Bob Dylan’s Death and Rebirth: “Lovesick” and TIME OUT OF MIND
By Matt Shedd
In 1997 Bob Dylan brought his career back to life with Time out of Mind, an album devoted to mortality and regret and other dark musings. But Dylan states that the album should be about the listener’s mortality not his own. And that’s what it is. It took an album of this gravity–perhaps Dylan’s darkest–to bring him back into critical and popular attention. Dylan kicks off this tightly crafted group of tracks with “Lovesick”: a song in which the singer wants to be done living, but more than that, he’s tired of loving.
Throughout the song, the singer refers to love as if it’s a vague idea that formerly gave life meaning but can’t any more. This is different than Cliff Friend’s and Irving Mills’s 1922 song that Hank Williams and others recorded, “Lovesick Blues.” In that song the lovesickness comes from missing a woman, however, Dylan’s song inverts this sentiment. The singer pretends that he believes a woman cannot fix the problem, no matter who she is. He’s “sick of love” in the sense of having too much of something. It’s gone bad on him too many times, and he decided love is not all its cracked up to be. He’s “in the thick of it,” and he wants out, simply because he’d prefer not too anymore. However, this facade collapses in the groan of the last two lines: “I just don’t know what to do / I’d give anything to [pregnant pause] be with you.” Whether the speaker realizes he’s been lying or he sees he’s addicted to it, he finally admits he just wants her back–plain and simple. Maybe the lovesickness came from the immediate withdrawal of something he’d grown used to and realizes he needs.
*Guitar World interview with Murray Engleheart. March, 1999.
- Marlon Brando’s Jazz-Culture Cool in an Era Before Elvis
- Keith Richards’s Coda: Review of His Autobiography, LIFE
- Woody Allen, Leon Redbone, and the Tricky Business of Cutting a Joke
- Elvis, Bill Monroe, and that Ol’ Blue Moon of Kentucky
- James Booker and the the St. James Infirmary
- Nic Cage is a Really Good Bad Lieutenant, or What if Humphrey Bogar…
Originally published at A Missing America: