A Dylan cover a day: Sara


By Tony Attwood

“Sara” was played live by Dylan 33 times over a three month period in late 1975 and early 1976, and then set aside – as indeed many other Dylan compositions have been across the years.  And it’s not a song I’m particularly drawn to, although that is not to say I dislike it, so I suspect I haven’t listened to it much in these past decades.  And it is an easy song to remember and play in one’s head (if one wants to, that is).

So, not a particular favourite of mine, and coming to this song as the next piece in the “Cover a Day” series I did wonder if many artists would have tackled the idea of a cover.  It is after all a very distinctive song, and the notion of a radical change to the instrumentation, speed or accompaniment seemed unlikely.  Although in that thought I turned out to be quite wrong – and most certainly not for the first time.

But Barb Jungr has recorded the piece, and she knows what she’s doing so I turned to that with interest… not least because the simple piano introduction is short, but gorgeous, and she seems to have caught the image of the song to perfection.   The piano remains restrained but very interesting throughout… the pictures painted by the song come more to life than I remember them doing in Bob’s own recording.

I am lucky in that where I live and write there is silence – there’s no traffic noise, very occasionally the grandchildren of the family in the next house along the road play in their garden… but today there is silence.  Perfect for hearing this version of this song.  The giant trees at the far end of the garden wave very slightly in the breeze as if in understanding.

This music is so restrained, so gorgeous, … I imagine it has to be heard in the right circumstances.  Only the end, the last two chords, seem to offer a foreboding of something going wrong.   But let’s not dwell on that.

Els Miralls de Dylan

This band perform in Catalan, which (surely obviously) I don’t speak but that never worries me especially, for it is the gorgeous sound of the accompaniment and the exquisite harmonies that draws one in.  Indeed I find I don’t actually need the lyrics; this is just a total sound.  A gorgeous end too, on that hovering unresolved chord with the briefest of resolutions just when I thought there wasn’t going to be one.

The Casual Lean

One wouldn’t actually expect an indie rock band from Massachusetts to pick on this song, and they’ve added a level of aggression to the song, which was certainly unexpected, at least by me.  The gentleness has gone, and yet it doesn’t sound inappropriate, and maybe that is the secret of so much of Dylan’s music.  He really has so often given us songs that could be treated in a multiplicity of ways, and still make sense.

I’m not sure that they don’t take it too far in the penultimate verse, but it made me pause and think and while in the end I do feel they had pushed the idea more than I wanted, I’m still glad I listened.

Wiehe & Forsberg

I was really pleased to have another version of the song to perform after the Casual Lean’s approach, for I felt a definite need to be taken back down.   And this version Swedish does create a real sense of emptiness – a feeling of what eventually happened between the couple afterwards, which of course was not there at the start.   There’s a bleakness here which is interesting to hear today – but I am not sure I would have enjoyed it when I first started this series during the lockdown period in England and I was, in a very real sense, totally on my own.

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