Love and Theft (Bob Dylan album)

"Love And Theft" (generally referred to as Love and Theft) is the 31st studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on September 11, 2001, by Columbia Records. (In the UK its release was one day earlier, 10th September, following the tradition for albums to be released on Mondays in the UK.) It featured backing by his touring band of the time, with keyboardist Augie Meyers added for the sessions. It peaked at #5 on the Billboard 200, and has been certified Gold by the RIAA.[1] A limited edition release included two bonus tracks on a separate disc recorded in the early 1960s, and two years later, on September 16, 2003, this album was remixed into 5.1 surround sound and became one of fifteen Dylan titles reissued and remastered for SACD playback. This album was released on the same day of the 9/11 attacks.

"Love and Theft"
A greyscale photograph of Dylan's face with the text "BOB DYLAN" at the top left
Studio album by
ReleasedSeptember 11, 2001 (2001-09-11)
RecordedMay 2001
ProducerJack Frost (Bob Dylan's pseudonym)
Bob Dylan chronology
Live 1961–2000: Thirty-Nine Years of Great Concert Performances
"Love and Theft"
The Bootleg Series Vol. 5: Bob Dylan Live 1975, The Rolling Thunder Revue


The album continued Dylan's artistic comeback following 1997's Time Out of Mind and was given an even more enthusiastic reception. The title of the album was apparently inspired by historian Eric Lott's book Love & Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class, which was published in 1993. "Love and Theft becomes his Fables of the Reconstruction, to borrow an R.E.M. album title", writes Greg Kot in the Chicago Tribune (published September 11, 2001), "the myths, mysteries and folklore of the South as a backdrop for one of the finest roots rock albums ever made."

The opening track, "Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum", includes many references to parades in Mardi Gras in New Orleans, where participants are masked, and "determined to go all the way" of the parade route, in spite of being intoxicated. "It rolls in like a storm, drums galloping over the horizon into ear shot, guitar riffs slicing with terse dexterity while a tale about a pair of vagabonds unfolds," writes Kot. "It ends in death, and sets the stage for an album populated by rogues, con men, outcasts, gamblers, gunfighters and desperados, many of them with nothing to lose, some of them out of their minds, all of them quintessentially American.

They're the kind of twisted, instantly memorable characters one meets in John Ford's westerns, Jack Kerouac's road novels, but, most of all, in the blues and country songs of the 1920s, '30s and '40s. This is a tour of American music—jump blues, slow blues, rockabilly, Tin Pan Alley ballads, Country Swing—that evokes the sprawl, fatalism and subversive humor of Dylan's sacred text, Harry Everett Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music, the pre-rock voicings of Hank Williams [Sr.], Charley Patton and Johnnie Ray, among others, and the ultradry humor of Groucho Marx.

Offered the song by Dylan, Sheryl Crow later recorded an up-tempo cover of "Mississippi" for her The Globe Sessions, released in 1998, before Dylan revisited it for Love and Theft. Subsequently the Dixie Chicks made it a mainstay of their Top of the World, Vote for Change, and Accidents & Accusations Tours.

As music critic Tim Riley notes, "[Dylan's] singing [on Love and Theft] shifts artfully between humble and ironic...'I'm not quite as cool or forgiving as I sound,' he sings in 'Floater,' which is either hilarious or horrifying, and probably a little of both."[2]

"Love and Theft is, as the title implies, a kind of homage," writes Kot, "[and] never more so than on 'High Water (for Charley Patton),' in which Dylan draws a sweeping portrait of the South's racial history, with the unsung blues singer as a symbol of the region's cultural richness and ingrained social cruelties. Rumbling drums and moaning backing vocals suggest that things are going from bad to worse. 'It's tough out there,' Dylan rasps. 'High water everywhere.' Death and dementia shadow the album, tempered by tenderness and wicked gallows humor."

"'Po Boy', scored for guitar with lounge chord jazz patterns, 'almost sounds as if it could have been recorded around 1920," says Riley. "He leaves you dangling at the end of each bridge, lets the band punctuate the trail of words he's squeezed into his lines, which gives it a reluctant soft-shoe charm."

