  11. Other people’s songs: See that my grave is kept clean
  12. Other people’s songs: Precious moments and some extras
  13. Other people’s songs: You go to my head
  14. Other people’s songs: What’ll I do?
  15. Other people’s songs: Copper Kettle
  16. Other people’s songs: Belle Isle
  17. Other people’s songs: Fixing to Die
  18. Other people’s songs: When did you leave heaven?
  19. Other people’s songs: Sally Sue Brown
  20. Other people’s songs: Ninety miles an hour down a dead end street
  21. Other people’s songs: Step it up and Go
  22. Other people’s songs: Canadee-I-O
  23. Other people’s songs: Arthur McBride
  24. Other people’s songs: Little Sadie
  25. Other people’s songs: Blue Moon, and North London Forever
  26. Other people’s songs: Hard times come again no more
  27. Other people’s songs: You’re no good
  28. Other people’s songs: Lone Pilgrim (and more Crooked Still)
  29. Other people’s songs: Blood in my eyes
  30. Other people’s songs: I forgot more than you’ll ever know
  31.  Other people’s songs: Let’s stick (or maybe work) together.
  32. Other people’s songs: Highway 51
  33. Other people’s songs: Jim Jones
  34. Other people’s songs: Let’s stick (or maybe work) together.
  35. Other people’s songs: Jim Jones
  36. Other people’s songs: Highway 51 Blues
  37. Other people’s songs: Freight Train Blues
  38. Other People’s Songs: The Little Drummer Boy
  39. Other People’s Songs: Must be Santa
  40. Other People’s songs: The Christmas Song
  41. Other People’s songs: Corina Corina
  42. Other People’s Songs: Mr Bojangles
  43. Other People’s Songs: It hurts me too
  44. Other people’s songs: Take a message to Mary
  45. Other people’s songs: House of the Rising Sun
  46. Other people’s songs: “Days of 49”
  47. Other people’s songs: In my time of dying
  48. Other people’s songs: Pretty Peggy O
  49. Other people’s songs: Baby Let me Follow You Down
  50. Other people’s songs: Gospel Plow
  51. Other People’s Songs: Melancholy Mood
  52. Other people’s songs: The Boxer and Big Yellow Taxi
  53. Other people’s songs: Early morning rain
  54. Other people’s Songs: Gotta Travel On

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