If Not for You

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"If Not For You"
Single by Bob Dylan
from the album New Morning
B-side "New Morning"
Released 1970
Genre Country rock
Length 2:39
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Bob Dylan
Producer(s) Bob Johnston
Bob Dylan singles chronology
"Wigwam"
(1970)
"If Not For You"
(1971)
"Watching the River Flow"
(1971)

"If Not for You" is a song by Bob Dylan, recorded for his 1970 album New Morning. It was released as a single in Europe.

In November 1970, a month after Dylan's original had appeared, George Harrison released a version of the song on his triple album All Things Must Pass. Another well-known cover of the song was recorded by Olivia Newton-John, who had a hit with the song in 1971.

Bob Dylan's version[edit]

Release[edit]

Bob Dylan recorded "If Not for You" for his 1970 album New Morning. The song was released as a single in Europe. It was later included on the Dylan compilations Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits Vol. II (1971),[1] Masterpieces (1978),[2] Biograph (1985),[3] The Essential Bob Dylan (2000),[4] The Very Best of Bob Dylan (2000),[5] Best of Bob Dylan Vols 1 & 2 (2001),[6] Greatest Hits Vol 1–3 (2003),[7] The Best of Bob Dylan (2005),[8] Dylan (2007),[9] Playlist: The Very Best of Bob Dylan '70s (2009),[10] and The Real... (2012),[11] as well as on the various artist compilation The Best Year of My Life: 1970 (2011).[12]

A June 2, 1970 outtake of "If Not for You," featuring only vocal, piano, and violin, is included on The Bootleg Series Vol. 10 – Another Self Portrait (1969–1971).

Live performances[edit]

Dylan performed "If Not for You" with George Harrison during rehearsals for the Concert for Bangladesh in New York in 1971, but did not perform the song at the concert itself. Since then, however, Dylan has performed the song over 80 times.[13]

Charts[edit]

Chart Peak
position
Dutch Single Top 100 30[14]

George Harrison’s version[edit]

"If Not for You"
Song by George Harrison from the album All Things Must Pass
Released 27 November 1970 (US)
30 November 1970 (UK)
Genre Folk rock
Length 3:29
Label Apple
Writer Bob Dylan
Producer George Harrison, Phil Spector
All Things Must Pass track listing

George Harrison had sat in on a session for Dylan's New Morning album, on May 1, 1970, at Columbia's Studio B in New York, where he had played on an early take of "If Not for You" (later included on the Bob Dylan box set The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 (Rare & Unreleased)).[15] News of the collaboration between Dylan and the recently ex-Beatle caused great excitement in the music press, even though Columbia Records had made a point of announcing that neither artist deemed the results worthy of release.[16]

Over the following months, and despite having a wealth of extra material of his own, Harrison thought enough of the song to record it in London for his All Things Must Pass set. His was a characteristically melody-centric version of the track, which more clearly defined the song's verse and bridge sections and eschewed the Dylan preference for spontaneity.[17] Harrison's “If Not for You” immediately met with favour from critics and album reviewers: Mikal Gilmore describes it as “surprisingly beautiful”,[18] while to musical biographer Simon Leng, it's a "gleaming pop creation".[17]

Live performances[edit]

The following year, Dylan and Harrison duetted on "If Not for You" during a soundcheck for the historic Concert for Bangladesh in New York.[19] Judging by this, and from Harrison's early notes for a possible setlist,[20] the pair had considered performing it at the UNICEF benefit later that day. (This soundcheck performance was later released on the 2005 remastered DVD of The Concert for Bangladesh.)

Harrison finally got a chance to perform "If Not for You" live, again at Madison Square Garden, on 16 October 1992 during the all-star concert celebrating Dylan's first three decades in the music industry.[21] Backed by the house band for the night, Harrison performed "startling versions" of "If Not for You" and "Absolutely Sweet Marie",[22] but only the latter found its way onto the officially released album the following August.

Personnel[edit]

The musicians who performed on Harrison's studio version of the song are believed to be as follows:[17]

Olivia Newton-John version[edit]

"If Not For You"
Single by Olivia Newton-John
from the album If Not For You
A-side "If Not For You"
B-side "The Biggest Clown"
Released 1971
Genre Country, pop
Length 2:50
Writer(s) Bob Dylan
Producer(s) Bruce Welch, John Farrar

Basing her version on the Harrison arrangement rather than Dylan's,[23] Australian singer Olivia Newton-John enjoyed considerable international success with "If Not for You". It was the title track of her debut album, and became her first hit single, reaching the Top 40 in several countries. In addition, the single spent three weeks at No. 1 on the United States Easy Listening charts.[24][25]

Charts[edit]

Chart Peak
position
Belgian Charts 29[26]
Canadian RPM Singles Chart 18[27]
Dutch Top 40 11[28]
Norwegian Charts 6[29]
UK Singles Chart 7[30]
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 25[31]
U.S. Billboard Easy Listening 1[25]

Other cover versions[edit]

Numerous other artists have covered "If Not For You". These include Rod Stewart,[32] Bryan Ferry,[33] Richie Havens,[34] Sarah Vaughan,[35] Glen Campbell,[36] Barb Jungr,[37] Katie Buckhaven,[38] Susan McKeown and Lindsey Horner,[39] Phil Keaggy,[40] Ed Kuepper,[41] the Flatmates,[42] and Michel Montecrossa.[43]


See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]