A Dylan Cover a Day: What good am I?

By Tony Attwood

Slow songs are often difficult to cover, as they tend to encourage singers to add lots of extra bits to the spaces that have deliberately been left as spaces by the composer seeking to make a point.  Arrangers and producers don’t like spaces.

But this is a highly reflective song, the lyrics of which don’t lend themself to massive self-expression or indulgence by instrumentalists or vocalists.    However, take out all the emotion and that can mean what is a beautiful, deeply caring, song can become just another bit of self-reflection.   There needs to be a balance – and Bob got that in his recording of the song.

Although Jimmy LaFave’s version is sensitive, I find it to contain a trifle too much extra sugar in the accompaniment, without any new insights.  I guess I think the female chorus is just one step too far away from the original conception of the piece.

Jimmy LaFave

The Pines

There are several bands around, or which have been around called “The Pines” and I honestly don’t know which one this is.  If you can fill in the details, please do respond.

Musically their view in this recording is that the song can exist with a beat – which indeed it can, but all of that angst that Dylan put into the original, and which is within the essence of the lyrics, is then destroyed.

It is as if someone said, “hey let’s do it with a beat” and no one thought, “but what about the meaning?”   For meaning to be expressed, the music, the lyrics and their meaning must be co-ordinated, as they were so perfectly in Bob’s original.

Jill Johnson

Ms Johson takes us right back to Bob’s original conception of the song, and I am so grateful for that.   There is maybe a little bit too much emotion in the third line (If I shut myself off so I can’t hear you cry) but much of the time the piece remains restrained, as I think it should.

The lyrics are not full of self- indulgence, or indeed self-pity, but a realisation of what one has to do to be a real person.   And sadly this is lost in the middle section – and this more expressive notion returns in the last verse.

I know many performers, and most of all arrangers, love contrast in songs, but that’s just because of the view that the modern audience won’t pay attention otherwise.  Bob knows that if you hold them with the words they will be there and so that is what he does in his version.

Yet curiously the instrumental coda in this version is much more restrained, but I guess the arranger and singer still felt there ought to be a bit of showing off the high notes, whatever the music was about.  In the end my view is the performance is about the song: lots of performers think the performance is all about them.  That’s the difference between us.

Solomon Burke

The rhythm at the start tells us it all, and destroys much of my feeling that this should be a delicate song.  And Mr Burke takes it on from there.   It’s ok as a performance if one doesn’t think about the deep meaning within the lyrics.   How can they possibly justify the “foolish things” middle eight, within the context of the whole song?

Barb Jungr

But thank goodness for Barb Jungr who doesn’t just sing Dylan, but actually understands the songs Dylan has created and thus performs Dylan.  For she shows that yes she can use the range of her wonderful voice in such a song, without destroying the original conception.

Play this, but maybe if you are at all prone to appreciating the emotion that can reside within beautiful music, have a handkerchief ready to dab your eyes.  And say thank you to the arranger AND the vocalist for showing everyone else, it is possible to retain the full meaning of the original without just repeating it.

