If Not for You

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"If Not for You"
If Not For You single cover.jpg
Artwork for some continental European countries (Dutch vinyl single pictured)
Single by Bob Dylan
from the album New Morning
B-side"New Morning"
ReleasedOctober 19, 1970
RecordedAugust 12, 1970
GenreCountry rock
Songwriter(s)Bob Dylan
Producer(s)Bob Johnston
Bob Dylan singles chronology
"If Not for You"
"Watching the River Flow"

"If Not for You" is a song by Bob Dylan, recorded for his 1970 album New Morning. Dylan recorded the album version in August 1970, having first recorded the song in a session with George Harrison on May 1 of that year. In addition to appearing on the album in October 1970, the August recording was released as a single in Europe; the May recording remained unreleased until its inclusion on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 (Rare & Unreleased) in 1991.

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 the only US charting version of the song, in 1971.

Bob Dylan's version[edit]


Bob Dylan recorded "If Not for You" for his album New Morning, on August 12, 1970. 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).

A previously unreleased mix of the same June 2, 1970, outtake—with Nashville session player Lloyd Green on pedal steel—was included on the 2015 album Dylan, Cash, and The Nashville Cats: A New Music City.

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]


Chart Peak
Dutch Single Top 100[14] 30

George Harrison's version[edit]

"If Not for You"
If not for you.PNG
Label from Mexican single, released in 1971 with "My Sweet Lord" as the A-side
Song by George Harrison
from the album All Things Must Pass
Released27 November 1970
GenreFolk rock
Songwriter(s)Bob Dylan
Producer(s)George Harrison, Phil Spector
All Things Must Pass track listing
23 tracks
Side one
  1. "I'd Have You Anytime"
  2. "My Sweet Lord"
  3. "Wah-Wah"
  4. "Isn't It a Pity"
Side two
  1. "What Is Life"
  2. "If Not for You"
  3. "Behind That Locked Door"
  4. "Let It Down"
  5. "Run of the Mill"
Side three
  1. "Beware of Darkness"
  2. "Apple Scruffs"
  3. "Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll)"
  4. "Awaiting on You All"
  5. "All Things Must Pass"
Side four
  1. "I Dig Love"
  2. "Art of Dying"
  3. "Isn't It a Pity (Version Two)"
  4. "Hear Me Lord"
Side five
  1. "Out of the Blue"
  2. "It's Johnny's Birthday"
  3. "Plug Me In"
Side six
  1. "I Remember Jeep"
  2. "Thanks for the Pepperoni"

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.


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"
If Not For You - Olivia Newton-John.jpg
Single by Olivia Newton-John
from the album If Not for You
B-side"The Biggest Clown"
ReleasedMay 1971
GenreCountry, pop
LabelUni 55281
Songwriter(s)Bob Dylan
Producer(s)Bruce Welch, John Farrar
Olivia Newton-John singles chronology
"Till You Say You'll Be Mine"
"If Not for You"
"Banks of the Ohio"

Basing her version on the Harrison arrangement rather than Dylan's arrangement,[23] singer Olivia Newton-John enjoyed considerable international success with "If Not for You". It was the title track of her debut album, and it became her first hit single, reaching the Top 10 in several countries. The top 40 chart performance on WLS-radio[24] was much earlier than the Hot 100.[25] In addition, the single spent three weeks at No. 1 on the United States Easy Listening charts.[26][27]

Chart performance[edit]

Other cover versions[edit]

Numerous other artists have covered "If Not For You". These include Rod Stewart,[42] Bryan Ferry,[43] Richie Havens,[44] Sarah Vaughan,[45] Glen Campbell,[46] Barb Jungr,[47] Katie Buckhaven,[48] Susan McKeown,[49] Phil Keaggy,[50] Ed Kuepper,[51] and the Flatmates.[52]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Erlewine (Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 Review)
  2. ^ Ruhlmann
  3. ^ Erlewine (Biograph Review)
  4. ^ Erlewine (The Essential Bob Dylan Review)
  5. ^ Leggett (The Very Best of Bob Dylan Review)
  6. ^ Best of Bob Dylan Vols. 1 & 2 Overview
  7. ^ Jurek
  8. ^ Erlewine (Best of Bob Dylan Review)
  9. ^ Erlewine (Dylan (2007) Review)
  10. ^ Leggett (Playlist: The Very Best of Bob Dylan '70s Review)
  11. ^ The Real... Overview
  12. ^ The Best Year of My Life: 1970 Overview
  13. ^ If Not For You: Discover
  14. ^ Bob Dylan – If Not for You
  15. ^ Badman 2001, p. 7
  16. ^ Harrison (Rolling Stone Press/Simon & Schuster), pp. 179–180
  17. ^ a b c Leng 2006, p. 88
  18. ^ Harrison (Rolling Stone Press/Simon & Schuster), p. 40
  19. ^ Leng 2006, p. 120
  20. ^ Harrison 2011, p. 288
  21. ^ Leng 2006, p. 273
  22. ^ Harrison (Rolling Stone Press/Simon & Schuster), p. 48
  23. ^ Clayson 2003, p. 296
  24. ^ "WLS 1971 index (31 May - 12 July)".
  25. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1990). The Billboard Hot 100 Charts: The Seventies (17 July 1971 through 18 September 1971). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research, Inc. ISBN 0-89820-076-8.
  26. ^ Whitburn 2002, p. 181
  27. ^ a b Top 40 Easy Listening
  28. ^ Steffen Hung. "Forum - 1970 (ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts)". Australian-charts.com. Archived from the original on 2016-06-02. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  29. ^ Olivia Newton-John – If Not For You (Ultratop)
  30. ^ Top Singles - Volume 16, No. 4, September 11, 1971
  31. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. 1971-07-10. Retrieved 2018-06-01.
  32. ^ Top 40 (1971-04-03)
  33. ^ "flavour of new zealand - search listener". Flavourofnz.co.nz. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  34. ^ Olivia Newton-John – If Not For You (Norwegiancharts.com)
  35. ^ "SA Charts 1965–March 1989". Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  36. ^ Olivia Newton-John: Singles
  37. ^ Olivia Newton-John Billboard Singles
  38. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2016-06-03.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  39. ^ David Kent's "Australian Chart Book 1970-1992" Archived March 5, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  40. ^ "Top 20 Hit Singles of 1971". Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  41. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1999). Pop Annual. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. ISBN 0-89820-142-X.
  42. ^ Erlewine (Still the Same: Great Rock Classics of Our Time Overview)
  43. ^ Erlewine (Dylanesque Review)
  44. ^ Eder (Sings Beatles & Dylan Review)
  45. ^ Eder (Time in My Life Review)
  46. ^ Worbois
  47. ^ Swihart
  48. ^ Katie Buckhaven Overview
  49. ^ Mighty Rain Overview
  50. ^ Acoustic Cafe Overview
  51. ^ Out-Takes, Castaways, Pirate Women and Takeaways Overview
  52. ^ Sendra


External links[edit]