The Bob Dylan Canon, Part 5: Nashville Skyline, Self Portrait

Nashville Skyline

If Dylan’s songs reveal anything about his thoughts on love, it is that love must be nurtured and tended to like a garden.  Left untended, the garden will fail.  Based on his songs, Dylan tends to ignore his garden frequently and the plants wither and die.  At least he recognizes this and usually blames himself for his failures in love, with a few exceptions, like Idiot Wind.

I Threw It All Away from Nashville Skyline is an example of such a song.   The singer has a lover who pledges she will always stay with him but his foolishness and cruelty drives her away.

His love is so great that he “had mountains in the palm of [his] hand / And rivers that ran through ev’ry day.”  His failing is that he does not recognise this until it is over:
I must have been mad
I never knew what I had
Until I threw it all away

The Singer gives advice to anyone who will listen:

Love is all there is, it makes the world go ’round
Love and only love, it can’t be denied

He also recognises that love is the central force in life and you cannot live without it:
No matter what you think about it
You just won’t be able to do without it
Take a tip from one who’s tried

The song closes the admonition to not take love lightly and to recognize what you have before you lose it:

So if you find someone that gives you all of her love
Take it to your heart, don’t let it stray
For one thing that’s certain
You will surely be a-hurtin’
If you throw it all away

Good advice, which unfortunately must be learned from experience, and too often must be learned over and over again.

Self Portrait

Self Portrait is probably Dylan’s most reviled album.  Greil Marcus famously started a review with the rhetorical question “What is this shit?”  I do not think it is that bad, but is a bit incoherent and all over the map.  It is a mish mash of covers, live tracks, old songs reinvented, some of them sung by a women’s chorus.  I could try to argue that the album is Dylan’s personal version of the Harry Smith Anthology, but that would be putting far more thought in to this album than Dylan probably did.

The album sounds like a collection of castoffs, almost like an early version of The Bootleg Series, rather than a cohesive album.  I can understand the “What is this shit?” reaction at the time it was released, and even now it is not an album that I reach for very often, but there are some good songs and interesting performances tucked away in here.

Song selection here:  http://www.megaupload.com/?d=EG56V30X

2 Responses to The Bob Dylan Canon, Part 5: Nashville Skyline, Self Portrait

  1. […] If Dylan’s songs reveal anything about his thoughts on love, it is that love must be nurtured and tended to like a garden.  Left untended, the garden will fail.  Based on his songs, Dylan tends to ignore his garden frequently (Read more…) […]

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