She Belongs to Me
|"She Belongs to Me"|
|Single by Bob Dylan|
|from the album Bringing It All Back Home|
|A-side||"Subterranean Homesick Blues"|
|Released||March 22, 1965|
|Recorded||January 14, 1965, Columbia Recording Studios, New York City|
|Genre||Folk rock, blues rock|
|Bob Dylan singles chronology|
"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 a former girlfriend, Suze Rotolo, or fellow folk singer Joan Baez, contemporary siren Nico, or Sara Lownds, the woman that Dylan would wed in November 1965.
The version of the song that appears on Bringing It All Back Home was recorded on the afternoon of January 14, 1965 and produced by Tom Wilson. Dylan performed it with the rock band that accompanied him on the songs on side one of the album, with Bruce Langhorne playing the electric guitar.
Different versions of the song were recorded during the January 1965 sessions for Bringing It All Back Home. Like the other love song on side one, "Love Minus Zero/No Limit", "She Belongs to Me" had been recorded on January 13, 1965, in acoustic versions. An outtake featuring Dylan, Langhorne, and bassist Bill Lee—stated in the liner notes to have been recorded on January 14, but which Dylan scholar Clinton Heylin dates to January 13 — was released in 2005 on The Bootleg Series Vol. 7: No Direction Home: The Soundtrack. The January 13 recordings and a first take from January 14 were released on the 6-disc and 18-disc versions of The Bootleg Series Vol. 12: The Cutting Edge 1965–1966 in 2015. (The song was also recorded with just guitars and bass on the evening of January 14, an uncirculated version.)
The title of the song is ironic. The singer clearly belongs to the woman described in the song, and that woman belongs to no one, as suggested by the lyric "She's nobody's child, the law can't touch her at all." 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. The lyrics may refer to Suze Rotolo, Dylan's girlfriend from July 1961 to early 1964, an artist who became pregnant in 1963 by Dylan and had an abortion. Their relationship failed to survive the abortion, Dylan's affair with Joan Baez and the hostility of the Rotolo family. Suze moved into her sister's apartment in August 1963. She and Dylan broke up in 1964, in circumstances which Dylan described in his "Ballad in Plain D". Twenty years later, he apologized for the song, saying, "I must have been a real schmuck to write that. I look back at that particular one and say, of all the songs I've written, maybe I could have left that alone." Some of the lyrics appear to refer to 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.
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.
The song, first released on Bringing It All Back Home in 1965, has been subsequently released on several Dylan compilation and live albums, including Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits Vol. II in 1971. 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 2005, in the form of an outtake from the original recording sessions.
A live performance from Dylan's 1969 Isle of Wight Festival performance was released on Self Portrait in 1970. The song opened the famous May 17, 1966 concert in Manchester's Free Trade Hall, England (popularly but mistakenly known as the "Royal Albert Hall" concert) released on The Bootleg Series Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live 1966, The "Royal Albert Hall" Concert in 1998.
The song has been covered by various 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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