4 February 1990
- Bob Dylan (vocal & guitar)
- G. E. Smith (guitar)
- Tony Garnier (bass)
- Christopher Parker (drums)
““What good am I if I’m like all the rest?” the 70-year-old singer nearly whispers to open the album. Is the question rhetorical? Is he talking to himself? The performance, a cover of a somewhat obscure Dylan tune where Jones is backed up by only a sparse rhythm section, is almost prayer-like in its gentle quietness and with its heartfelt vocals. Yet no answer is given to this or Jones’ other questions throughout the song, leaving the listener to ponder the answers and making it a quite haunting piece of music.”
– Adam Sheets (NoDepression)
Bob Dylan released What Good Am I? on his classic album, Oh Mercy in 1989.
Oh Mercy is notable for its sustained moodiness and resignation, often in relation to romantic dissolution. This is immediately apparent on the atmospheric Most of the Time, which features the richest production on the album. Described as “magisterial” by Allan Jones of Melody Maker, the narrator in Most of the Time sings of an estranged lover whom the narrator can’t quite shake from his memories. The song addresses an irreconcilable, personal relationship, and this theme would continue through What Good Am I?, a frank look at the narrator’s moral worth.
What good am I some like all the rest
If I just turn away when I see how you’re dressed
If I shut myself off so I can’t hear you cry
What good am I?