Audio: Deep Into Bob Dylan’s ‘Just Like A Woman’

Bob Dylan and Françoise Hardy backstage at l’Olympia, Paris, May 1966.

What to say about this classic Bob Dylan song?

It has such a beautiful melody for starters. And there’s that carnival rock ‘n’roll sound that Dylan dreamed up with Robbie Robertson and a bunch of Nashville cats. The song is so seductive at first, and Bob sings it straight, no sarcasm, so we think it’s a gentle love song.

But what kind of love song?

By the second verse this is no typical love song. No way, ’cause Dylan is putting this woman down. She’s the same woman (or all the women) he sang about in “Like A Rolling Stone,” and in that second verse we learn that she’s gonna find out she’s nothing special.

Nobody has to guess
That Baby can’t be blessed
Till she sees finally that she’s like all the rest
With her fog, her amphetamine and her pearls

Then in the bridge we get a flashback. The singer telling us of the day they met.

It was raining from the first
And I was dying there of thirst
So I came in here

What’s really amazing is the final verse the roles reverse and the narrator, who up until then mostly comes across in the power position telling us about his lover, suddenly steps up and directly addresses her as he reveals that he was a mess when they first met and that she was way up above him. Dylan could now be taking the role of Dick Diver in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Tender Is The Night” after Diver has lost his moneyed but psychologically unstable wife Nicole, has blown it with his movie star girlfriend Rosemary and become an alcoholic. In the last verse we see the narrator as totally vulnerable, asking her to keep their secret, and his too.

I just can’t fit
Yes, I believe it’s time for us to quit
When we meet again
Introduced as friends
Please don’t let on that you knew me when
I was hungry and it was your world

Dylan was writing on another plane back then. A novel condensed to a song.

Check out this cool live version of “Just Like A Woman” played May 16, 1966 at the Gaumont Theatre, Sheffield, England:

Just Like A Woman by Bob Dylan on Grooveshark

And this one from May 5, 1966 at the Adelphi Theatre, Dublin, Ireland:

Just Like A Woman by Bob Dylan on Grooveshark

Bob Dylan, “Just Like A Woman,” Live 1966:

Bob Dylan, “Justs Like A Woman,” Manchester Free Trade Hall, Manchester England, May 17, 1966:

Just Like A Woman (acoustic) by Bob Dylan on Grooveshark

Bob Dylan, “Just Like A Woman,” (from Blonde On Blonde):

Just Like A Woman by Bob Dylan on Grooveshark

And here’s a lo-fi version recorded by Dylan biographer Robert Shelton and played by Dylan with Robbie Robertson in a Denver hotel room March 13, 1966, five days after Dylan cut the version that would appear on Blonde On Blonde in Nashville:

Just Like A Woman by Bob Dylan on Grooveshark

-– A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post: sounds, visuals and/or news –-

About Michael Goldberg

Michael Goldberg is a distinguished pioneer in the online music space; Newsweek magazine called him an ‘Internet visionary.’ In 1994 he founded Addicted To Noise (ATN), the highly influential music web site. He was a senior vice-president and editor in chief at SonicNet from March 1997 through May 2000. In 1997, Addicted To Noise won Webby awards for best music site in 1998 and 1999, and also won Yahoo Internet Life! awards for three years running as best music site in 1998, 1999 and 2000. Prior to starting Addicted To Noise, Goldberg was an editor and senior writer at Rolling Stone magazine for 10 years. His writing has also appeared in Wired, Esquire, Vibe, Details, Downbeat, NME and numerous other publications. Michael recently completed his first novel, Days of the Crazy-Wild, and is currently writing a second novel.

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