This is the first song to appear from Bob Dylan’s 1969 record – Nashville Skyline. It’s a gorgeous ballad and I always enjoyed listening to his live recording on the Johnny Cash show. Dylan is singing about the end of a love affair being all his fault and he sings it in a calm and mellow way. Maybe the motorcycle accident which caused the hiatus in his writing then produced this new, more reflective approach. And musically there is a real link between Lay Lady Lay and I Threw it all Away. It works with a very simple accompaniment, guitar, percussion, bass and organ. And indeed, for this level of self-blame and longing about lost love, you certainly don’t need any more.
I once held her in my arms
She said she would always stay
But I was cruel, I treated her like a fool
I threw it all away
Once I had mountains in the palm of my hand
And rivers that ran through every day
I must have been mad, I never knew what I had
Until I threw it all away
The author at Untold Dylan wrote the following: I think it is fair to say that “I Threw It All Away” would not have emerged in this style, or maybe not emerged at all, if Dylan hadn’t first written the songs of John Wesley Harding, which allowed him to explore this new more gentle, more simple approach.
It is a perfectly crafted piece in its own format – and indeed is more than that because it goes beyond what country music normally does. While the nearest most country songs get to a change of key is that sudden jerk up a semitone is a desperate attempt to give the fourth tragic verse a slight edge on the third tragic verse, this throws us around the harmonic department and brings us in one piece out the other side. As I say, it is clever and it sure does work.
… but the music makes it meaningful. The message is simple to the edge of being trite, and it has been said a billion times before, but that doesn’t make this song any less worth hearing, or, if you have a mind to do it, singing. “Denied” takes us to the edge of the cliff but instead of jumping off, “Take a trip” takes us back down the gentle slopes and onto firmer ground.
1. Untold Dylan – I Threw It All Away