Laura Tenschert on TOOM's 'Make You Feel My Love'
The #TOOM25 Event Series
The multitudes that Dylan contains is never more clear than when listening to wise and articulate people discuss his writing and performing.
For episode three Laura Tenschert talks about the sometimes loved, and sometimes hated (but very popular) Make You Feel My Love.
The Most And Least Popular Song
We held an informal poll on Twitter not long ago, looking for the least loved song on Time Out Of Mind. The ‘winner’ was a song that has vastly more streams on Spotify than any other song on the album: Make You Feel My Love.
On Episode 2 of TOOM25, Ray Padgett gave us a full overview of the cover versions of Time Out Of Mind songs (clip below), and naturally Make You Feel My Love got some attention – including some ribbing for both the song and the kind of people who have covered it.
Laura was already scheduled to speak at our Episode 3 event, but she had not yet settled on the song she was going to discuss. After all of the above however, she decided to cover Make You Feel My Love.
Laura begin with a simple statement, that MYFML was a song worth paying attention to. It has been frequently covered, and achieved incredible crossover success far beyond traditional Dylan fans via the many cover versions.
She pointed out that its path has not been dissimilar to Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah which became very famous via covers.
Why The Hate?
Laura then acknowledged and documented some of the negative opinions that have been shared of the song – from famous outlets such as RollingStone magazine and respected Dylan writers and critics including Clinton Heylin, Andrew Muir, and even Michael Gray (who also appeared in this same episode.)
The question then posed is why? Do listeners get to define what Bob Dylan is? That is a question Laura considers, and she talks about what may a difference in how long time fans and ‘2nd or 3rd generation fans’ think about Dylan and his work.
Inside The Song
Laura points out that the music evokes the Great American Song book, and yet was done decades before that was something we were used to by Bob Dylan. This classic nature of the music along with the simple melody and lyrics may be what makes it so appealing to cover artists.
She talks about Dylan’s history with ‘simple love songs’, and the fact that many of the other artists we know Dylan admires have also used simple language to create well loves and critically reviewed songs.
Is It A Simple Love Song?
Laura isn’t sure. In the next phase of her talk she discusses the metaphors he uses, the language and allusions, and some ideas that relate to the discussion of Murder Ballads we heard about from Graley Herren in episode one.
(In her talk, there is also a reference to the phase ‘the rain is blowing in your face’ and its relation to this episode of DefinitelyDylan podcast called The Wind.)
Is the protagonist making an offer, professing unrequited love but in a way where the pleading gets more desperate? Does he begin to come on too strongly? Does his awareness of her state of mind shift the mood from romantic to creepy?
Laura talks about these, and draws an interesting parallel to the video for Duquesne Whistle – where we see a ‘nice guy’ follow a love interest and keep pushing it until he gets himself into trouble.
She also notes a line from one of The Stanley Brothers songs that Jochen Markhorst talked about related to Cold Irons Bound also makes an appearance in MYFLM. So while it’s tenor and music is unlike the other TOOM songs, it’s still at least partially connected in terms of inspirations.
Popular But Polarizing
While Make You Feel My Love is by most measures the most famous song on Time Out Of Mind, few if any Dylan fans would say it defines or is even representative of the album.
Dylan doesn’t seem the type to write a pleasant sounding love ballad just so there is a ‘popular hit’ to go along with his album, to introduce it to people without putting the dark side first, and yet that is exactly what he has done. The fact that this ‘simple love song’ could inspire so much controversy is however, in many ways, very Dylanesque.
There is clearly more to explore in terms of this song – and so while we didn’t get to have a full Q&A session with Laura during the event (due to time constraints) we’re going to record one soon and release it as a bonus video for members.