Monday, February 9, 2009

BQRH #13: "If Not For You" + "Just Like A Woman" (Bob Dylan)

Back into Valentine's mood :)

Two Bob Dylan classics, showing two sides of the coin regarding Dylan's relation with the ladies in his life....

A personal favorite of mine, "If Not For You" was recorded by Bob Dylan for his 1970 LP "New Morning". One of the most beautiful love songs written by Bob Dylan, here we have it performed by its composer during rehearsals for the Concert for Bangla-Desh, together with George Harrison (who covered this himself for his "All Things Must Pass" album in 1970.

"If not for you my sky would fall / rain would gather, too / without your love I'd be nowhere at all / I'd be lost if not for you." Innocent, yet absolutely straightforward (perhaps too straightforward for Dylan's standards).

On the other side of the coin, we have this whole other perspective on a completely different female. "Just Like A Woman" originally closed the first vinyl LP of the "Blonde On Blonde" double set in 1966, and was also released as a single. It tells the story of a girl the narrator was very passionate about, but who ultimately didn't correspond him because of her immaturity.

"It was rainin' from the first / and I was dying there of thirst / so I came in here; / and your long time curse hurts / but what's worse / is this pain in here / I can't stay in here / ain't it clear that I just don't fit / yes I believe it's time for us to quit / and when we meet again / introduced as friends / please don't let on that your knew me when / I was hungry and it was your world / Ah, you take just like a woman, yes you do / you make love like a woman, yes you do / and then you ache just like a woman / but you break just like a little girl."

My oh-so personal take on this piece of the lyric is that basically our hero can't stand the rejection of the lady. The previous verses show how she has not realized yet she's a normal lady —"baby can't be blessed till she finally sees she's like all the rest"—, but in the end these feelings look more like a bitter move on behalf of this rejected man. Apparently he was very needy of affection when he met her, and nevertheless, her rejection works as a curse on him. He actually can't get over her, so he accepts a social friendship, but wants her at the same time not to acknowledge their relationship for the very pain he described he feels.

Thankfully, about Dylan's lyrics we could make as many digressions as we want. He probably just wrote a good lyric... and it is there in the shape of a song we all can enjoy.

I was fortunate enough to witness Bob perform this song at the two concerts of his I have attended. It was one of the very few he performed at both shows in Santiago of Chile, first in 1998 (while promoting "Time Out Of Mind") and last in 2008 (touring for "Modern Times"). Most of the setlist differed between the two dates, but I enjoyed them thoroughly. The second time around, I felt a very strong connection with the stage, almost spiritual-like; such was the power and intensity of the performance. The best performance I have ever witnessed. I was really hoping that he was going to play this song when he did (as the previous song was ending), and almost broke in tears when it happened 10 seconds later. My best concert experience so far.


Love and peace, BQ

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