Is ‘Abandoned Love’ Bob Dylan’s Saddest Song?

Abandoned Love” above is a song written by Bob Dylan, recorded on July 31, 1975, but not released until 1985, on his compilation album Biograph. It was written during Dylan’s breakup with his then-wife Sara Lownds.

I don’t think Dylan has ever been as candid and raw as he was on this ‘unreleased’ track from the Desire recordings. It shows a very dark, depraved and dissociated side of Dylan.  Abandoned Love is a bipolar-esque running commentary of Dylan’s inner turmoil and conflicting emotions. It’s as though he hasn’t had time to process his feelings about his breakup with Sara. His malaise is juxtaposed with very benevolent lines like ‘My heart is telling me, I love you still‘ but that tenderness is shortcoming due to his apparent willingness to cause emotional harm.

I cannot think of hearing a more vulnerable Dylan than in Abandoned Love where he is so clearly ‘struggling’ to grapple with his emotions and inner demons.
I still regard it a wondrous and ‘essential’ song in Dylan’s canon, but I can understand his reluctance to release it on Desire.

Here is an audio recording of Bob Dylan singing Abandoned Love live:
1975-07-03 Abandoned Love NY The Other End
– The Bard

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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50 comments on “Is ‘Abandoned Love’ Bob Dylan’s Saddest Song?
  1. I feel like I’ve been “cultured.” 🙂 So much melancholy. . .I think you’re right that he was in the middle of processing his emotions. His emotions are palpable, and they cut to the heart. Singing and song-writing can heal the heart when they serve as an outlet. I can’t help but feel deeply for him and send him thoughts of peace.

    • Your comment is so illuminating. Thank you for sharing. When I listen to the song, I think more about Sara than I do Bob, because she would have worn the brunt of his hostility during their break up. He’s very callous towards her in this song.

      • It’s good to know the back story. I will listen to the lyrics again. When I listen to the songs, I often listen first for the underlying feelings, but you just taught me that it’s good to get the whole picture before judging the situation. Thank you for this shift in perspective. I can see both sides now. 😊

      • Well of course we don’t know what happens behind closed doors so it’s not good to go jumping to conclusions. But based on these lyrics we can assume Dylan was trying to inflict emotional damage publicly no less. Having said that the song wasn’t released until the mid 80s well after the divorce. Dylan could have just closed up shop on that song because he was being so vindictive, but to give credit where it’s due the song is ridiculously transparent and edgy so he’d prefer that listeners hear him warts and all. That’s artistic integrity in my book. So I give him that. And the song is just bloody good! Haha

      • It gets better the more you hear it! 😊 I love songs like that. There’s so much depth to it, and it is edgy and transparent — you’re right. It’s been an education to get the different layers of the song/story. Music is the language of the soul. Thank you for the enrichment! 🙏

      • That’s what I admire so much about Dylan is that many of songs get better the more you hear them. And you have to pay attention because the lyrics go way deep and in some respects are transfornational. I suppose that would explain why he won the Nobel prize in Literature. I was meaning to ask you which artists you listen to?

      • They are transformational! 😊 I just starting listening to Queen and Simon and Garfunkel again. I guess I’m attracted to melancholy. I always loved Queen, but, once again, my heart was really touched when I learned his story in the movie Bohemian Rhapsody.

      • Haha. I am also attracted to a bit of melancholy. I also adore the music of Leonard Cohen which at times is a little on the dark side, well he had suffered from manic depression. I like Simon and Garfunkel a lot. Such a great harmony and a treasure chest full of excellent songs. I was always a big fan of the movie ‘The Graduate’ mainly because of their fantastic soundtrack. I’m afraid I still haven’t seen the Bohemian Rhapsody movie but I have heard very good things and of course it is nominated for an Oscar. I hope to see it soon!

      • “Sara” is a beautiful song. I will check out Leonard Cohen’s music. Yes, I love the Simon and Garfunkel songs in The Graduate. I love music from that era, in general. I think I’m especially attracted to songs about peace. Our world could use a little bit more of that right now.

      • I think that’s what drew me to Dylan’s music in the first place as a prebuscent 🙄were his songs about peace. I think you’ll get a real kick out of Leonard’s music. I wrote a post about his spiritual anthems recently. Do yourself a favor and listen to Cohen’s ‘Suzanne’ – the original on you tube and that will give you a good idea if you like his style and poetry. Also Joan Baez could be another artist you might enjoy listening to if you like songs about ‘peace’. Yes the world is always crying out for more.

      • I love Joan Baez! I just listened to Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and “Suzanne.” Beautiful. I think I was born in the wrong time. Or maybe I was alive during that time and have reincarnated. Who knows.

      • This made me laugh so much, because I feel the same way. I am very nostalgic regarding my musical tastes. I feel like I was born in the wrong era as well. Reincarnated haha.

      • Listening to “If You See Her Say Hello.” Sara must have been “something “!

      • Yes he wrote about Sara plenty. I hope it’s the original ‘If you see her say hello’? Because nothing compares to the original studio release from ‘Blood on the Tracks’ . Another magnificent song he wrote about her is ‘Wedding Song’. Now that cuts to the core.

      • You’re going to break my heart with these songs. 🤣 My “soul” loves it though. I’m not sure which version it was that I listened to.

      • You tube hasn’t got the original version. Here is the original version. Hang onto your hat lol

      • Love it! It’s clearer and gentler in Vimeo.

      • Yes it has like a rollicking slow mexican type of instrumentation. The one you heard was probably an outtake from another studio session. But my god the lyrics! lol

      • Yes. The one I watched showed the lyrics being written in “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”-style. Haha! 😂

      • Yes, I think he performed that from the outtake sessions in New York and he wasn’t happy with them and so he rerecorded the songs in Minneapolis which eventually became the Studio Release ‘Blood on the Tracks’. Many like the ouutakes better than studio release, however I do not hold that opinion.
        I think lyrically one of his stronger songs on the album is ‘Shelter From The Storm’ which also featured at the end of the movie Jerry Maguire. The whole album ‘Blood on the Tracks’ is pure genius.

      • Thank you for sharing your love of his art. I feel like I’ve taken a Master Class on Dylan! 🙌🏻 Do you play music?

      • You’re too kind. You’re welcome. I loved communicating about it.
        No, I don’t play music. I used to dabble with the guitar. My other musical love is classical music. My grandmother was a classical pianist and I loved her dearly so as I grow older I find myself more drawn to listening to Mozart and Rachmaninov etc.
        How about you? Do you play?

      • I believe we connect with our deceased loved ones whenever we remember them or share what they loved. I admire classical pianists. What a gift that is! I’ve also grown up with classical music. I used to sing and play the clarinet. People say I’m a natural, but it was never my passion. I enjoy listening to people who have the passion. That’s what makes it worth listening to, in my opinion.

      • I couldn’t agree more regarding connection with our deceased loved ones. Essentially their spirit transfigures to become part of your identity. Well at least that’s how it feels to me.
        How nice you sung and played the clarinet. I love the sound of the clarinet. Yes passion is which draws people in and keeps that spark of hope alight in the struggling artist.

      • You’ve combined your music passion with your artistic writing style. I think you and Dylan have some commonalities. 🎶 I agree that our loved ones are imbedded in our hearts forever.

      • I am indebted to you forever for saying that! Stop it or I’ll get a big head. I can’t wipe this permanent smile from my face. Thank you for putting it there!

