One Song By Bob Dylan: "Is Your Love In Vain?" "Street Legal"

In 1978,  Bob Dylan was fed up with his ex wife Sarah and decided to write at least an album's worth of material about it. This is just about one song on the album.

The name of the song is: "Is Your Love In Vain?" and contains some of the most directly spiteful lyrics Dylan ever wrote. He does not pull one punch in this song...and that is why it is my favorite song. Maybe as a fellow songwriter, I could relate to the pain Dylan was going through? And despite his pose for this album as a pseudo Elvis character mostly in the clothing department, Dylan came out swinging complete with three killer back up singers that could blow the door off it's hinges! And they did. Elvis had died approximately one year previous to this, and made Dylan's persona even stronger.

Rolling Stone from most reports did not understand this album and criticized Dylan for going "Vegas." This is what I remember anyway. But as time has moved on, and some tastes and styles have changed...Rolling Stone is not laughing so hard anymore about this 1978 Bob Dylan masterpiece!

The song starts out with a B-3 organ, electric rhythm guitar, full horn section and a full rhythm section playing what almost sounds like some kind of funeral march. What follows are the lyrics:

 

"IS YOUR LOVE IN VAIN?"     by Bob Dylan (c)1978

 

DO YOU LOVE ME

OR ARE YOU JUST EXTENDING GOOD WILL

DO YOU NEED ME HALF AS BAD AS YOU SAY

OR ARE YOU JUST FEELING GUILT

 

CHORUS:

I BEEN BURNED BEFORE

AND I KNOW THE SCORE

SO YOU WON'T HEAR ME COMPLAIN

WILL I BE ABLE TO COUNT ON YOU

OR IS YOUR LOVE IN VAIN

 

ARE YOU SO FAST THAT YOU CANNOT SEE

THAT I MUST HAVE SOLITUDE

WHEN I AM IN THE DARKNESS

WHY DO YOU INTRUDE

 

CHORUS:

DO YOU KNOW MY WORLD

DO YOU KNOW MY KIND

OR MUST I EXPLAIN

WILL YOU LET ME BE MYSELF

OR IS YOUR LOVE IN VAIN

 

BRIDGE:

WELL I BEEN TO THE MOUNTAIN

I'VE BEEN IN THE WIND

I BEEN IN AND OUT OF HAPPINESS

I HAVE DINED WITH KINGS

I'VE BEEN OFFERED WINGS

AND I'VE NEVER BEEN TOO IMPRESSED 

 

ALL RIGHT I'LL TAKE A CHANCE

I WILL FALL IN LOVE WITH YOU

IF I'M A FOOL YOU CAN HAVE THE NIGHT

YOU CAN HAVE THE MONEY TOO

 

CHORUS:

CAN YOU COOK AND SEW

MAKE FLOWERS GROW

DO YOU UNDERSTAND MY PAIN

ARE YOU WILLING TO RISK IT ALL

OR IS YOUR LOVE IN VAIN

 

REPEAT LAST CHORUS:

 

These are my favorite Bob Dylan lyrics...and that is why it is my favorite Dylan song, and for that matter my favorite song period. By the way...that is my right to like and maybe even love this song. You may like whatever else you want.  Some people have criticized me for liking this song on this site which I resent.  Maybe you should listen for yourselves to this song and others (on "Street Legal") and then you can draw a conclusion that is educated not just hateful.  I wonder if that's possible?  Please read these lyrics carefully before you jump to conclusions. Thank you to Bob Dylan for writing such a timeless song and for making an album as strong as "Street Legal." As a listener, songwriter & fan I appreciate what Bob Dylan was trying to do back in 1978 no matter how misunderstood it was at the time. The time to embrace this song as a master work has come. And it will remain my number one song, no matter what somebody else sais. 

 .

 

 

Views: 1650

Tags: Bob, By, Dylan:, Is Your Love In Vain?, One, Song

Comment by Anthony Pecora on March 11, 2014 at 3:31am

 Tim, I agree. Street Legal was always one of my favorite Dylan albums. The first time I saw Bob was the Street Legal tour, and it was great. I get that it was, well, a bit out of the ordinary. I love on the Live at Budokan album when he introduces it as a new song. " See if you know the words."

