A friend shared a link with me for this song called, “Fool For Love,” from a band I kind of know called Lord Huron. I recognized the group’s name and have listened to Lonesome Dreams—an album I like but don’t love. So I thought, okay, I’ll humor her and give this a listen. I did. And then I did again, on repeat, for two days. Then I passed the link along to everyone I know at work, friends from my hometown, half of Minneapolis, people on Twitter. I even sent it to a guy I want to work with someday like, “Hey, man. Isn’t this song amazing? Wouldn’t you like to work with a guy who shares amazing songs?” I haven’t been this addicted to a song in quite a while. “Fool For Love,” to me, is a near-perfect song. I don’t know if it will have the staying power of other favorites because I can’t see the future. But for now, I do know it’s constructed with bits and pieces that pay homage to great artists right down to the story—which is something that has been driving me crazy. Let’s talk about that.
“Fool For Love” opens with a dreamy little guitar lick, some tremolo and a slow build. The drums kick in, and an acoustic guitar comes alive; the bass line rolls and an interesting story begins. It’s a vengeance-fueled journey about love, courage, confrontation and the death of the guy, an underdog, we’re all rooting for—a bit like Rocky Raccoon in the Beatles song of the same name. The story becomes even more captivating when: a) you look at the lead singer of Lord Huron and realize he bears a resemblance to the gun slinging outlaw in Tombstone, Johnny Ringo and b) there’s an interesting connection between “Fool” and the Bob Dylan song, “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts.”
The protagonist in “Fool For Love” is unnamed, but here are a few things we know: male, in love with a girl named Lily, he travels a distance, has a run in with Big Jim and he dies. In the Dylan song, there’s also a Lily, Big Jim, a confrontation and death.
In “Lily,” we hear that Big Jim was no one’s fool. He was handsome, had bodyguards and he ran the show. He was married to Rosemary and took whatever he wanted—included his mistress, Lily: “It was known all around that Lily had Jim’s ring. And nothing would ever come between Lily and the king. No, nothin’ ever would except maybe the Jack of Hearts.” Here is what we know about Lily—and this part is interesting in reference to “Fool For Love”: “She’d come away from a broken home, had lots of strange affairs with men in every walk of life, which took her everywhere. But she’d never met anyone quite like the Jack of Hearts.” Lily had a rough, lonely past and had it bad for the Jack of Hearts—that pissed Jim off.
An unsung verse on Bob Dylan’s website adds, “Lily’s arms were locked around the man that she dearly loved to touch (Jack). She forgot all about the man she couldn’t stand who hounded her so much (Big Jim). “I’ve missed you so,” she said to him, and he felt she was sincere. But just beyond the door he felt jealousy and fear.” Big Jim had enough of the Jack of Hearts sleeping with his mistress and was out to kill him. However, Rosemary had had enough of “playing the role of Big Jim’s wife.” In the end there’s a killing—“Big Jim lay covered up, killed by a penknife in the back.” Rosemary killed him, Jack and his gang robbed the bank, Lily is left pondering her life while Rosemary gets hanged. It’s a great story.
I think “Fool For Love” is a prequel to “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts.” In the opening lines, we find out that the protagonist is going “off to the hinter lands, way up north where the tall trees stand.” But before he takes off he professes his love for a girl named, Lily: “I’m asking Lily to be my bride. I know there’s another man but he ain’t gonna delay my plans.” The other man—Big Jim! The first refrain goes, “I know she’s gonna be my wife. Gonna fall in love, I’m gonna live my life with her. You know I bet he’s not so tough. Ain’t afraid of him cause I’m a fool for love.”
In the second verse, he meets Big Jim: “I’ve come far to find Big Jim. Well here I am and I guess you’re him. I see how you got your name you’re tall as hell and broad as a train. They say you’re a hard-broiled man. And the baddest guy in the whole wide land. Well I’m not afraid to fight let’s step outside and I’ll show you why.” At this point Jim doesn’t have bodyguards so we can assume it’s before he was wealthy, maybe before Rosemary, but not before Lily. Because our guy is a fool for love, he’s not scared of Big Jim. They fight, Jim victorious, and it ends like this: “I lie in the drifting snow bleeding out it’s as cold as we know. If spring comes before I’m found. Just throw my bones in a hole in the ground… No I’m not afraid to die. Just mad I left Big Jim alive.” And then he dies. Big Jim eliminated this guy and he was set to confront the Jack of Hearts before Rosemary stabbed him.
We can deduce that the man in “Fool For Love” isn’t the Jack of Hearts, but perhaps his name was Jake. When Jake died at the hand of Big Jim, he left Lily unwed with only this other man (Big Jim) in her life. We know Lily had a scattered past and a tough life: broken home, strange affairs, many men, many places. Without any other decent options, she had to move to this unknown town and become Big Jim’s lady of the night before the Jack of Hearts comes along at a later point—which is where the story picks up in Dylan’s song. Now we know how and why Lily got there.
Past all of my own curiosities and speculation about this tale, quite simply, the story is great. If you like a song that sounds like a book (see: Blitzen Trapper‘s “Black River Killer,” Ryan Adams’ “Strawberry Wine,” Raconteurs‘ “Carolina Drama,” Decemberists‘ “The Mariner’s Revenge Song,” etc.), you’ll like “Fool For Love.” The music and flow of the song brings to mind that feeling you get when you listen to old Springsteen tunes: “Incident of 57th Street,” “Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street,” “Born to Run,” “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” “Prove it All Night,” and others. Not necessarily in content but in the way “Fool” has the inertia of those Boss songs—once it gets going it just keeps rolling. “FFL” also shares that feeling with a few Arcade Fire tracks like “Keep the Car Running” and “Antichrist Television Blues.” And I’m sure a comparison could likely be made with a hundred Johnny Cash songs. You get the point. The bottom line is that this is a really, really catchy song. In every way, it’s well done and, perhaps, a charming prequel to a classic Bob Dylan song.
Lord Huron’s album, Strange Trails, is slated for release on April 7th. Other songs from the album, “Hurricane” and “The Night We Met,” have been released as well, and they’re also excellent.