Bob Dylan Countdown #185: “Forgetful Heart”

The fact that there are only three spots between them on the list should tell everyone that I feel like “Beyond Here Lies Nothin'” and “Forgetful Heart,” two of the finest numbers off Together Through Life, are very much cut from the same cloth. There’s a banjo in the latter, so that sets it apart a bit, and it also features a set of lyrics that is just a wee bit stronger.

Notice how those lyrics make a casual shift throughout the song. At the start of the action, the personification of the heart gives the words, at least on paper, an almost playful feel that’s in stark contrast to the music. Indeed, it’s the kind of device you might expect from a Cole Porter standard and not a pitch-black blues.

But as the song progresses, the words shade ever so slightly darker to match the music. Desperation seeps in, and memories of good times are replaced with pain. It all sets it up for a couplet that goes down as one of Dylan’s all-time closers:  “The door has closed forevermore/If indeed there ever was a door.”

It’s as if the narrator is sinking deeper and deeper into the abyss the more that he contemplates his situation. His heart may be forgetful, but his mind’s recall is unfortunately sharp, locking all the slights and wounds irrevocably in place.


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