 

Comment by larry hoffman on March 11, 2014 at 4:08am

It bears mention that--and I'm sure Mr. Otto knows ---this is a partial lift from the great Robert Johnson song, "Love in Vain," covered so well by the Rolling Stones (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_in_Vain). I do agree that Dylan is often at his best when spurned and spiteful!  My favorite Dylan lyrics from this vein :)  are :

"Yes, I wish that for just one time
You could stand inside my shoes
You'd know what a drag it is
To see you"     

from "Positively 4th Street."

Comment by Rick Schoff on March 11, 2014 at 8:29am

And then there is "Dirge" from 'Planet Waves.' I always thought that was tops in the spite genre. The vocal itself is great.

I hate myself for lovin’ you and the weakness that it showed
You were just a painted face on a trip down Suicide Road
The stage was set, the lights went out all around the old hotel
I hate myself for lovin’ you and I’m glad the curtain fell

I hate that foolish game we played and the need that was expressed
And the mercy that you showed to me, who ever would have guessed?
I went out on Lower Broadway and I felt that place within
That hollow place where martyrs weep and angels play with sin

Heard your songs of freedom and man forever stripped
Acting out his folly while his back is being whipped
Like a slave in orbit, he’s beaten ’til he’s tame
All for a moment’s glory and it’s a dirty, rotten shame

There are those who worship loneliness, I’m not one of them
In this age of fiberglass I’m searching for a gem
The crystal ball up on the wall hasn’t shown me nothing yet
I’ve paid the price of solitude, but at least I’m out of debt

Can’t recall a useful thing you ever did for me
’Cept pat me on the back one time when I was on my knees
We stared into each other’s eyes ’til one of us would break
No use to apologize, what diff’rence would it make?

So sing your praise of progress and of the Doom Machine
The naked truth is still taboo whenever it can be seen
Lady Luck, who shines on me, will tell you where I’m at
I hate myself for lovin’ you, but I should get over that



Read more: http://www.bobdylan.com/us/songs#ixzz2vfUykFJB

Comment by Vic Flessas on March 11, 2014 at 10:11am

I had long ago given up on finding other fans of 'Street Legal.'  The final cut, Where Are You Tonight (Journey through Dark Heat), is one of my favorites.  I must admit, however, that the album's sound isn't very good.  Rather muddled, and it suffers in comparison to 'Desire,' for instance.  I think the production values are what hurt it in critics' eye upon release. Judged on songwriting and imagining what the sound SHOULD be like - well, then it ranks right up there.  Thanks for your spirited defense.

Comment by Rick Schoff on March 11, 2014 at 10:17am

'Street legal' is a case where the reissue/remastering actually works, in terms of it sounding better. The original was kind of muddy, but try the reissue if you haven't. I'm not talking leaps and bounds better, but it is an improvement.

I've always loved the album, and 'Where Are You Tonight' is one of the standout cuts.

Comment by Larry Here on March 11, 2014 at 10:47am

Totally on board with Street Legal! Right behind Blood on the Tracks, Street Legal is my second favorite Dylan record. And, yes, as well, to Where Are You Tonight. My favorite Bob song. 

Comment by Tim M. Otto on March 11, 2014 at 4:46pm

Thanks to all you guys for the kind supporting words. Sometimes I feel I am on a desert island with my "Street Legal" CD wondering why I seem to be the only one who gets this albums great songs. Actually, not only do I love "Is Your Love In Vain?", but I really like the whole album and have been listening to it intently since 1983. Again...thanks for the positive feedback.

Comment by jzsnake on March 12, 2014 at 4:32pm

I've never thought of this before but as someone who is a pretty big Bob Dylan fan, I don't think I would ever have the audacity to criticize someone's favorite Dylan song or album.

Comment by Vic Flessas on March 12, 2014 at 7:26pm

Oh, I recently heard the whole album Planet Waves dismissed, so to hear someone not only say they like 'Dirge,' but quote all the lyrics - well, it IS refreshing.

Comment by Rick Schoff on March 13, 2014 at 8:28am

There IS some good stuff on 'Planet Waves,' but the album's sound isn't very good. Referring back to the original post: the 'Hard Rain' album from right around the same time as 'Blood on the Tracks' may be the most bitter Dylan of all. The album sounds so ugly, but 'Idiot Wind' and 'You're a Big Girl Now' need listening to. I heard that Sarah Dylan was in the first row for that. But, like he does elsewhere (like the last line of 'Idiot Wind'), he presents another side and plays 'I Threw It All Away.'

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Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.