Other people’s songs: You belong to me

By Aaron Galbraith and Tony Attwood

Aaron: “You Belong to Me” is a popular music ballad from the 1950s. It is well known for its opening line, “See the pyramids along the Nile”. The first recording of the song, in February 1952, was by Joni James. She had seen the sheet music in the Woods Building in Chicago, and the lyrics attracted her. She recorded the song in Chicago, and it was released in March on the local Sharp Records label.

Tony: I was about to write “I don’t know this song” because I couldn’t believe that I wouldn’t remember that opening line, but of course as soon as the music started I knew it – it just shows how much my brain is attuned to music first and lyrics second.   But still very odd that I could not have noticed the pyramids.   Especially since I took a trip down the Nile a few years ago in order to see the sites.  It is a gorgeous song.  The pyramids were quite impressive too!

I think it was written by Chilton Price, as a plea from an American woman to her husband who had been serving in the armed forces in the Second World War, but the co-composers then made it into the more universal piece that we now know, changing it from “Hurry Home to Me” to “You Belong to Me” – which of course made some sense commercially since the song was offered to performers seven years after the war had ended, and by 1952 America was very much looking forward to the new era rather than back to the war.

Aaron: The most popular version was recorded by Jo Stafford.

Tony:  Now I find this too overloaded with technique – the holding back on notes for an extra half beat, and the effects of all that instrumentation.   I much prefer the simpler backing from the original.   But then I suppose if you are going to a cover version you have to do something different.   But oh, that xylophone at the start of some of the lines (for example just as the vocalist is about to sing “See the pyramids”.

Also rather funny to have the line about the marketplace in “old Algiers”.   Some years before I went down the Nile I lived in Algiers for a year, and the marketplace was somewhere to be avoided rather than seen – at least for Europeans.   I suspect the lyricist had not actually been but was looking for a line that might resonate.  Besides I suspect quite a few listeners in the 1950s didn’t actually know that the Nile flows through Egypt not Algeria.    Ah well.

Aaron: Producer Debbie Gold was unable to convince Dylan to include, “You Belong to Me” on “Good As I Been to You.” Dylan’s version from the sessions eventually appeared in Oliver Stone’s 1994 film Natural Born Killers and on its soundtrack album.

Stereogum ran an article to coincide with Dylan’s 80th birthday on May 24, 2021 in which 80 musicians were asked to name their favorite Dylan song. The Strokes’ Albert Hammond Jr. selected “You Belong to Me”, noting “It’s just a very powerful song. You can’t explain sometimes how songs hit you…It’s impressive to keep going and still create stuff. It’s one of my favorite songs. Any mix I make for anyone, I put it on there. I know it’s not his. But you can definitely have something that’s not yours and own it. He’s done that a lot”.

Tony:  It is a bit of a shock to move from those earlier versions to Bob’s – his voice is at its most nasal, but he does have a feel for the song.  Yet I am not sure I can understand why Albert Hammond raved over this recording more than any other piece to put on an album.  The guitar accompaniment seems rather straightforward for this beautiful song, so somehow this Dylan cover doesn’t capture me at all.

Aaron: I think my favorite version comes from 1981 by Ringo Starr from the album “Stop and Smell the Roses”

Tony: Wow what a change.  I think the problem I have here is that I am so used to the regular rhythm of the original I can’t really take in this bouncy approach and all the choral effects.   That of course can often be a problem – one is so used to the original versions that when someone comes along and does something utterly different it seems just… well, odd.

Aaron: Annie Lennox from the 2014 album Nostalgia

Tony: Nope, I am still not moved.   Having now listed to all the recordings I am back with the first.  That is the one that grabs me.  It is just possible that my parents had a recording of this version and I heard it in my early years.  Also quite likely that my father played the song on the piano.   Whatever it was, something is constantly hauling me back to that first version.   If you have a moment, do go back and play it again.  It think it is gorgeous.

Other people’s songs…

  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
  55. Other people’s songs: “Can’t help falling in love”
  56. Other people’s songs: Lily of the West
  57. Other people’s songs: Alberta
  58. Other people’s songs: Little Maggie
  59. Other people’s songs: Sitting on top of the world
  60. Dylan’s take on “Let it be me”
  61. Other people’s songs: From “Take me as I am” all the way to “Baker Street”
  62. Other people’s songs: A fool such as I
  63. Other people’s songs: Sarah Jane and the rhythmic changes
  64. Other people’s songs: Spanish is the loving tongue. Author drawn to tears
  65. Other people’s songs: The ballad of Ira Hayes
  66. Other people’s songs: The usual
  67. Other people’s songs: Blackjack Davey
  68. Other people’s songs: You’re gonna quit me


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