Song of the Day #2,125: ‘What Good Am I?’ – Bob Dylan

oh_mercyHere’s a lovely track from Bob Dylan’s Oh Mercy, the 1989 album that rescued him from his mid-80s slump.

Dylan followed Oh Mercy a year later with the uninspired and downright goofy Under the Red Sky and then it would be nine years before his late career renaissance kicked off with 1997’s Time Out of Mind.

This song stands out as one of the more straightforward, lyrically, in Dylan’s canon. It’s a very direct and regretful bit of introspection, delivered in as close to a “pretty” voice as Bob Dylan can manage. Daniel Lanois’ production handles the rest.

What good am I if I’m like all the rest
If I just turn away, when I see how you’re dressed
If I shut myself off so I can’t hear you cry
What good am I?

What good am I if I know and don’t do
If I see and don’t say, if I look right through you
If I turn a deaf ear to the thunderin’ sky
What good am I?

What good am I while you softly weep
And I hear in my head what you say in your sleep
And I freeze in the moment like the rest who don’t try
What good am I?

What good am I then to others and me
If I’ve had every chance and yet still fail to see
If my hands are tied must I not wonder within
Who tied them and why and where must I have been?

What good am I if I say foolish things
And I laugh in the face of what sorrow brings
And I just turn my back while you silently die
What good am I?

2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #2,125: ‘What Good Am I?’ – Bob Dylan

  1. Dana says:

    I had seen Dylan in concert a few years before he released this album. It was, frankly, a very disappointing concert. He was backed by a full band (I think it may have been with G.E. Smith, the former SNL band leader) and Dylan’s weak voice was completely overwhelmed by the band. Nearly every song was an unintelligible mess. As I watched, I just kept thinking, “Why can’t he lose the band and just give an acoustic performance?”

    I guess Dylan got my telepathic message as he changed course for the better with Oh Mercy and, perhaps with a few more detours, has stayed true to his acoustic roots, recognizing as well the increasing limitations of his vocal range.

  2. Andrea Katz says:

    Can’t tell you just how much I love that range! i could not find the song attached this time though.

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