Previously in the series

  1. The song with numbers in the title.
  2. Ain’t Talkin
  3. All I really want to do
  4.  Angelina
  5.  Apple Suckling and Are you Ready.
  6. As I went out one morning
  7.  Ballad for a Friend
  8. Ballad in Plain D
  9. Ballad of a thin man
  10.  Frankie Lee and Judas Priest
  11. The ballad of Hollis Brown
  12. Beyond here lies nothing
  13. Blind Willie McTell
  14.  Black Crow Blues (more fun than you might recall)
  15. An unexpected cover of “Black Diamond Bay”
  16. Blowin in the wind as never before
  17. Bob Dylan’s Dream
  18. BoB Dylan’s 115th Dream revisited
  19. Boots of Spanish leather
  20. Born in Time
  21. Buckets of Rain
  22. Can you please crawl out your window
  23. Can’t wait
  24. Changing of the Guard
  25. Chimes of Freedom
  26. Country Pie
  27.  Crash on the Levee
  28. Dark Eyes
  29. Dear Landlord
  30. Desolation Row as never ever before (twice)
  31. Dignity.
  32. Dirge
  33. Don’t fall apart on me tonight.
  34. Don’t think twice
  35.  Down along the cove
  36. Drifter’s Escape
  37. Duquesne Whistle
  38. Farewell Angelina
  39. Foot of Pride and Forever Young
  40. Fourth Time Around
  41. From a Buick 6
  42. Gates of Eden
  43. Gotta Serve Somebody
  44. Hard Rain’s a-gonna Fall.
  45. Heart of Mine
  46. High Water
  47. Highway 61
  48. Hurricane
  49. I am a lonesome hobo
  50. I believe in you
  51. I contain multitudes
  52. I don’t believe you.
  53. I love you too much
  54. I pity the poor immigrant. 
  55. I shall be released
  56. I threw it all away
  57. I want you
  58. I was young when I left home
  59. I’ll remember you
  60. Idiot Wind and  More idiot wind
  61. If not for you, and a rant against prosody
  62. If you Gotta Go, please go and do something different
  63. If you see her say hello
  64. Dylan cover a day: I’ll be your baby tonight
  65. I’m not there.
  66. In the Summertime, Is your love and an amazing Isis
  67. It ain’t me babe
  68. It takes a lot to laugh
  69. It’s all over now Baby Blue
  70. It’s all right ma
  71. Just Like a Woman
  72. Knocking on Heaven’s Door
  73. Lay down your weary tune
  74. Lay Lady Lay
  75. Lenny Bruce
  76. That brand new leopard skin pill box hat
  77. Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts
  78. License to kill
  79. Like a Rolling Stone
  80. Love is just a four letter word
  81. Love Sick
  82. Maggies Farm!
  83. Make you feel my love; a performance that made me cry.
  84. Mama you’ve been on my mind
  85. Man in a long black coat.
  86. Masters of War
  87. Meet me in the morning
  88. Million Miles. Listen, and marvel.
  89. Mississippi. Listen, and marvel (again)
  90. Most likely you go your way
  91. Most of the time and a rhythmic thing
  92. Motorpsycho Nitemare
  93. Mozambique
  94. Mr Tambourine Man
  95. My back pages, with a real treat at the end
  96. New Morning
  97. New Pony. Listen where and when appropriate
  98. Nobody Cept You
  99. North Country Blues
  100. No time to think
  101. Obviously Five Believers
  102. Oh Sister
  103. On the road again
  104. One more cup of coffee
  105. (Sooner or later) one of us must know
  106. One too many mornings
  107. Only a hobo
  108. Only a pawn in their game
  109. Outlaw Blues – prepare to be amazed
  110. Oxford Town
  111. Peggy Day and Pledging my time
  112. Please Mrs Henry
  113. Political world
  114. Positively 4th Street
  115. Precious Angel
  116. Property of Jesus
  117. Queen Jane Approximately
  118. Quinn the Eskimo as it should be performed.
  119. Quit your lowdown ways
  120. Rainy Day Women as never before
  121. Restless Farewell. Exquisite arrangements, unbelievable power
  122. Ring them bells in many different ways
  123. Romance in Durango, covered and re-written
  124. Sad Eyed Lady of Lowlands, like you won’t believe
  125. Sara
  126. Senor
  127. A series of Dreams; no one gets it (except Dylan)
  128. Seven Days
  129. She Belongs to Me
  130. Shelter from the Storm
  131. Sign on the window
  132. Silvio
  133. Simple twist of fate
  134. Slow Train
  135. Someday Baby
  136. Spanish Harlem Incident
  137. Standing in the Doorway
  138. Stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again
  139. Subterranean Homesick Blues
  140. Sweetheart Like You
  141. Tangled up in Blue
  142. Tears of Rage
  143.  Temporary Like Achilles. Left in the cold, but there’s still something…
  144. The Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar
  145. The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
  146. The Man in Me
  147. Times they are a-changin’
  148. The Wicked Messenger
  149. Things have changed
  150. This Wheel’s on Fire
  151. Thunder on the mountain
  152. Till I fell in love with you in the north of Norway
  153. Time Passes Slowly – just sit down and close your eyes
  154. To be alone with you
  155. To Ramona: unexpectedly yes!
  156. Tombstone Blues
  157. Tonight I’ll be Staying Here With You
  158. Too much of nothing
  159. Trouble as you have never been troubled before
  160. Tryin’ to get to Heaven
  161.  Unbelievable
  162. “Up to Me” and a return to earlier days
  163. Visions of Johanna
  164. Walking down the line
  165. Whatcha gonna do
  166. Well Well Well
  167. Went to see the Gypsy.




  1. Hi Tony, I love this series, so thanks for this. I’d have liked to hear your opinion of Tom Jones’s cover of this song. I quite like it, but I suspect you might think it is too much self-reflection and not enough of whatever else you see in it. I trust your judgement anyway.

  2. I like the idea of the percussion and of course Jones has a fantastic voice, but the single drum beat for me it too portentious, making it sound as if the singer is not good enough. But I think Dylan is saying that he understands the moral dilemmas we all face, and we can move forward. That drum beat seems to suggest we are all doomed. So it is not Tom Jones signing that puts me off, but as so often I find (and of course this is just me) it is the approach to the whole song which sometimes leads me to like or not like the arrangement.
    But it is all personal isn’t it?

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