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.
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.