Song of the Day, August 2: Simple Twist of Fate
August 2, 2016 Leave a comment
Today’s song experienced two stellar renditions in less than a year. Bob Dylan put together Blood On the Tracks in late 1974, stepping away from his work with the Band and exploring more personal themes as he pondered his splintering marriage. The result was 10 fine tracks that fused together into one of his best albums.
A highlight is the poignant narrative song Simple Twist of Fate. Told mostly in the third person, it explores a romance slowly coming apart, troubled by the little things that happen in life. Dylan slips into first person at key moments, making the subject of the narrative simultaneously more intimate and uncertain. It’s an amazing feat, and the deceptively simple, quiet music provides a stirring backdrop for the careful storytelling. Dylan is known to introduce the song live simply as “a love song — it happened to me.” That encapsulates its power nicely.
While Dylan was working to support the new album, he reconnected with an old friend. He and Joan Baez had a complicated relationship, including a short-lived romance that both have alluded to in song. Baez was understandably impressed with the Tracks, and asked to include one of them on her new album.
Her interpretation of Simple Twist of Fate is a highlight of her finest album, Diamonds & Rust. She stays true to the spirit of the song, investing it with her own energy and entrusting it to the capable hands of her crack jazz-pop band. The result is an amazing cover, a standout in decades of interpretations of Dylan tracks. As a tribute to the composer and a sign of her sly sense of humor, Baez drops her clear soprano for a nice Dylan impersonation late in the song. It’s a wonderful moment, and a nice nod to the performers’ complex history.
Legitimate links to original Dylan songs are notoriously hard to find, and none of the live versions I found live up to the original. I encourage you to seek it out. You can, however, enjoy Baez’ amazing cover today.