|Released January 17, 1974|
Length 4:57, 2:49
|Recorded November 1973 (California)|
"Forever Young" is a song by Bob Dylan, recorded in California in November 1973. The song first appeared (in two different versions, one slow and one fast) on Dylan's fourteenth studio album Planet Waves (1974).
A demo version of the song, recorded in New York City in June 1973, was included on Dylan's 1985 compilation Biograph. In the notes included with that album, Dylan is quoted as saying that he wrote "Forever Young" in Tucson, Arizona, "thinking about" one of his sons and "not wanting to be too sentimental."
A live version of the song, recorded in Tokyo on 28 February 1978 and included on Dylan's album Bob Dylan at Budokan, was released as a European single in 1979.
Written as a lullaby for his eldest son Jesse, born in 1966, Dylan's song relates a father's hopes that his child will remain strong and happy. It opens with the lines, "May God bless and keep you always / May your wishes all come true", echoing the Old Testament's Book of Numbers, which has lines that begin: "May the Lord bless you and guard you / May the Lord make His face shed light upon you." Not wishing to sound "too sentimental", Dylan included two versions of the song on the Planet Waves album, one a lullaby and the other more rock oriented.
In notes on "Forever Young" written for the 2007 album Dylan, Bill Flanagan writes that Dylan and the Band "got together and quickly knocked off an album, Planet Waves, that featured two versions of a blessing from a parent to a child. In the years he was away from stage Dylan had become a father. He had that in common with a good chunk of the audience. The song reflected it. Memorably recited on American TV by Howard Cosell when Muhammad Ali won the heavyweight crown for the third time."
Rod Stewart recorded a song entitled "Forever Young" that was released as a single and included on his Out of Order album in 1988. The song was remarkably similar to the Bob Dylan song of the same title, sharing not only a similar melody but many of the same lyrics. Stewart agreed to share his royalties with Dylan. Stewart's version made number 57 on the UK singles chart on its release in 1988 and number 55 on re-release in 2013.
In 2009 a remix of the song, "Forever Young (Continued)" was featured in a Pepsi commercial, with American rapper will.i.am rapping a verse. The advertisement ends with the slogan: "Every generation refreshes the world".
Louisa Johnson version
In December 2015, Louisa Johnson, the winner of the twelfth series of The X Factor, released a cover version of "Forever Young" as her winner's single. It was released on 13 December 2015, immediately after Johnson won. Johnson performed the song live on The X Factor final. She also performed it on Text Santa. Johnson's version entered the UK Singles Chart on 18 December at number nine. The song has sold 99,648 copies in the UK as of June 2016.
Other cover versions
A number of Bob Dylan’s contemporaries have recorded cover versions of "Forever Young". Joan Baez recorded the song, as a single (1974) and on her 1976 live album From Every Stage, while Peter, Paul, and Mary covered the song on their 1978 record Reunion. The Band recorded the song on their penultimate album High on the Hog, from 1996. Diana Ross covered the song in 1984 on Swept Away. Johnny Cash contributed a cover of "Forever Young" to the 1994 benefit album Red Hot + Country. The Grateful Dead performed a cover of the song with Neil Young at the Bill Graham memorial concert on November 3, 1991. It was also covered regularly by the Jerry Garcia Band and included on the album Garcia Plays Dylan. Kitty Wells also recorded the song for her 1973 album of the same title.
Additionally, The Pretenders covered the song on their album Last of the Independents in 1994; Their version was used on the end credits of the 1995 film Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home, although on the soundtrack CD a new version by Rebbie Jackson was included instead. Meat Loaf recorded a version on his 2003 album Couldn't Have Said It Better; and Marcia Hines covered the song for her 2004 album Hinesight.
Pete Seeger covered the song on the 2012 charity tribute to Dylan, Chimes of Freedom: Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International.
Christina Perri recorded a version in 2015 which is played at the end of the World of Color multimedia spectacle nightly at Disney California Adventure in Anaheim, California as part of the Disneyland 60th Anniversary celebration.