I am reading a book called Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan by Howard Sounes. It’s great. The only problem with it is that it keeps forcing me to buy more Dylan albums for my iTunes library so I can listen to the songs that he was writing at various stages of his life (at least as Sounes recounts it).
I have been a huge fan of Dylan’s since about 1970, admiring his political insights, his ironic/sardonic perspectives on the world, his independence from the court of public opinion, his intelligence, his industriousness, his wide range of interests and talents, and — primarily — the poetry of his songs. What this book has done for me (so far) is to add a human side to him that I had not previously known or thought about: his love for his children and his family.
I was surprised yesterday to read a passage that made me listen to a song Dylan recorded live for Desire, and to be moved by tears when I heard it. I had never heard the song before. (Nor, do I think, has a Dylan song made me cry before.)
Here’s the passage:
Sara Dylan [Bob’s wife and mother of four of his children] arrived unexpectedly on the night of the second session, July 31 . “She came to New York, I guess, to see if there would be some kind of a getting back together. I guess that was in her mind. I know it was in his mind,” says [Jacques] Levy, who had not seen Sara the whole summer (she had been on vacation in Mexico). Bob went back into the studio with his band and picked up a guitar. He sang ‘Sara’ to his wife as she watched from the other side of the glass. The song began by recalling holidays on the beach when the children were small, and mentioned the long-ago holiday in Portugal when they were first together. He asked her fogivenness for his recent transgressions and said at the end: ‘Don’t ever leave me, don’t ever go.’
‘It was extraordinary. You could have heard a pin drop,’ says Levy. ‘She was absolutely stunned by it. And i think it was a turning point… it did work. The two of them really did get back together.’ This remarkable first take of ‘Sara’ became the last track on Desire.
— From Down the Highway by Howard Sounes (p. 291)
Here’s the song, from Desire, which you can buy on iTunes. Listen to how open Dylan’s voice is, and listen to the words. Moving. And as always with Dylan songs, most of us can relate to it:
Dear Mr. Howard Sounes and Dear Mr. Bob Dylan:
I apologise for quoting more than fifty words of your book Mr. Sounes, and I apologize for linking to what may be an illegal video of your song, Mr. Dylan. In both cases, I think that what I’ve done will lead to additional sales for you, rather than detracting from them. While you are considering whether to sue my ass off, read The Adventures of Don Valiente and the Apache Canyon Kid. You will love it so much (Mr. Sounes, you will wish you’d written it, and Mr. Dylan, you will want to star in it and write the score) that when you are finished, you will not be able to be angry with me any more.