The Wages of Heartbreak

So, a little bit ago, a couple of my friends were having a debate on Twitter about whether or not it would be an honor to be the woman who inspired Blood on the Tracks. Obviously, the person to ask that question would be Sara Dylan, who probably doesn’t want to talk about it very much. But the question was a good opportunity to revisit the album, which is one I tend to binge on and then leave alone for a while. I tend to find “Simple Twist of Fate,” despite the fact that it’s one of the most obviously fictionalized narratives on the album, almost too unbearably sad to listen to:

Bad timing between two people who are trying hard to love each other is one of the sadder things I know. And I have a hard time feeling like it would be an honor seeing yourself in “Idiot Wind,” which is one of those I’m-having-a-bad-moment-and-need-to-be-vicious songs:


But I could see being honored by “You’re a Big Girl Now,” which is both one of the most emotionally honest and articulate songs on the album, at least to me:

The song has a rare clarity, I think, it’s absolutely full of the pain that it’s about, there is no remove here, but there’s an impressive depth of perception. “Love is simple / To quote a phrase / I’m learning it these days” is a wonderfully humble lyric. “I’m going out of my mind / With a pain that stops and starts / Like a corkscrew to my heart / Ever since we’ve been apart” captures the fever-like sensation of heartbreak perfectly, even if it is a little melodramatic.And while I can’t really imagine being the inspiration for “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts,” I have to mention it because the song is the source of my obsession with lyrical inflection. If you listen to the whole thing, it’ll become clear that Dylan has very pronounced patterns in each verse:

Until, that is, he hits the line “Lily had already taken all of the dye out of her hair.” It’s a great line in and of itself, and a strong advancement of the narrative. But, unless I’m crazy, it’s also the only real exception to Dylan’s pronunciation patterns, and it’s a lovely one.But then, none of you need me to tell you that Blood on the Tracks is a great album. I’m still not sure I’d want to go through the emotional experiences that produced it (I feel like Bob Dylan would be exceptionally difficult to end a relationship with), but I’m glad someone did, for our collective benefit.