Bob Dylan Countdown #161: “Wedding Song”

How many ways can you say “I love you?” If you’re Bob Dylan, you can say it nine different ways in this song alone, including four in the first verse. That’s not even counting all the other words of praise he has for the object of these overflowing affections, whom we can most likely assume to be his wife Sara.

He says it in touching ways (“I love you more than ever and I haven’t yet begun.”) He says it in clichéd ways (“I love you more than life itself.”) He even says it in somewhat creepy ways (“I’d sacrifice the world for you and watch my senses die.”)

All of this sweetness might have given listeners a toothache had not a pervading sense of uneasiness crept into “Wedding Song,” the haunting final track off Planet Waves. The Band take five on this one, leaving Dylan and his acoustic guitar singing a love song almost unsettling in the ferocity of its emotion. It sounds at times like a guy trying to overcompensate, protesting way too much.

It’s the push and pull of the flowery paeans to devotion and gratitude butting up against the minor keys and Dylan’s somewhat snarling delivery that makes “Wedding Song” a song that would probably scare the bejesus out of the reception guests if it were actually played at a wedding.

That’s what makes it so fascinating, of course. The song ends abruptly after the last line, “‘Cause I love you more than ever now that the past is gone.” Being the literature buff that he is, Dylan surely knew Faulkner’s quote about the past never being dead (he even paraphrases it somewhat in “Summer Days.”) So if this love  is conditional upon a buried past, and yet the past and its problems always eventually resurface, well, you can do the math to figure out how this things will turn out.

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