#10. “Precious Angel” from Slow Train Coming
Sure it’s schmaltzy, overdone and features the word “angel” in the title, but Dylan never had a better love song during his religious period than “Precious Angel.”
Precious angel, under the sun,
How was I to know you'd be the one
To show me I was blinded, to show me I was gone
How weak was the foundation I was standing upon?
#9. “Brownsville Girl” from Knocked Out Loaded
Through all the references to Gregory Peck and Henry Porter, the listener ultimately realizes that Dylan is really just trying to remember his Brownsville Girl, a mysterious figure who, I think, goes on adventures with Dylan throughout the country. Or something like that. Whatever it means, it’s an epic and touching at the same time.
Strange how people who suffer together have stronger connections than people who are most content.
I don't have any regrets, they can talk about me plenty when I'm gone.
You always said people don't do what they believe in, they just do what's most convenient, then they repent.
And I always said, "Hang on to me, baby, and let's hope that the roof stays on."
#8. “Forever Young” from Biograph
This song isn’t meant for the type of love that appears on every other song on this list, but instead a love between a mother and daughter or, as Dylan wrote it, from a father to a son. I wouldn’t actually include this song on the list if we only had the Planet Waves versions, but I’m singling out the one from Biograph. It’s recorded at Dylan’s home, bad quality and features only an acoustic guitar, but it’s more heartfelt than anything The Band and Dylan recorded for the album. Although I am a sucker for “You Angel You” and “Never Say Goodbye”…
May your hands always be busy,
May your feet always be swift,
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift.
May your heart always be joyful,
May your song always be sung,
May you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.
#7. “I Want You” from Blonde on Blonde
Much like another song from Blonde on Blonde on this list, I have no idea what most of this song is about. What does a “drunken politician” have to do with love? But during the chorus, “I want you/I want you/I want you, so bad/ Honey, I want you,” you figure everything else—and the confusion doesn’t really matter.
Well, I return to the Queen of Spades
And talk with my chambermaid.
She knows that I'm not afraid
To look at her.
She is good to me
And there's nothing she doesn't see.
She knows where I'd like to be
But it doesn't matter.
I want you, I want you,
I want you so bad,
Honey, I want you.
#6. “To Be Alone With You” from Nashville Skyline
Sometimes expressing love doesn’t have to be complex and this song readily captures that. It feels like something you’d sing to a new lover rather than one that’s been going for quite some time because the lyrics don’t go much beyond “Everything is always right when I’m alone with you.”
They say that nighttime is the right time
To be with the one you love
Too many thoughts get in the way in the day
But you're always what I'm thinkin' of
I wish the night were here
Bringin' me all of your charms
When only you are near
To hold me in your arms.
#5. “Idiot Wind” from Blood on the Tracks
Yes, it is a love song. A very angry one, but about love nonetheless. Most relationships aren’t all puppy dogs and marshmallows, so a large part of being love is being able to wad through the muck and come to certain conclusions. Although it takes over 7 minutes, Dylan realizes this and goes from lines like “One day you'll be in the ditch, flies buzzin' around your eyes” to realizing his mistake and ending the song with “We're idiots, babe/It's a wonder we can even feed ourselves.” Dylan figures out that they’re actually both idiots and how much they need one another.
I been double-crossed now for the very last time and now I'm finally free,
I kissed goodbye the howling beast on the borderline which separated you from me.
You'll never know the hurt I suffered nor the pain I rise above,
And I'll never know the same about you, your holiness or your kind of love,
And it makes me feel so sorry.
#4. “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” from John Wesley Harding
The last song on John Wesley Harding, “Baby” perfectly sets up Nashville Skyline, and Dylan even goes so far as to re-write this song on that album with “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You,” a great song but one lacking the country-feel of “Baby.”
Kick your shoes off, do not fear,
Bring that bottle over here.
I'll be your baby tonight.
#3. “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” from Blonde on Blonde
As of right now, I want this to be my wedding song. It’s obnoxiously long to dance to, but I like that aspect about it and it’s also beautifully structured—if you can figure out what the hell he’s singing about.
With your silhouette when the sunlight dims
Into your eyes where the moonlight swims,
And your match-book songs and your gypsy hymns,
Who among them would try to impress you?
#2. “Mississippi” from “Love and Theft”
Before I really got to appreciate all of 2001’s “Love and Theft,” I would only listen to the “Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee” and this song, Dylan’s ode to being down-and-out but still loving and staying in one place for “a day too long.” If I had the choice between the voice we hear on the actual track or his “better” voice from the mid-60s, I’d happily choose the current one because it just fits the song better. I mean, there’s no way you can top the phrasing of “All my powers of expression and thoughts so sublime…” the way he sings it on “Mississippi.”
Everybody movin' if they ain't already there
Everybody got to move somewhere
Stick with me baby, stick with me anyhow
Things should start to get interesting right about now
#1. “Love Minus Zero/No Limit” from Bringing It All Back Home
I’ve listened to the first half of Bringing so many times, I typically begin listening to consecutive songs on this album with “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream,” but I always make sure to listen to “Love Minus Zero.” A stunning song in its sound, lyrics and sincerity, who ever Dylan wrote this about is surely a lucky woman.
My love she speaks like silence,
Without ideals or violence,
She doesn't have to say she's faithful,
Yet she's true, like ice, like fire.
People carry roses
Make promises by the hours,
My love she laughs like the flowers,
Valentines can't buy her.