Song of the Day #665: ‘Sara’ – Bob Dylan

Desire is packed with great songs, including epic true stories of boxer Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and gangster Joey Gallo (in the songs ‘Hurricane’ and ‘Joey,’ respectively).

I will always associate ‘Hurricane’ with the fabulous scene from Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused in which Wooderson and company enter The Emporium in slow-mo as Dylan’s song plays. If you haven’t seen Dazed and Confused, shut down your computer and make it happen right away. One of my favorite movies of all-time; a true American classic.

Another favorite song from this album is ‘Isis,’ a mythologically dense love song with a violin part to die for. I don’t know if Dylan’s voice has ever sounded better than it does on that song, and on this album in general.

The more I think about it, in fact, the more I think I should expand my Dylan Six to seven albums in order to pay Desire its due respect. At any rate, it’s right up there with the cream of the crop.

My very favorite song on Desire is its final track, ‘Sara,’ yet another example of a classic Dylan closer. This is one of my favorite Dylan songs of all time and, perhaps not coincidentally, the most emotionally open he’s ever been on record. Sung for his soon to be ex-wife, who was actually in the studio during its recording, ‘Sara’ is a poignant reminiscence of their family life that aches with resignation.

‘Sara’ is such a departure for the usually opaque Dylan that he actually references writing another classic album closer, ‘Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands,’ for his then-wife. Dylan rarely speaks about the origins of his songs… for him to so openly tip his hand about one song in the lyrics of another is shocking.

What’s always moved me the most about ‘Sara’ is how detailed Dylan gets about his children. He describes them playing on the beach, filling pails and dropping shells, playing leapfrog and talking about Snow White. It seems it’s this portrait of parenthood and domestic ordinariness that he’ll miss as much as anything as Sara leaves him.

I laid on a dune, I looked at the sky,
When the children were babies and played on the beach.
You came up behind me, I saw you go by,
You were always so close and still within reach.

Sara, Sara,
Whatever made you want to change your mind?
Sara, Sara,
So easy to look at, so hard to define.

I can still see them playin’ with their pails in the sand,
They run to the water their buckets to fill.
I can still see the shells fallin’ out of their hands
As they follow each other back up the hill.

Sara, Sara,
Sweet virgin angel, sweet love of my life,
Sara, Sara,
Radiant jewel, mystical wife.

Sleepin’ in the woods by a fire in the night,
Drinkin’ white rum in a Portugal bar,
Them playin’ leapfrog and hearin’ about Snow White,
You in the marketplace in Savanna-la-Mar.

Sara, Sara,
It’s all so clear, I could never forget,
Sara, Sara
Lovin’ you is the one thing I’ll never regret.

I can still hear the sounds of those Methodist bells,
I’d taken the cure and had just gotten through,
Stayin’ up for days in the Chelsea Hotel,
Writin’ “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” for you.

Sara, Sara,
Wherever we travel we’re never apart.
Sara, oh Sara,
Beautiful lady, so dear to my heart.

How did I meet you? I don’t know.
A messenger sent me in a tropical storm.
You were there in the winter, moonlight on the snow
And on Lily Pond Lane when the weather was warm.

Sara, oh Sara,
Scorpio Sphinx in a calico dress,
Sara, Sara,
You must forgive me my unworthiness.

Now the beach is deserted except for some kelp
And a piece of an old ship that lies on the shore.
You always responded when I needed your help,
You gimme a map and a key to your door.

Sara, oh Sara,
Glamorous nymph with an arrow and bow,
Sara, oh Sara,
Don’t ever leave me, don’t ever go.

4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #665: ‘Sara’ – Bob Dylan

  1. Dana says:

    What stops you from expanding to the top 7? is there some magic to the number 6? are you paying tribute to Lost with the 6? I say make it the top 7 and call it a day.

    As I said yesterday, this is one of my favorite songs from the album. And I agree that his voice is really in fine form on this record.

  2. Clay says:

    There isn’t anything special about the number six… it’s just that I’ve always considered his best six albums head and shoulders above the rest. But that might be giving short shrift to Desire.

    • bill says:

      Please excuse me as I’ve just started reading your blog about Dylan. But I’m dumbfounded that anyone could think that 6 or 7 of his records seperate themselves so mightily from the rest of his work. I’d love to know what those 7 are…I’ll try to find a reference in your earlier posts. In the mean time, who could possibly argue with this collection of solidly great records?
      the acoustic trilogy (freewheelin”, Times , Another side)
      the elctric tilogy (back home, HW 61, Blonde)
      The late trilogy
      (Time out of mind, L&T, Modern times)
      the odd great albums (BotT, JWH, Infidels)
      the near greats
      (Street legal,Oh mercy)
      That’s 13 albums, excluding some that are very near to me – New Morning, Slow train…..
      I gotta find your list, I guess…

  3. Clay says:

    I agree that all the albums you mentioned are great, but that doesn’t mean I don’t find some more great than others.

    The five masterpieces I’ve written about already are Freewheelin’, Bringing it all Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde On Blonde and Blood On the Tracks. One is still to come.

    Thanks for posting!

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