Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts (1975) – Bob Dylan

Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts is an epic ‘Western’ ballad and the third song to appear here from Bob Dylan’s 1975 masterpiece Blood on the Tracks. I consider Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts in the upper tier of Dylan’s musical output and a big part of the reason that Blood on the Tracks is considered one of the best albums ever made. I have loved this song for over 35 years… and it gets better every time I hear it!

Consummate with other stupendous music, I find myself discombobulated, wondering how Dylan realized Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts. I am listening to the same artist who wrote Visions of Johanna almost a decade earlier and yet the two genres, musical arrangement and themes couldn’t be further apart. But the lyrics are so damn good they evoke a picture for every line. ‘Visual music‘ is what they both have in common and when I listen, I retreat into total humility and awe.

[Verse 1]
The festival was over, and the boys were all planning for a fall
The cabaret was quiet except for the drilling in the wall
The curfew had been lifted and the gambling wheel shut down
Anyone with any sense had already left town
He was standing in the doorway looking like the Jack of Hearts

[Verse 2]
He moved across the mirrored room, “Set it up for everyone,” he said
Then everyone commenced to do what they were doing before he turned their heads
Then he walked up to a stranger and he asked him with a grin
“Could you kindly tell me, friend, what time the show begins?”
Then he moved into the corner, face down like the Jack of Hearts

Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts is known for its complex plot and nearly nine-minute running time. It is one of five songs on Blood on the Tracks that Dylan initially recorded in New York City in September 1974 and then re-recorded in Minneapolis in December that year; the latter version became the album track.

I think the only other songs I prefer ‘sentimentally’ over Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts from Blood on the Tracks are Tangled Up in Blue and If You See Her Say Hello; the latter I wrote about in September last year. These two like Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts don’t sound like any other songs I have ever heard.
With Blood on the Tracks, the manifestation of ‘a new music playing field‘ which was Like a Rolling Stone was relocated, re-landscaped, manicured and expanded.
To quote Edward Norton (again talking about Bob!):

Oh, you like what I’m doing? I’m gone..I’m over here..’enjoy’…You’re not gonna like it because you liked what I just did and now where I’m going you are going to be discombobulated and upset and eventually, you’re going to catch up and when you catch up, I’m going to move onto something else.

Dylan says that Blood on the Tracks was “an entire album based on Chekhov short stories. Critics thought it was autobiographical – that was fine “. According to his official website, Dylan has played the song live only once, on May 25, 1976, in Salt Lake City.

1. Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts – Wikipedia

“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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