Nothing’s Been Changed, Except the Words: Some Faithful Attempts at Covering Bob Dylan Songs in French


This article deals with the French translation and performed covers of Bob Dylan songs, with a view to setting forth the general rules of adapting songs into another language. Using a large number of examples, this article first explains the difference between covering and translating, which is first and foremost a matter of meter and scansion. The article then explores two approaches to “faithfulness”: one can either be faithful to the sound of the initial words or to the meaning. What is at stake here is the concept of distance: we need intercessors, but still want them removed from the picture. Rather than creators, the singers covering foreign songs have to be considered as transmitters. That is why most of those efforts, whatever their commercial success, often fail to impress as genuine works of art.

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