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Rod Stewart Sounds an Echo of Dylan

POP EYE

June 26, 1988|PATRICK GOLDSTEIN

Who said Rod Stewart was finished? After years of commercial disappointments, Stewart is on the comeback trail with "Lost in You," a hot Top 20 single that is reminding fans of Rod the Mod's glory days.

But it's his follow-up single--a striking ballad called "Forever Young"--that might really stir up fans' memories. Only it won't remind anyone of a Stewart song.

In fact, what is striking about the song isn't just Stewart's impassioned delivery, but the song's resemblance to an earlier "Forever Young" by Bob Dylan, long one of Stewart's favorite songwriters. What makes this mystery even more intriguing is that while Stewart receives sole songwriting credit, the song's publishing credit is shared by Stewart and Special Rider Music, one of Dylan's publishing companies.

So what gives? "The song is very much Rod's song," explained his manager, Arnold Stiefel. "It came about after a long, very touching conversation he had with his 6-year-old son last year. There was this great empathy between them, which I think really moved Rod. And as he remembers it, he saw a film in England around the same time called 'Forever Young,' which is where the title came from.

"However, when we were putting the album together, someone pointed out that there was a Dylan song with the same title. So we listened to the two songs. And it would be fair to say that while the melody and the music is not at all the same, the \o7 idea \f7 of the song is similar. The architecture of the lyrics of the song is very much from Dylan--there are definite similarities."

Saying he was concerned, Stiefel immediately sent the song to Dylan, asking whether he had a problem with the song. "We didn't hear back from Bob directly, but his attorney relayed the message that he had no problem with the song, but that he did want to participate in the ownership of the song."

In fact, Stiefel said Dylan will receive a 50-50 split of any royalties from the song. "Obviously this was something that was completely subconscious," Stiefel said. "And as soon as we realized there were some similarities, we took the initiative to go right to Dylan and ask him what he wanted us to do."

Stewart isn't just depositing his share of the royalties in the bank. In fact, he's donating 100% of his worldwide royalties from "Forever Young" to local health care for the homeless projects around the country (the recipient here will be the Los Angeles Health Care for the Homeless). Several years ago Stewart quietly donated all his royalties from "(Do Ya Think I'm) Sexy" to UNICEF.

Dylan publishing chief Jeff Rosen refused to comment on the song credit arrangements. Dylan spokesman Elliot Mintz confirmed the account, saying: "Bob doesn't have any objections to this arrangement or he wouldn't have allowed it to happen."

Yet we're betting that Dylan--whose own early song borrowed heavily from Woody Guthrie's Dustbowl ballads--is taking all of this as a compliment, especially after Stewart's chart comeback. Maybe he'll even stop by to hear Rod croon "Forever Young" in concert. Stewart's tour, which begins July 1 in San Juan, sold out its Aug. 9 date at the Forum so fast that an Aug. 10 show has hastily been added.

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