On my facebook page I’ve recently begun posting a link to “DB’s song of the day.” Taken from YouTube, these are shared links to vids someone has uploaded. Generally, I prefer simply a static shot of the LP cover and the song rather than the usually lame montage that some fan has lovingly compiled. Sometimes there’s a live version that is good enough to stand for the original recording. But you have to take what you can get. In deciding to share the “song of the day” on here, I’m hoping to kick off a dailiness that is decidedly lacking on this blog, but also to use it to keep track of the year, as it were.
My song for New Year’s Day was Bob Dylan and The Band playing “Forever Young.” The track I had in mind was from Side Two of Planet Waves, the upbeat, rockabilly version, with no chorus. But I couldn’t find that online and so chose Dylan and The Band playing the tune in concert in Martin Scorsese’s film The Last Waltz (1978). It’s a good version and shows Dylan in a very relaxed mood, so relaxed he seems to be barely aware of what he’s singing—compared to some of the other great performances in the film. He also sings only the first and third verse, letting Robbie Robertson (who was very hot that night) fill in one verse with a guitar solo. At the end of the song Dylan, Robertson and Danko collect together before segueing into a reprise of “Baby Let Me Follow You Down.” I watched a DVD of the film late into the morning (or early into the morning) of January 1st.
The song suits my mood as the new year begins. The song is very gracious: “May God bless and keep you always / May your wishes all come true / May you always do for others / And let others do for you.” It’s a nice sentiment to send out to all those “facebook friends” out there and to the universe in general. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could always do for others and they’d return the favor? The lyrics build on many “may you” lines, which makes the song a benediction, as from father to children.
It’s also a very optimistic song with which to start the year: “May your heart always be joyful.” Not likely, but thanks. And maybe if it’s joyful more often than not, that’s good enough. “May you have a strong foundation when the winds of changes shift” always strikes me as a line with a nice double edge to it: build a foundation in the sand? I know it's “winds” not “sands” but I get that image anyway. And “winds of changes”—well, good or bad, we’re supposed to stay put. But maybe it’s better to go with the changes and leave those buried foundations. Anyway, it’s the most interesting line in the song.
It’s a good choice, too, for 2014, as this is the year one of my wishes will come true: I’ll have a book out, and it’s a book on Dylan. At the end of my introduction, I quote the last line of this song: “May your song always be sung,” which is what I wish for Dylan, certainly, but, in general terms, it sounds a bit like “race always be run”—as in, over and done with. Dylan’s songs are never over and done with, that’s the grace of the man’s gift, but for others of us….
As to “forever young.” At the time the song was released—1974—it was a way of saying that the aging “Sixties generation” might not be so old yet (Dylan himself was not yet 33). In 1978, when the film came out, it made that point even more as most of the people on stage that night were clearly in the prime of their youth, even while to the eyes of me and my friends (I have a distinct memory of taking my first girlfriend to see the movie), coming to the end of our teens, they seemed fairly seasoned. From that point of view, we hadn’t seen nothin’ yet. Dylan, as much or more than anyone on stage that night, has kept on keepin’ on, while three of the five members of The Band (Richard Manuel, Rick Danko, Levon Helm) are no longer with us, and Muddy Waters and Paul Butterfield are gone too—may their songs always be sung, indeed!