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Best Bob Dylan "Abandoned Love" Cover Ever

Heartbreak, psycho-sexual emotional holds, and deep introspection are all alive and well here. While there are no shortage of Bob Dylan songs covered by talented (and many famous) musicians, this one is my favorite by far. The simplicity of the soloist's guitar and harmonica give full attention to the emotion of the lyrics in what I believe to be Dylan's most personal and poetic song of heartbreak. Musician Danny Fox, aka FolkHippie500, posted this version on Youtube in December of 2007, and 15 years later it remains perhaps the best Dylan cover ever recorded.

Why is this the best Dylan cover song?

  1. great vocals, guitar, and harmonica

  2. the emotive understanding and conveyance of a deep and complex song and subject matter

  3. It's the version of the song Dylan fans like myself wish he had recorded, and believe he would have had the subject matter not been so personal

Song Backstory

"Abandoned Love" is a highly emotional and supposedly autobiographical song by Bob Dylan, said to mark the end of his marriage to Sara Lownds (1965-1975), the mother of his children. Dylan is said to have only played the song live one time, in 1976, just after it was written, (and just after the divorce was finalized) in an impromptu pop-in at a Ramblin' Jack Elliot concert at the Bitter End in New York City's Greenwich Village. The song was so obviously about (and somewhat critical of) his now former wife that many critics and fans agree that to be why he chose not to include it on the album (Desire) he recorded and released that year. The Bitter End performance therefore became the stuff of legend. Even now, it was once available on Youtube and occasionally reappears only to be repeatedly taken down for apparent copyright reasons. Nearly ten years later, Dylan recorded a different version of the song done with a full band, and lacking the emotional intensity of the solo accoustic, releasedon the 1985 Biograph album.

Backstory aside, "Abandoned Love" tells of a man's heartrenching struggle to leave the woman he desperately wants though cannot (re)win.


I can see the turning of the key

I've been deceived by the clown inside of me

I thought that he was righteous but he's vain

Oh, something's a-telling me I wear the ball and chain

The opening stanza immediately sets the tone: something is changing and a new door is opening, the protagonist (presumably Dylan) is a victim of his own flawed perceptions and self-serving intentions and he's realizing that he's gotten himself stuck in a self-imposed prison of a romance

My patron saint is a-fighting with a ghost

He's always off somewhere when I need him most

The Spanish moon is rising on the hill

But my heart is a-tellin' me I love you still

The singer's last hope of a saviour is busy wrestling an apparition and unavailable to help.

I believe the next line is a reference to the Spanish Moon Moth. As a symbol, the creature is known to represent "seeing the light" or awakening in a quest for truth and knowledge, while it is attuned to the natural cycles of the moon and solar system, and yet still attracted (sometimes fatally) to a flame.

I come back to the town from the flaming moon

I see you in the streets, I begin to swoon

I love to see you dress before the mirror

Won't you let me in your room one time before I finally disappear?

The protagonist is alternating from being certain of his feelings to flee and move on and his uncontrollable desire to continue pursuing a beautiful woman with whom he is obsessed

When he sees her, he cannot resist her, and he wants her alone, and naked - before she has armed herself in clothes and a mask

Everybody's wearing a disguise

To hide what they've got left behind their eyes

But me, I can't cover what I am

Wherever the children go I'll follow them

While the first two lines of this may be broad generalizations refering to "everybody" in society, or more specifically "everybody" in the relationship, the last two lines might be more specific to Dylan and to his situation as a musician, and/or a father. During the divorce and custody battle, when this song was believed to be written, it's understandable that the two former lovers would see one another differently, or represent different sides of themselves in court, and tell different sides of their story. Dylan though, as a public figure, couldn't hide his infidelity, drug use, or socially unacceptable lifestyle from the divorce court or his soon to be ex-wife. And while the last line could refer to his lifestyle as a touring musician seemingly following young crowds - I think, more likely, it could be the line of a dedicated father resigned to do anything a divorce court demands for custody of his children.

I march in the parade of liberty

But as long as I love you I'm not free

How long must I suffer such abuse?

Won't you let me see your smile before I turn you loose?

He continues that: though he is admittedly associated with the concept of personal freedom, he has enslaved himself in a toxic relationship . Even just to walk away, he wants to first re-earn her love and approval. Until the next line:

I've given up the game, I've got to leave

The pot of gold is only make-believe

The treasure can't be found by men who search

Whose gods are dead and whose queens are in the church

It proves an impossible task. The singer is realizing that he is worshipping the object of his affection as if she is a God; that rather than worshipping the force of life itself, he is worshipping a person. The promises of her as a God are (and were) all in his head, "only make believe."

We sat in an empty theater and we kissed

I asked ya please to cross me off your list

My head tells me it's time to make a change

But my heart is telling me I love ya but you're strange

The "show is over." The singer has handed all his power over to his love and is asking her to make him stop loving her so he can be relinquished from the grip of his feelings for her

So one more time at midnight, near the wall

Take off your heavy make-up and your shawl

Won't you descend from the throne, from where you sit?

Let me feel your love one more time before I abandon it

He is keeping his beloved on a pedestal, worshipping her like a queen, and believing that he cannot move on until he has won her love, even for a temporary last moment. And he's also telling her, he's abondoning the fight for her love.


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