The album closes with "Sugar Baby", a lengthy, dirge-like ballad, noted for its evocative, apocalyptic imagery and sparse production drenched in echo. Praising it as "a finale to be proud of", Riley notes that "Sugar Baby" is "built on a disarmingly simple riff that turns foreboding."


In an interview conducted by Alan Jackson for The Times Magazine in 2001, before the album was released, Dylan said "these so-called connoisseurs of Bob Dylan music... I don't feel they know a thing, or have any inkling of who I am and what I'm about. I know they think they do, and yet it's ludicrous, it's humorous, and sad. That such people have spent so much of their time thinking about who? Me? Get a life, please. It's not something any one person should do about another. You're not serving your own life well. You’re wasting your life."


Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Review scores
AllMusic     [4]
Blender     [5]
Chicago Sun-Times    [6]
Entertainment WeeklyA−[7]
The Guardian     [8]
Los Angeles Times    [9]
Q     [10]
Rolling Stone     [11]
The Village VoiceA+[13]

In a glowing review for his "Consumer Guide" column published by The Village Voice, Robert Christgau wrote: "If Time Out of Mind was his death album—it wasn't, but you know how people talk—this is his immortality album."[13] Later, when The Village Voice conducted its annual Pazz & Jop Critics Poll, Love and Theft topped the list, the third Dylan album to accomplish this.[14][15] It also topped Rolling Stone's list.[16] Q listed Love and Theft as one of the best 50 albums of 2001.[17] Kludge ranked it at number eight on their list of best albums of 2001.[18]

In 2012, the album was ranked #385 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, while Newsweek magazine pronounced it the second best album of its decade.[19] In 2009, Glide Magazine ranked it as the #1 Album of the Decade.[20] Entertainment Weekly put it on its end-of-the-decade, "best-of" list, saying, "The predictably unpredictable rock poet greeted the new millennium with a folksy, bluesy instant classic."[21]

The album won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album at the 44th Annual Grammy Awards. It was nominated for Album of the Year and the track "Honest with Me" was nominated for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance.

Allegations of plagiarismEdit

Love and Theft generated controversy when some similarities between the album's lyrics and Japanese writer Junichi Saga's book Confessions of a Yakuza were pointed out.[22][23] Translated to English by John Bester, the book is a biography of one of the last traditional Yakuza bosses in Japan. In the article published in the Journal, a line from "Floater" ("I'm not quite as cool or forgiving as I sound") was traced to a line in the book, which said "I'm not as cool or forgiving as I might have sounded." Another line from "Floater" is "My old man, he's like some feudal lord." One line in the book's first chapter is, "My old man would sit there like a feudal lord." However, when informed of this, author Saga's reaction was one of having been honored rather than abused from Dylan's use of lines from his work.[24]

Track listingEdit

All tracks are written by Bob Dylan.

1."Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum"May 8, 20014:46
2."Mississippi"May 21, 20015:21
3."Summer Days"May 8, 20014:52
4."Bye and Bye"May 12, 20013:16
5."Lonesome Day Blues"May 11, 20016:05
6."Floater (Too Much to Ask)"May 12, 20015:00
7."High Water (For Charley Patton)"May 17, 20014:04
8."Moonlight"May 16, 20013:23
9."Honest with Me"May 9, 20015:50
10."Po' Boy"May 16, 20013:04
11."Cry a While"May 18, 20015:04
12."Sugar Baby"May 19, 20016:40
Total length:57:25
Limited edition bonus disc digipak release
1."I Was Young When I Left Home" (Recorded December 22, 1961)5:24
2."The Times They Are a-Changin'" (Alternate version, recorded October 23, 1963[25])2:56
Total length:8:20




Region Certification Certified units/sales
New Zealand (RMNZ)[44] Gold 7,500^
Sweden (GLF)[45] Gold 40,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[46] Gold 20,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[47] Gold 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[49] Gold 757,000[48]