      • I can’t help it — when I see talent, I acknowledge it! ☺️

      • I’ve never received encouragement like that before about my writing. So really, thank you! There are some naturally gifted writers out there, many of whom write daily in wordpress for ‘shits and giggles’ and they possess this extraordinary command of the written word. Like they are seriously good and probably don’t even know how good they are. Sadly, I’m not one of them, but they are out there. They ‘don’t try’ because it comes to them and I’m not in anyway suggesting they didn’t work to get where they are. On the contrary.
        To quote Charles Bukowski:
        Somebody asked me: “What do you do? How do you write, create?” You don’t, I told them. You don’t try. That’s very important: not to try, either for Cadillacs, creation or immortality. You wait, and if nothing happens, you wait some more. It’s like a bug high on the wall. You wait for it to come to you. When it gets close enough you reach out, slap out and kill it. Or if you like its looks, you make a pet out of it.’
        Now he is that kind of writer I’m talking about.

      • I think you underestimate yourself. I know we can all get better, and when I read your work, I learn from the way you use words. So keep sharing!

      • Hey, you don’t come away scott free! I noticed myself doing the same with the way you write. I would be thinking to myself, that’s a really interesting use of wording there. You too keep sharing. I’ve had an absolute blast! It’s been a real ‘fair dinkum’ pleasure.

      • Hehe! ☺️ I’ve never heard that phrase before. Thank you for the feedback. Writing is one of my passions, and I enjoy learning from others every day. Thank you for this meaningful conversation! 🙏

      • ‘Fair dinkum’ is quintessential Aussie slang. Well if writing is your passion, you won’t have to try, you’ll make a pet out of it lol
        Yes it’s been very meaningful indeed.

      • This is so cool you are doing a Dylan binge 👍😂👌

      • I’ve never really listened to him before. Weird, right?

      • Well there’s a pretty awesome and vast catalogue of his music to explore. If you like melancholy, check out his ‘Not Dark Yet. This blew me away when I first heard it.

      • It’s a whole new world to explore! 🕊 Now I can see why he was so popular. I can also see why Sara would have gotten lost in the depth of his lyrics/tones. He seems so broken, but I think that his music kept him going. The fact that he could express his darkness through words and notes is a tribute to his talent.

      • Yes he was a wreck during their long break up and messy divorce, but he wrote some of his finest music in that period. As you imply, like some of the greatest musical artists, he harnesses that torment and inner turmoil and turns it into great musical art.

      • Beautifully said! 🦋

      • Thank you! How sweet. As you have probably guessed I could talk about his music and career all day. I should let you take a breather! I have had such an enjoyable Saturday afternoon chatting to you. I admire your unique perspective on things. It’s inspiring.

      • I’ve enjoyed our conversation, too! 😊 “Shelter from the Storm” is very intimate and tender. I think it’s my favorite. Thank you for allowing me the space to experience and process the music of this amazing artist! So happy that you’re inspired — I am, too! ☀️

      • Shelter is another one that just gets better the more you hear it. It evokes wondrous imagery.
        Believe me this is by far the longest conversation I have had on my blog and I feel blessed we have shared this time enjoying some melancholy Bob music hehe. I wish you a fantastic evening and thank you for putting a broadened smile on my face.

      • Same to you on all counts! 😊

      • Thank you very much my friend!

      • If you want to hear another Dylan classic where he sings so tenderly about his ex wife Sara, check out ‘If you see her say hello’ or the more popular song simply called ‘Sara’. They are gorgeous although quite melancholy as well. I hope you don’t mind listening to romantic pessimists 😂🙄

      • Haha! 😆 I have to admit, my heart breaks a little when I hear him, and I think my soul is touched, as well. Musicians lead lonely lives.

      • Wow, I am so happy that it had that effect on you. My soul is touched knowing that yours has been. That’s a lovely sentiment that you have shared. Really!

  2. fjodor says:

    Thanks for this post, and your blog in general! Only discovered it now. Also, just discovered Abandoned Love not long ago. It instantly fascinated me, and yes, it gets better the more I listen to it.
    I think the fascination stems from it working on more than one level. As you said in your discussion, the soul understands. To me, it can also signify the soul trying to break free from the ego and worldly ties. Some lines clearly extend beyond a personal relationship …

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