Certain Songs #104: Bob Dylan – “Delia”

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Album: World Gone Wrong.

Year: 1993.

It’s weird, but despite the fact I became a Bob Dylan fan in the late 1970s, it wasn’t until World Gone Wrong that he put out an album of new recordings that I truly loved as much as I loved his classic 60s & 70s recordings. Sure, there was the unreleased stuff on Biograph and The Bootleg Series, but while I liked – and loved – songs from every album from Slow Train Coming through Under the Red Sky, none of those records did it start to finish for me.

All the friends I ever had are gone

So I really didn’t have high hopes for World Gone Wrong.  After all, it was his second all-acoustic covers album in a row, coming relatively soon after the tepid Good As I Been To You. Acoustic Dylan is my least favorite Dylan. Cover songs are not why I revere the man. If anything should have signaled the final and utter artistic decline of Bob Dylan in my eyes, it was this eye-rolling record.

All the friends I ever had are gone

Still, I bought it because it was Bob Dylan, duh – probably walked down the street and got a used copy at Ragin’ Records – but I wasn’t really expecting much. And about halfway through, this song happened:

Delia was a gambling girl, gambled all around,
Delia was a gambling girl, she laid her money down.
All the friends I ever had are gone.

Just like that, the sadness of “Delia” just leapt out, grabbed me, and dragged me into the rest of World Gone Wrong.  It wasn’t even the story of Delia’s death that I responded to, but rather the tag of every single verse:  "all the friends I ever had are gone.“  In 1993, with my career as a drummer at a standstill; the Wild Blue slowly giving up on live music; the Video Zone declining; and the Tower District scene inevitably changing as everybody grew up and became, you know, adults, how Bob Dylan sang that phrase resonated with me.

All the friends I ever had are gone

As always, with hindsight, that seems silly. I mean, by the time I was 30, I’d been through enough that I should have remembered that whatever was happening in my life was temporary, just so long as I remembered that I had agency to change things up. And in fact, things were in motion that would change my life for the better forever: I was also getting on the internet for the first time, and making a whole bunch of new friends – some of them other Dylan fans – from all over the country, and Rox and I had started seeing each other.

All the friends I ever had are gone

And yet, all these years later,  "Delia” still affects me. I guess it’s because the inevitability of losing people you love – even temporarily – comes through so deep and so hard in his playing and singing, it doesn’t even matter what my current circumstances are.  Which I guess is what I also instinctively responded to in 1993: not only was Bob Dylan’s artistic decline not happening, he was going back to his artistic source as fuel for a rebirth.

Official video for “Delia”

My Certain Songs Spotify Playlist:

Every “Certain Song” Ever

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