Bob Dylan Pays Tribute to Jerry Lee Lewis with Cover of Late Rock Pioneer’s Country Hit “I Can’t Seem to Say Goodbye”

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Closing out his show at Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham, England on Oct. 28, Bob Dylan encored with a tribute to the late rock and roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis, who died at the age of 87 earlier that day, with a rendition of Lewis’ 1970 country single “I Can’t Seem to Say Goodbye.”

“I don’t know how many of you know, but Jerry Lee’s gone,” said Dylan before going performing the song. “We’re gonna play this song, one of his. Jerry Lee will live forever. We all know that.”

Off Lewis’ 1970 compilation, A Taste of Country, “I Can’t Seem to Say Goodbye,” written by Don Robertson, was originally recorded by Lewis during his time at Sun Records but took some time to get a release following the sale of the label by founder Sam Phillips in 1969. Upon its release, the song reached No. 7 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.

In 1969, Dylan and Lewis crossed paths while they were working in the same studio. Dylan admitted that he wrote “To Be Along With You,” for Lewis, who was recording next door to him but passed on the young bard’s composition since the song didn’t fit the slower croons he was working on for his ninth album, She Still Comes Around (To Love What’s Left of Me).

Dylan ended up releasing “To Be Alone With You” on his 1969 country-slanted album Nashville Skyline, and in 1979, Lewis covered Dylan’s 1976 b-side “Rita May,” which Dylan had co-written with Jacques May and recorded during his Desire sessions.

Lewis featured his rendition of “Rita May” on his self-titled album in 1979 and later covered Dylan’s “Stepchild” on his 41st and final album Rock & Roll Time in 2014. Released in 2014, the album also featured covers by Johnny Cash and Chuck Berry songs and special guests Keith Richards, Neil Young, Band guitarist Robbie Robertson, and Nils Lofgren.

Dylan is currently on tour in the U.K. through Nov. 7, continuing to support his most recent, 39th album, Rough and Rowdy Ways.

Photo: Gus Stewart/Redferns via Getty Images

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