Song of the Day #2,720: ‘What’ll I Do’ – Bob Dylan

dylan_shadows_in_the_nightToday begins my countdown of the 20 best songs of 2015, or rather the 20 songs that encapsulate the last year in music for me.

This list is always controversial for one reason or another — usually because I leave off a radio hit or two that my regular readers expect. That will likely happen again this year, though I will say I have more hit singles represented on this list than I have in any year since I started ranking.

My pick for #20, however, did not receive much radio play. Shocker!

Best Songs of 2015 – #20
‘What’ll I Do’ – Bob Dylan

Even I, a Bob Dylan die-hard, was skeptical of his decision to record an album of Frank Sinatra covers. Many people don’t want to hear Dylan sing his own songs, let alone songs written for real singers.

Dylan doesn’t give a damn what anybody thinks of him or his music. He records what he wants to record and releases what he wants to release, whether it’s personal songs when the world wants protest songs, electric when the world wants acoustic, country when the world wants rock-n-roll.

Or Frank Sinatra torch ballads when the world doesn’t want much of anything from a 73-year old legend.

The surprising thing about Shadows in the Night is how much better Dylan’s vocals sound than on any album he’s released in a decade. He brings a tender weariness to these ten melancholy tracks, sweetened by the elegance of his five-man backing band. One of his best decisions was not to sing over the expected orchestration but with the same guitar/bass/drums outfit that accompanies him on tour.

Shadows in the Night received widespread critical acclaim, mostly from writers who (like me) were surprised by how good it turned out. Call it a case of beating low expectations, but at any rate, it works.

‘What’ll I Do’ is my favorite cut.

What’ll I do?
When you are far away
And I am blue
What’ll I do?

What’ll I do?
When I am wondering who
Is kissing you
What’ll I do?

What’ll I do with just a photograph
To tell my troubles to?

When I’m alone
With only dreams of you
That won’t come true
What’ll I do?

[instrumental-one verse]

What’ll I do with just a photograph
To tell my troubles to?

When I’m alone
With only dreams of you
That won’t come true
What’ll I do?

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2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #2,720: ‘What’ll I Do’ – Bob Dylan

  1. Dana says:

    Clearly, at this point, Dylan can put out anything from Christmas songs to Sinatra standards to nursery rhymes, and the most ardent of fans will stand by him. For the rest of us, something beating low expectations and not being a total train wreck doesn’t translate into something great to embrace.

  2. Peg says:

    And yet I embrace it 🙂 Anyone who want to honor Sinatra is just fine with me. I love this song and remember listening to it many years ago. It’s been awhile since I’ve heard it; time to bring out my Sinatra CD’s again 🙂

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