^shipments figures based on certification alone


  1. ^ RIAA website retrieved 03-12-10. Archived June 26, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Riley, Tom (September 13, 2001). "Lay Down Your Weary Tune". Retrieved June 29, 2018.
  3. ^ "Reviews for Love and Theft by Bob Dylan". Metacritic. Retrieved July 14, 2015.
  4. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Love and Theft – Bob Dylan". AllMusic. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
  5. ^ Wolk, Douglas. "Bob Dylan: "Love and Theft"". Blender. Archived from the original on June 30, 2006. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
  6. ^ DeRogatis, Jim (September 10, 2001). "Dylan's labor of 'Love'". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
  7. ^ Browne, David (September 10, 2001). "Love and Theft". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on April 3, 2019. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
  8. ^ Petridis, Alex (September 7, 2001). "One for the Bobcats". The Guardian. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
  9. ^ Hilburn, Robert (September 9, 2001). "This Year's Dylan Is a Sonic Dynamo". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on November 12, 2016. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
  10. ^ "Bob Dylan: "Love and Theft"". Q. No. 182. October 2001. p. 122.
  11. ^ Sheffield, Rob (September 27, 2001). "Love and Theft". Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
  12. ^ Light, Alan (November 2001). "The Jack of Hearts". Spin. Vol. 17 no. 11. pp. 127–28. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
  13. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (September 18, 2001). "Consumer Guide: Minstrels All". The Village Voice. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
  14. ^ "Pazz & Jop 2001: Album Winners". The Village Voice. Archived from the original on December 2, 2013. Retrieved October 7, 2007.
  15. ^ "Pazz & Jop: Top 10 Albums By Year, 1971-2016". The Village Voice. Retrieved November 21, 2018.
  16. ^ Fricke, David (December 27, 2001). "The Year in Recordings: The Top 10 Albums of the Year 2001". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on February 8, 2010. Retrieved March 28, 2014.
  17. ^ "The Best 50 Albums of 2001". Q. December 2001. pp. 60–65.
  18. ^ Perez, Arturo. "Top 10 Albums of 2001". Kludge. Archived from the original on July 22, 2004. Retrieved November 25, 2015.
  19. ^ "#2 'Love and Theft' Bob Dylan". Newsweek. December 11, 2009. Archived from the original on January 6, 2010. Retrieved December 27, 2009.
  20. ^ "Glide's Best Albums of the Decade" Archived May 9, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ Geier, Thom; Jensen, Jeff; Jordan, Tina; Lyons, Margaret; Markovitz, Adam; Nashawaty, Chris; Pastorek, Whitney; Rice, Lynette; Rottenberg, Josh; Schwartz, Missy; Slezak, Michael; Snierson, Dan; Stack, Tim; Stroup, Kate; Tucker, Ken; Vary, Adam B.; Vozick-Levinson, Simon; Ward, Kate (December 11, 2009), "THE 100 Greatest Movies, TV Shows, Albums, Books, Characters, Scenes, Episodes, Songs, Dresses, Music Videos, and Trends That Entertained Us over the Past 10 Years". Entertainment Weekly. (1079/1080):74-84
  22. ^ This is a reprint of an article from The Wall Street Journal as cited in next footnote. "Did Bob Dylan Lift Lines From Dr Saga?". California State University, Dear Habermas. July 8, 2003. Archived from the original on July 24, 2008. Retrieved September 7, 2008.
  23. ^ "Did Bob Dylan Lift Lines From Dr Saga?". Wall Street Journal. July 8, 2003. Retrieved September 7, 2008.
  24. ^ Wilentz, Sean. Bob Dylan in America. ISBN 978-0-385-52988-4, p. 310.
  25. ^ Olof Björner. "Still on the Road: 1963 Concerts and Recording Sessions: Studio A, Columbia Recording Studios, New York City, New York, 23 October 1963, The 4th The Times They Are A-Changin' session, produced by Tom Wilson". Retrieved August 27, 2010.
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  45. ^ "Guld- och Platinacertifikat − År 2001" (PDF) (in Swedish). IFPI Sweden.
  46. ^ "The Official Swiss Charts and Music Community: Awards (Bob Dylan; 'Love and Theft')". IFPI Switzerland. Hung Medien.
  47. ^ "British album certifications – Bob Dylan – Love and Theft". British Phonographic Industry. Select albums in the Format field. Select Gold in the Certification field. Type Love and Theft in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  48. ^ Spiegel, Max. "New Dylan Album : 'Modern Times'".
  49. ^ "American album certifications – Bob Dylan – Love and Theft". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH.