For the Sake of the Song: Bruce Springsteen “If I Should Fall Behind”

‘If I Should Fall Behind’ was written by, and remains very dear to the heart of, Bruce Springsteen.  Debates arise as to whether he can be described as an Americana artist, but the song certainly can. He wrote it just before his wedding to Patti Scialfa in 1991, and if only it had been written a year earlier, I would have used it at my wedding to the other half.  It appeared on one of Springsteen’s lesser-regarded albums, ‘Lucky Town’, in 1992, but the song had such an impact that artists of various have have recorded it, from Linda Ronstadt to Paul Carrack to Dion to Faith Hill and Robin & Linda Williams. YouTube abounds with versions of it.

It has been interpreted by the writer in many ways since it was written, but Springsteen rated it ‘one of my best songs, about the dedication of one person to another that comes with love’, while recognising that it is easy for two people to lose each other along the way – “We swore we’d travel, darling, side by side / We’d help each other stay in stride /But each lover’s steps fall so differently /But I’ll wait for you, and if I should fall behind / Wait for me”

It really is a beautiful song and its greatness is not only evidenced by the number of artists who have covered it, but by the way it is interpreted, throwing light on different aspects with each approach. Springsteen invariably sings it at his live performances, each time in a different way – in its original form (with the E Street Band), sometimes as a reggae number, other times as an acoustic folk song, occasionally with solo piano and sometimes as a duet with Scialfa. The version I have picked highlights just how different from the original it can be sung and it clearly meets the Americana ‘test’.

With all the covers available I have also chosen the version that I love the most, by one of my favourite Americana artists, Rose Cousins, she of the almost perfect voice. She writes songs of love and loss and getting old and heartbreak and grief and loneliness and coming to terms with the life one leads, nearly all of which come from her own life experiences.  This song is totally in tune with her own songs, reflecting the potential problems people face in long-term relationships, but she has added a new dimension. In 2012 during the making of her outstanding album ‘We Have Made a Spark’, she directed a 20-minute documentary about the coming together of her musician friends (the ones who appear on the album and who welcomed her into the Boston club scene a few years prior to the album) and the beauty of the music they made, hence the album title. But the documentary was called ‘If I should fall behind’ and this reflects the value to her of her friends whilst acknowledging that there indeed might be bumps in the road in those relationships. “Now everyone dreams of love lasting and true  Oh, but you and I know what this world can do  So let’s make our steps clear that the other may see I’ll wait for you And if I should fall behind Wait for me”

The album track is a duet with the outstanding Mark Erelli, whose gruff voice provides a great contrast to the perfection of Cousins’. The background vocals are by some of the best harmony singers around, Rose Polenzani, Kris Delmhorst, Jennifer Kimball and Laura Cortese. The backing is very simpatico, with lovely wailing steel.  It is truly a thing of beauty! Please enjoy – both of these versions are very much worth the entry price!

About FredArnold 59 Articles
Lifelong fan of predominantly US (and Canadian) country roots music. Previously an avid concert-goer before wives, kids and dogs got in the way- and although I still try to get to several, my preference for small independent venues often means standing, and that ain't too good for my ancient bones!! Still, a healthy and catholic music collection helps ease the pain
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Steve Goldsmith

Also Dion does a great version and another Springsteen cover in the same album (and check out his version of Sisters of Mercy by Leonard Cohen). Still going strong

Steve Goldsmith

Already mentioned in the original comment ooops. The other Dion cover is Book of Dreams.