Considerations of Bob Dylan’s “Love Sick”

 

by Denise Konkal

I am revisiting this amazing compilation of Bob Dylan’s LIVE *Lovesick* performances.

To me, this song brilliantly examines the deepest experience of love-longing. It effectively explores the torture that love can cause a person, especially when there is separation with no foreseeable end. The music alone sets a mood of perpetual agony and arduous passing of time.

This lyrical out-loud expression of inner dialogue truly captures the battle between the heart and mind. Many of Bob’s songs deal with aspects and themes of mind/heart struggle but “Lovesick” seems to illustrate it so well. It portrays how love can cause such misery; disobliging any rhyme or reason. Attempting to cerebrally subdue the overwhelming feelings of deep desire of love seems beyond the capability of the most astute mind.

In this song the protagonist feels it is impossible for them to be together. He’s so in love, he is sick from it and of it! His longing for her is so powerful that everything but her love seems dead to him. Even using the line: “streets that are dead” echoes back to Bob’s early years; to the innocence of youth and first love. It is so similar to his line in *Mr Tambourine Man* “…the ancient empty streets too dead for dreaming.”

This is not ordinary love and though it seems obsessive it’s not that either. It’s the kind of love in which their entire beings are inextricably connected. Love that is melded to the point that to hurt the other is to hurt yourself.

His brain is “wired” because “there’s a battle [inside] and it’s raging.” He and his love are separated for some reason and the waiting so long as indicated by: “I hear the clock tick.”

He also cannot fathom why she always seems to know and understands his secret hidden places of his soul like no one else ever has. How does she know? He tries to reason away this intuition and insight she seems to have informing her as shown in the line: “you went through my pockets when I was sleeping.” This also alludes to Bob’s song *Covenant Woman* in the line: “…who knows those secret things of me that are hidden from the world…”

So in this lonely separation, he tries desperately to find a way to dismiss his feelings by dismissing her. He begins to build a case against her by thinking she doesn’t love him the way he loves her. His heart and soul is ravaged. Wrestling with such thoughts, he’s trying to make himself believe she’s bad. It’s like if he can blame her and think she is fickle then maybe he can stop loving her. He cannot move on or love anyone else but he is worried that in this separation, she might not be faithful to him. He sees other couples enjoying love and imagines her in a silhouette with someone else and it’s driving him crazy inside. He asks: “…could you ever be true, I think of you and I wonder….” This love is so powerful it is tortuous and he can’t get it out of his head.

He wants to escape the pain of not being with her but in the end he knows he can’t because in his last line he says: “I’d give anything just to be with you.” For all this thinking, he cannot extinguish the fire of his desire! He still hopes they will be together somehow because he knows he’s in it for keeps.

This song is reminiscent of the Song of Songs (Solomon) in which two separated lovers are searching for the other. Their love is pure but sensual, and sweetly tender but also intense like fire; a perfect model of true love.

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Denise is the moderator of the Untold Dylan Facebook group.  You can find out more about the group and apply to join at https://www.facebook.com/groups/UntoldDylan or by typing in Untold Dylan Facebook on your search engine.

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16 Responses to Considerations of Bob Dylan’s “Love Sick”

  1. Larry Fyffe says:

    Not so sure ego-centric, earth-bound, King Solomon with his many ‘wives’, and his gold mine, is a model of true love.
    The female lover has to seek him out.
    Jerome, for one, underplays the obvious ‘carnal’ aspects of the song – transforms the song into a spiritual allegory vis-a-vis God and his followers.

  2. Larry Fyffe says:

    That is, Jerome twists the Song into praise for those women who reject sexual love in order to serve the sweet Lord only:

    Because of the savour of thy good ointments
    Thy name is an ointment poured forth
    Therefore do the virgins love thee
    (Song Of Solomon 1:3)

    Jerome claimes that he himself decides to follow an ascetic life-style.

  3. Larry Fyffe says:

    *claims

  4. Larry Fyffe says:

    Though from the Old Testament, Jerome turns the Song on its head – the woman prepares herself to receive Christ’s spiritual (not physical) love ~ in short, His Holy words.

    Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth; for his love is better than wine
    (Song Of Solomon 1:2)

    According to Jerome, she’s not made miserable due to the lack of physical love, but overwhelmed by the presence of the Holy Spirit, objectified as cakes and apples:

    Stay me with flagons
    Comfort me with apples
    For I am sick of love
    (Song Of Solomon 2:5)

  5. Larry Fyffe says:

    Apparently, Dylan’s narrator in the lyrics below is not fond of Jerome’s rendition of the virginal, fasting female and is going to re-make her; gonna bring her back home:

    You can bring it to St. Peter
    You can bring it to Jerome
    (Bob Dylan: My Own Version Of You)

  6. Larry Fyffe says:

    Peter gets to meet God when Jesus takes him up a mountain where it’s demonstrated to him that Christ is the Son of God, but Peter is apparently so dumbfounded that he is ordered not to say anything until after the crucifixion;
    Mary Magdalene, now virginal, has things explained to her by Christ Himself while He’s resurrected in the tomb, but not yet ready to go to heaven until he clears things up with His disciples.

  7. Larry Fyffe says:

    Says Jerome, ‘Mary Magdalene’ means ‘Mary of the Tower’ (ie, the tower of faith in Jesus).

  8. denise konkal says:

    Dear Tony,
    Thank you for publishing my considerations of this song. It is really quite an experience to listen to 21 live renditions consecutively. You become so immersed in the melody and lyrics. I recommend taking the time to experience it. These ideas just seemed to be the main perspective of the song for me after that listening marathon and I wrote my piece straight after. This song has always resonated with me, but to a greater degree now.

    denise

  9. Larry Fyffe says:

    It’s a good analysis of the Dylan song …..

    There is also the possibility that the narrator in the Dylan song feels rather like Apostle Peter after being taken up the mountain to meet the God of Thunder – should one want to put a biblical or mythological twist on it
    … ie, he’s dumbfounded, doesn’t know what to believe or do; maybe just be silent about it all, and try to pretend they never met.

  10. Larry Fyffe says:

    Initially, Apostle Peter wants to make a place stay up on the mountain with God/Jesus…
    Note that Dylan in his song makes no mention of the gender of the one he is trying to forget.

    It’s an intriguing song.

  11. Larry Fyffe says:

    * to stay

  12. Larry Fyffe says:

    (B)ehold a bright cloud overshadowed them
    And behold a voice out of the cloud, which said
    “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased
    Hear ye him”
    (Matthew 17: 5)

  13. Larry Fyffe says:

    Another biblical allusion.

    Jesus speaks to Peter and the other disciples:

    “Whosoever therefore humble themselves
    As this little child
    The same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven”
    (Matthew 18: 4)

    To wit:

    I spoke as a child
    (Bob Dylan: Sick Of Love)

  14. Larry Fyffe says:

    Damn it!…,

    I spoke like a child

  15. Louise says:

    She read his palms when he was sleeping. Each intrinsic moment binds the two souls in some sort of harmony.

    The deck is stacked it is all fixed, jesus christ super star claims.

    When she speaks to him part of the conversation is talking to another. Who is in touch with his feelings and emotions. The pain and agony is unbarable, like pulling teeth a strong desire to pull away and retreat to no cross in the conselation,thru the dark sky: to the conselation no cross.

    Barat College
    Art school
    .
    To find a tear or laughter.
    Intertwined in the pain and disfunction
    Keeps them….

  16. carol mailand says:

    I tried so very much to give myself to Bob I will always love him more than he ever realized my heart will never waiver with my soul will always belong to him as as well

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