Song of the Day #643: ‘Forever Young’ – Bob Dylan

When I started this Dylan Weekend series and decided to dedicate posts to each of Bob Dylan’s albums chronologically, I knew I was going in somewhat ill-prepared. I own more albums by Dylan than by any other single artist or band in my collection (Elvis Costello is a close second) but I don’t own them all.

Already I’ve covered three of the albums I don’t own — Self Portrait, Dylan and Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid. But one of those is a soundtrack and the other two are notoriously mediocre, and primarily cover albums besides. So I don’t feel all that bad glossing over them on the blog.

But Dylan has put out five or six albums that haven’t been dismissed the way those have, either critically or by his fans. And I didn’t feel right skipping them or hand-picking a couple of songs without any real familiarity with the albums. So I went on a little buying spree at Amazon (fortunately, almost all of his albums cost $6.99) and picked up a handful.

And this weekend we arrive at the first of my new finds, 1974’s Planet Waves.

This album has been somewhat lost over time largely because of the trilogy that immediately followed it. But at the time of its release, it marked a significant comeback for Dylan following a 4-year dry spell. His last release, remember, was the excoriated Dylan. Planet Waves was received relatively well by critics and become Dylan’s first #1 album.

The album features The Band as Dylan’s supporting musicians, and it’s worthy for the sound they bring to the table as much as anything. I’ve never been a huge fan of The Band on their own, but I love what they did with and for Bob Dylan.

‘Forever Young’ is the most popular and beloved song on Planet Waves. Dylan wrote it for his children. One generally doesn’t associate Bob Dylan with heartfelt lullabies but here he’s written one for the ages.

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.
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung,
May you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.

May you grow up to be righteous,
May you grow up to be true,
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you.
May you always be courageous,
Stand upright and be strong,
May you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.

May your hands always be busy,
May your feet always be swift,
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift.
May your heart always be joyful,
May your song always be sung,
May you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.

9 thoughts on “Song of the Day #643: ‘Forever Young’ – Bob Dylan

  1. paul says:

    lovely post. a much under rated dylan album. thank you.

  2. pegclifton says:

    I can’t think of a more beautiful song for one’s child–thanks for starting the weekend off with such a lovely song.

  3. Amy says:

    Is this the same “Forever Young” with which Rod Stewart had such a huge hit? I don’t know that song well enough to recognize if the lyrics are the same, but this certainly doesn’t sound anything like that version. If it is – well, I just have another reason to be angry at Rod Stewart (after “covering”/butchering Robbie Robertson’s “Broken Arrow” and making people think it was “his” song)

    Okay… back on topic. There are few things more resonant than an artist singing a song he has written for his children. This one is no exception. What I love most about this song is the way Dylan defines “young” to mean something far more radical than the typical trite notion of staying “young at heart” by being optimistic and carefree. The youth he wants for his children consists of strength, courage, righteousness… it’s difficult not to see Dylan capturing all the qualities he most admired about himself as a young artist and wanting to pass those on to his children, so that they, as he himself is trying to do, can remain “forever young” in all the ways it matters most.

    Of course, I can just see a morally corrupt cosmetics company using the song as a ditty to push some miracle cream that takes away wrinkles. That will be the day Dylan kills himself (or them). 😉

  4. Amy says:

    Okay… did some searching. After listening in shock to Stewart’s song, I found this on Wikepedia:

    “Forever Young” was an unconscious revision of Bob Dylan’s song of the same name; the artists reached an agreement about sharing royalties.

    “Unconscious revision” – puhleeze!

    The man is a thief.

  5. Except that, as I think you might have hinted in a previous post, those other two albums are not mediocre. That’s an unjust label.
    Dylan’s “Forever Young” is not the same as Rod Stewart”s; Stewart did, though, base his song on this one.

  6. Clay says:

    I agree, those albums are not mediocre… though I’d always accepted that they were based on reputation alone.

  7. David says:

    I agree: it is “one for the ages.” I’ve sung it repeatedly to my 4 children at bedtime. It’s a prayer in our family.

  8. Dana says:

    After reading Amy’s comment, I was expecting to hear a very similar song to Stewart’s version and was prepared to join in on the Stewart bashing. But I’ll give Stewart credit as his song is sufficiently different such that I don’t even think splitting royalties was necessary.

    This Dylan song is quite good, though I would think singing the chorus to a small child as a lullaby might jar the youngin’ right out of sleep.

  9. Clay says:

    The songs are different musically but lyrically they’re almost identical… that’s where Stewart has some splainin’ to do.

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