George Harrison and Bob Dylan had a close connection that lasted for more than 40 years. The two were close friends who frequently wrote to one another, went to each other’s homes, and played music together both in the studio and in live performances.
There was also a moment when both of them recorded a song on separate projects in different arrangements and later on played the song together. The song was ‘If Not For You’ which was written as a love song for Bob’s first wife, Sara Dylan. The song is from the album ‘New Morning’ which was released back in 1970.
George Harrison also recorded his version of the song and released it on his ‘All Things Must Pass’ album. Harrison’s rendition of the song is more melody focused and has slower instrumentals.
Dylan was critical of his own work and said that the song was “kind of folky“. He said, “It seemed simple enough, sort of Tex-Mex. I would never explore all the possibilities of instrumentation in the studio, add parts and so forth, change the beat around, so it came off kind of folky.”
Back in 1967, Harrison was in the US and was going to visit Bob Dylan. Back then, Dylan was recovering from his motorcycle accident. Over Thanksgiving, Harrison came to see Dylan, and ultimately the two picked up their guitars. Even though the collaboration only produced the song “I’d Have You Anytime,” it gave both songwriters a fresh burst of inspiration.
When Harrison met with Bob again in 1970, the Beatles had disbanded already. That’s when Dylan showed his new song, ‘If Not For You’ to him. He loved the track but at the end of the day, the song was not release-worthy. This made both of them release their own version of the song.
There was also an instance where they rehearsed the track together. It was during ‘The Concert for Bangladesh’. In 1971, Bangladesh’s first prime minister, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and Indian music superstar Ravi Shankar created and staged The Concert of Bangladesh, a historic music festival. One of the guests at the concert was Bob Dylan and people were adamant that he would not show up. He was up for rehearsals and that’s when he and Harrison performed a version of ‘If Not For You’. They didn’t perform the song at the concert, but footage can be seen them practicing the song.
Watch the performance down below.
On this day in 1972 💫
The film version of George Harrison's Concert For Bangladesh is released in America, helping raise additional money for aid that goes to UNICEF.
George Harrison & Bob Dylan 😎🎸
If Not For You (Live)#BobDylan #GeorgeHarrison pic.twitter.com/AJaQavMK0I
— 🎶When it hits you feel no pain🎶❤✌ (@Concert_Feeling) March 23, 2022