Dylan Covers No 11: If Not for You - George Harrison
After all those years as the "other" songwriter in the Beatles - he generally got two songs per album, one on either side, and four on the White Album because it was a double - when the Beatles split up and they all produced their proper first solo album, in George Harrison's case it was like the cork popping out of a champagne bottle: a celebration and and quality sparkling wine all of the way. All those songs he'd been saving up at last came out on the excellent double (not triple - sides 5 and 6 were just a jam session) LP "All Things Must Pass". The significance of the title was not lost on us, the public, albeit that it was a track on the album: the Beatles could not go on forever.
All the tracks therefore were Harrison compositions with one co-composition. The only track that was not written by the ex-Beatle was the Dylan song "If Not For You". Yet the sound of this track is what defines the whole feeling and heart of the album, with Harrison's often underrated guitar skills shining through. His slide acoustic anchors the song and blends beautifully with Gary Wright's excellent piano and Billy Preston's equally good organ, his strong yet gentle vocal characteristic of the man we slowly got to know over the years after the break-up of the Beatles. Olivia Newton launched her career with a note for note copy of Harrison's version, even down to the slide guitar - except that it wasn't even a tenth as good.
As far as I'm aware, other than this the Beatles never covered a Dylan song either collectively or singly. And neither did Dylan do a Beatles song.
Being George Harrison, this cover is not so much a tribute as a complement to a maestro and a friend even though it is the better version. And this is the track that I was humming to myself after I heard the sad news of the death of this decent man, so full of love for the world, back in 2001.