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:
And this one from May 5, 1966 at the Adelphi Theatre, Dublin, Ireland:
Bob Dylan, “Just Like A Woman,” Live 1966:
Bob Dylan, “Justs Like A Woman,” Manchester Free Trade Hall, Manchester England, May 17, 1966:
Bob Dylan, “Just Like A Woman,” (from Blonde On Blonde):
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:
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4 thoughts on “Audio: Deep Into Bob Dylan’s ‘Just Like A Woman’”
great great song with a melody that mccartney or paul simon would have been proud of
Yes! So much focus over the decades has been put on Dylan’s lyrics, which are of course THE BEST, but so many of his songs have great melodies and music that pulls you into the song.
66 not 65 on Sheffield, I think
Thanks for catching that.