Friday, May 20, 2011

"There’s only one step down from here, baby/It’s called the land of permanent bliss"

The Song: "Sweetheart Like You," Bob Dylan. Words & music by Bob Dylan. Track 2 of Infidels, 1983.
When/how acquired: Purchased cassette, c. 1984.
Listen/watch here.

On any given day, this is my favorite Bob Dylan song. People say it's sexist. I don't hear it that way. I hear it as a conversation held very late at night, at closing time, between a man and a woman young enough to be his daughter. It's a song that got me through some hard times when I really needed the help.

Bob Dylan turns 70 this month. I'm grateful to him for this song, and for so many others. So much has been written about him, more has been said, and I don't have much to add. I suspect he's not a particularly nice guy. That strikes me as spectacularly irrelevant. He's brought us all along on his personal journey, which has helped me feel less alone. For that, I am grateful.

My friend Tom Ehrenfeld introduced me to this album in the summer of 1984, and I have owned it in some format ever since. It gets dismissed as "minor" Dylan, which annoys me. Who gets to say what's minor? What Infidels is, is personal. Even its overtly political songs ("Neighborhood Bully" and "Union Sundown") feel like laments over personal betrayals rather than efforts to change the world. Dylan, 42 when he made this record, is taking stock at midlife and mourning his losses, including the loss of the better self he hoped he'd be.

The quantum physicists talk about an infinite number of parallel universes, in which, theoretically, an infinite number of parallel selves are living the lives we didn't choose in this one. In at least one of those universes, I am celebrating my 22nd wedding anniversary today. All things considered, I think I'm better off in this one.

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