She Belongs to Me
|"She Belongs to Me"|
|Song by Bob Dylan from the album Bringing It All Back Home|
|Released||March 22, 1965|
|Recorded||Columbia Recording Studios, New York City January 14, 1965|
|Bringing It All Back Home track listing|
"She Belongs to Me" is a song by Bob Dylan, and was first released as the second track on his 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home. It was one of the first anti-love songs and one of Dylan's first of many songs that describe a "witchy woman". The song may be about fellow folk singer Joan Baez or experimental artist Nico.
The version of the song that appears on Bringing It All Back Home was recorded on the evening of January 14, 1965 and produced by Tom Wilson. This version included electric guitar parts played by John Hammond Jr. and Bruce Langhorne and a bass part played by William E. Lee in addition to Dylan's acoustic guitar and harmonica. However, like the other love song on side one, "Love Minus Zero/No Limit", "She Belongs to Me" was recorded a day earlier in an acoustic version. It was also recorded earlier in the day on January 14 with the full band that is used on the rest of side one of the album. An unreleased outtake of the song from the Bringing It All Back Home sessions is known to exist where Dylan is supported only by Langhorne's guitar, with no bass, drums or third guitar.
The title of the song is ironic. Although entitled "She Belongs to Me", the singer clearly belongs to the woman described in the song, and that woman belongs to no one, as alluded to in this line:
The lyrics describe how the woman cuts her man down to size but leaves him proud to serve her, as he "bow[s] down to her on Sunday" and "salute[s] her when her birthday comes." Other lines celebrate the woman's assertiveness and moral conviction as the singer's tone alternates between devotion and contempt. Some of the lyrics appear to reference Dylan's former lover, folk singer Joan Baez, particularly the line about the woman wearing an "Egyptian ring", since Dylan had given Baez such a ring. Other lines that may refer to Baez are a line describing her as "an artist" and a reference to being a "walking antique", which may be a reference to Baez' desire to keep Dylan writing protest songs. John Cale of the Velvet Underground has stated that he believes the song to be about Nico, with whom Dylan spent some time around the time of the song's composition. An alternate interpretation of the song is that it is a paean to Dylan's muse, depicting it as unapproachable but domineering. According to English artist, journalist and political activist Caroline Coon, the song was inspired by her.
Another possible interpretation is that the song is about Dylan's country, America, rather than a person. For example "salute her when her birthday comes" may refer to Independence Day, and the trumpet and drum to American militarism. The "Egyptian ring" verse may refer (obliquely) to the power of the dollar, whose reverse bears the image of an Egyptian pyramid.
Any bitterness in the lyrics is offset by the gentleness of Dylan's singing and the delicacy of the accompaniment. The song is in a symmetrical 12-bar blues form. Music critic Robert Shelton has described the song as having a melody that is gentle, with relaxed phrasing and a swaying, waltz-like rhythm, although it does not use the 3/4 time signature of a waltz but rather a 4/4 time signature.
Although the song was first released on Bringing It All Back Home in 1965, it has been subsequently released on several Dylan compilation and live albums since, including Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits Vol. II in 1971. A live performance from Dylan's 1969 Isle of Wight Festival performance was released on Self Portrait in 1970. It was the opening song of the famous May 17, 1966 concert in Manchester's Free Trade Hall, England (popularly but mistakenly known as the "Royal Albert Hall" concert) that has been released on The Bootleg Series Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live 1966, The "Royal Albert Hall" Concert in 1998. It was also included in Martin Scorsese's film No Direction Home and released on its soundtrack album, The Bootleg Series Vol. 7: No Direction Home: The Soundtrack in 2006.
The song has been covered by many other artists, including Barry McGuire, The Grateful Dead, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Tom Tom Club, Alain Bashung, Leon Russell, Harry Connick, Jr., The Nice, Richard Shindell, Billy Preston, Buddy Greene, Lloyd Cole, Ricky Nelson, Neil Finn and Pajama Club, Buffalo Tom, Ane Brun, Ólöf Arnalds, Trish Murphy and The Rose Garden. It has also been translated into a French version by Francis Cabrel, titled "Elle m'appartient (C'est une artiste)" on his 2008 album Des roses et des orties. Ricky Nelson's country version was a Top 40 hit.
In a 2005 reader's poll reported in Mojo, She Belongs to Me was listed as the #98 all time Bob Dylan song, and a similar poll of artists ranked the song #53. In 2002, Uncut listed it as the #14 all time Bob Dylan song. The aggregation of critics' lists at acclaimedmusic.net did not place this song in its list of the top 3000 songs of all time, but rated it as one of the 1965 songs "bubbling under" the top 3000.
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