Bob Dylan: Why Try to Change Me Now (2015)

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Bob Dylan: Why Try to Change Me Now (2015)

We didn't go too far back into the Vaults for this one by Bob Dylan, it is from his excellent Shadows in the Night covers album, but of course the song goes way, way back.

It was written by Cy Coleman (music) and Joseph McCarthy (lyrics) in 1952 and was recorded by Frank Sinatra later that same year, apparently among his last songs for Colombia before departing for Capitol.

What Sinatra heard in the lyrics was probably exactly what appealed to Dylan: a man who is a misfit, unapologetic and simply asking to be accepted because . . . well, why would you try to change him at this point?

He's already established who he is in this world.

Although Sinatra went on to have a sometimes stellar and long career after he sang this, he wasn't to know that at the time as his star seemed to be in decline in the post-war years. Seven years later however when his career had turned around he sang it again, this time it sounded very different and more personally directed at his subject.

Dylan when he sang it had his career behind him and so, in an achingly idiosyncratic and slow treatment, comes at it as a man asking why would bother trying to change him. As if we could, as if he could change even if he wanted to.

In Dylan's hands it sounds more widely directed and certain lines ""I was always your clown") invite you to reflect on that remarkable life.

Other artists have done this song, among them Fiona Apple.

Diana Krall has sometimes attempted it but always given up because she realises that the song doesn't reflect her life . . . as it does Sinatra and Dylan's.

In a recent interview she noted, “I'm fine until halfway through and then it doesn't represent anything that I am.

“It suits a 73-year old Dylan. He knows it and he's lived it.”

It hasn't appeared in any of Dylan's recent setlists – which frequently start with Things Have Changed – and so we shouldn't expect to hear it when he plays on his forthcoming New Zealand dates later this month.

But for those – and there still seem to be a few out there – who expect the Young Bob again, somehow unchanged from whatever period before the mid Seventies they want him embalmed in, this might be one lyric and interpretation to seriously contemplate.

There is a considerable amount about Bob Dylan, from all aspects of his long career, at Elsewhere starting here.

For more oddities, one-offs or songs with an interesting backstory stay tuned to From the Vaults.

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Pedro the Swift - Aug 13, 2018

Lucky enough to catch Bob in Perth. Not wanting to give anything away but just don’t go in with any expectations. Or any stage banter. Interested to hear your comments G.

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