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the pioneer of Dylan Studies; writer, public speaker, critic; became a Doctor of Letters in 2015 (awarded by the University of York, UK)

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Many of us felt that 'To Make You Feel My Love' was one of the dreariest, most calculatedly commercial, no-other-raison-d'etre songs Bob Dylan had ever offered: a song as glutinous and abjectly Tin Pan Alley as, say, 'Feelings', 'People Who Need People' or 'If I Ruled The World'. Then it was a huge countryish hit by Garth Brooks and widely covered by others.

Along came British singer Adele and had another hit with it. This is hers:

Ever since, the song has been spreading across musical genres like a species-hopping virus. Strange but true, it seems more plausible as a soul/R&B song than as any other kind, and it's been more interesting to see how readily black British performers and listeners have taken to it than it's ever been to hear. Now on the list of songs current X Factor contestants could choose to perform to Simon Cowell and his co-judges at the end of so-called Boot Camp, Cowell has been obliged to listen to innumerable versions of it. Does he even know it's a Dylan song? At any rate it's the Dylan song he deserves. Of course its composer would never have got through the first round of the contest. Not even if he'd sung 'To Make You Feel My Lurve'.


Blogger Martin Ricketts said...

Hi Michael
I too have been watching X Factor, or rather enduring it! as Teodora is a fan! But it pleases me no end to hear Dylan's "Make you feel my Love" chosen by so many contestants, particularly in the light of Simon Cowell's comments about Dylan a few years ago !
It does annoy me thou to hear them say they are going to perform Adele's song (even thou it is a very good version) with no reference to the composer.
Also for all Simon Cowell's many faults, it's interesting that he has often fallen back on great songwriters for cover's, as in Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" last year ! Perhaps he does have some some hidden taste after all !
Regards Martin

12:27 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Hmm. If they were singing 'Lay Down Your Weary Tune' or 'One Too Many Mornings' - then it might be pleasing that so many contestants choose it.

Of course my question - does Cowell even know it's a Dylan song? - was a stupid one. Naturally he does: he'll be very aware that he himself doesn't own the music publishing on it. I'm also bound to say that he usually judges more thoughtfully than anyone else on the panel. It's just so aggravating that he has such an absurdly conservative, tacky, mainstream-1950s notion of Entertainment. That awful choreographer, making everyone into a London Palladium act hoofing in front of what may as well be the Tiller Girls.

The whole show's general tendency, and this is at base Cowell's fault, is to take people who show individual talent and then drill it out of them. Laura White, for instance. She came on like a lioness and went out like a slaughtered lamb. Horrible to see.

4:01 pm  
Blogger joe butler said...

have to disagree Michael
in my book "lurve" is a really beautiful song and lyric;
the only lines that jar for me are "I'd go crawlin' down the avenue" ..............which avenue?
Question is why are you watching that odious creep Cowell in the first place?

8:25 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Human weakness, Joe.

11:21 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seems more like an inhuman tendency, Michael.
I am even more shocked than Joe as I know that
you avoid programs of (relative) worth if they
have any weaknesses/infelicities.

There has to be more behind this _ winterluders
please investigate and report back.


11:46 pm  
Blogger joe butler said...

hold the press on Cowell Michael, I've just read on Wikipedia that he pays over £21 million a year in income tax!!!!!! Great god he must be some kind of socialist, why havn't we got the Simon Cowell hospital
or Academy.... he must have paid for a couple of them by now.
The hospital could have a psychiatric wing for treating people addicted to the X factor

9:52 am  
Anonymous McHenry Boatride said...

I've never watched X Factor (though weak I'm not that weak) but I'm glad to hear that Dylan gets this shoe-in. Simon Cowell must, I suspect, know who composed every song that is performed let alone those that are preformed regularly.

And I agree with Joe - it's a beautiful song even if it is not to everyone's taste. Which avenue? I'd plump for Lonely Avenue from the great Doc Pomus; Bob has referenced it elsewhere.

10:14 am  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

McHenry, you're still there! Sarah was just remarking last week that there'd been no word from you in a long while. Now if only there was something you agreed with me about...

3:07 pm  
Anonymous McHenry Boatride said...

Well, Michael, we never agreed about Dylan from the beginning. Why start now?

4:49 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The X Factor, or whatever the ghastly thing is called (I've never seen an episode, having long ago chosen silence, exile and cunning), gets the Dylan song it deserves. Please, Michael, do not even think about them embracing Lay Down Your Weary Tune. I have never quite got over Hallelujah" becoming the property of the clueless masses. Call me a snob as often as you like.

9:58 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Bravo. Is that you, Nigel?!

11:56 pm  
Anonymous SalParadise87 said...

I don't think it's pleasing to hear a Dylan song on that show, performed by people i am in no doubt are unaware of the songs origins and do the song no justice. You may say it's not one of his best Michael, and i agree, but it's still on a different planet to any contribution they'll ever make to music. And heaven forbid he should ever prostitute himself on the show as McCartney did a while back. That would worry me more than his songs going uncredited. Rant over!

6:46 pm  
Blogger pauline said...

How supercilious of you, Mr Gray. It's a perfectly unobjectionable love song. I liked Adele's version (once I heard it by chance in a pub) and Dylan's live performances of it are charming, although his original album version is, to say the least, unpromising! 'Forgetful Heart' similarly revealed its hidden qualities once it was performed on stage by Dylan, but no doubt most X Factor contestants would manage to turn it into mush.

12:32 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Worst song on TOOM for sure. He tends to make a better fist of it live in fairness although not enough to rescue the song itself.


Judas Priest

1:44 pm  
Anonymous John Carvill said...

It's odd, how many people hate this song. I always felt that it hovered on the edge of pastiche, just managing to stay on this side of it. It feels like Dylan is winking at us, if not quite laughing.

It's not up there with the best of TOOM, of course, not by a long chalk; but I do love the way Dylan delivers some of the lines, such as " ain't seen nothing like me yet", which recalls (for me, anyway) the "you'll not see nothing" line from 'Quinn the Eskimo".

As for Simon Bowel and the X Factor, there aren't enough levels in hell....

1:55 pm  
Anonymous Ben Clayton said...

Hi, my name's Michael Gray. You may know me from such films as 'Honey I Shrunk My Ability To Recognise A Good Song', 'Scrooge 2 - This Time It's Encyclopedic' and 'Die Hard (you modern beat combos with your tuneless rackets that aren't a patch on those 1830s field recording masterpieces of Blind, Deaf & No-legged Jim & His Swinging Cobblers)'....

3:25 pm  
Blogger trevgibb said...

Personally, I have always liked 'Make You Feel My Love'. It is simple, and yet an emotionally honest song. This probably explains its wide appeal. There is nothing wrong with this. A good song is a good song we cannot always judge a song by the standards of another song or genre. This is limiting. And anyways...

I'd go hungry I'd go black and blue, I'd go crawling down the avenue

Any song with that line is good enough for me.

5:03 pm  
Blogger joe butler said...

Michael !!
you've now got ME hooked on X factor, for God's sake.
Who could have imagined that poor Gamu's rendition of "Lurve" could have resulted in a Tabloid illegal immigrant frenzy.
Dave (the man) Cameron listens to Dylan apparently, lets hope he likes John Wesley Harding track 9. Teresa May is only interested in travelling shoes

10:24 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A friend once suggested to me that imagining this song on the soundtrack of a David Lynch film improves it measurably.


1:33 pm  
Anonymous likeatrain said...

the same could be said of 'they killed him,' though.

10:48 pm  

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