Shelter from the Storm

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"Shelter from the Storm"
Song by Bob Dylan
from the album Blood on the Tracks
ReleasedJanuary 1975
RecordedSeptember 17, 1974 at A&R Recording in New York City
GenreFolk rock
Songwriter(s)Bob Dylan
Producer(s)Bob Dylan
Blood on the Tracks track listing

"Shelter from the Storm" is a song by Bob Dylan, recorded on September 17, 1974, and released on his 15th studio album, Blood on the Tracks, in 1975. It was later anthologized on the compilation album The Essential Bob Dylan in 2000.

Composition and recording[edit]

Dylan recorded five takes of the song on September 17, 1974 at A&R Recording in New York City, with the fifth take the one that was included on Blood on the Tracks.[1] Dylan sang, and played guitar and harmonica, accompanied by Tony Brown on bass.[2] Both Robert Shelton and Oliver Trager describe the song's narrator's mood as "tempest-tossed", with Shelton saying that the song explores a "search for salvation through love" and has similarities to the work of W. B. Yeats, and Trager interpreting it as the narrator "taking stock of himself, the dangerous world around him, and his lost love".[3][2]

The song opens with anachronistic language and Christian symbolism:[2]

"'Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood
Blackness was a virtue, the road was full of mud
I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form
'Come in,' she said, 'I'll give you shelter from the storm'"

Dylan scholar Tony Attwood calls the song a "complexly woven tale" that is "told around three chords". He notes that the same three chords repeat in ever line of every verse, which culminates in the redemptive refrain "Come in, she said, I'll give you shelter from the storm". Atwood describes the story told in the song's lyrics thusly: "He finds her when he is nothing and has nothing or both, she welcomes him in, and he wanders off and loses her, much to his eternal regret".[4]

In their book Bob Dylan All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Track, authors Philippe Margotin and Jean-Michel Guesdon note that Dylan's performance "oscillates between intimacy and declamation, and his performance is excellent, including short harmonica playing (in E)". They also note that the "excellent bass player Tony Brown", the only other musician on the track, "offers subtle and melodic playing" to accompany Dylan.[5]

Critical reception[edit]

Spectrum Culture included the song on a list of "Bob Dylan's 20 Best Songs of the '70s". In an article accompanying the list, critic Tyler Dunston credits Dylan for bringing out "the beauty and spirituality in pain, highlighting the terror that accompanies the greatest joy". He compares Dylan's vision of love to Rainer Maria Rilke's Duino Elegies for being "one in which pain and beauty, romance and faith are inextricable, almost indistinguishable, from one another".[6]

Rolling Stone ranked the song 66th on a list of the "100 Greatest Bob Dylan Songs".[7] A 2021 Guardian article included it on a list of "80 Bob Dylan songs everyone should know".[8]

Other versions[edit]

The first take of the song, from the same recording session that produced the album track, was released on the soundtrack to the 1996 motion picture Jerry Maguire. The same take was also featured on The Best of Bob Dylan the following year. This take and three others are included in the 2018 deluxe edition of The Bootleg Series Vol. 14: More Blood, More Tracks, (with Take 2 included on its single-CD and 2-LP versions).[9]

Live performances[edit]

According to his official website, Dylan played the song 376 times between 1976 and 2015.[10] Live versions of the song have officially released on the albums Hard Rain in 1976 and Bob Dylan at Budokan in 1979.[11] Dylan's live performance debut of the song during the Rolling Thunder Revue tour was described by Trager as having a "blustery, metallic edge complete with screeching electric guitar crescendos".[2] During Dylan's 1978 World Tour, a saxophone part played by Steve Douglas and backing vocals featured in the renditions.[12] Trager criticized the "emotionless lead vocal and sax solo" from the 1978 tour,[2] while Paul Williams felt that the saxophone and backing vocalists failed to match the intensity of Dylan's singing.[12]

Notable covers[edit]

Jimmy Lafave recorded the song on his 1992 live record Austin Skyline. The song was covered by Manfred Mann's Earth Band, released on their 1996 studio album Soft Vengeance. The song has also been covered by jazz singer Cassandra Wilson on Belly of the Sun released in 2002. Soul Flower Union as 嵐からの隠れ家 (Arashi kara no Kakurega) covered the song on their 2002 studio album Love ± Zero. Rodney Crowell covered the song, with EmmyLou Harris for Crowell's 2005 album The Outsider. In 2006, English singer-songwriter Steve Adey reinterpreted the song, slowing it down to a funeral pace. Adey's version made The Times top songs of 2006.[13] Pakistan's Sachal Jazz Ensemble,[14] with guest Becca Stevens, recorded the song with sitar and other traditional instruments for their album Song of Lahore (Universal, 2016).

Bill Murray sings along to the song in its entirety in the film St. Vincent.[15] Chris Martin of the band Coldplay performed a solo acoustic version of the song in the Saturday Night Live at Home episode of Saturday Night Live on April 11, 2020.[16]

In popular culture[edit]

Hip hop group Public Enemy reference it in their 2007 Dylan tribute song "Long and Whining Road": "There's a poison goin' on, there's a shelter from the storm / Hard rain's gonna fall, still the people rock on".[17]


  1. ^ Heylin, Clinton (2011). Still on the Road: The Songs of Bob Dylan Vol. 2 1974–2008. London: Constable. pp. 39–42. ISBN 9781849015981.
  2. ^ a b c d e Trager, Oliver (2004). Keys to the rain: the definitive Bob Dylan encyclopedia. New York: Billboard Books. pp. 554–555. ISBN 0823079740.
  3. ^ Shelton, Robert (1985). No direction home: the life and music of Bob Dylan. London: New English Library. p. 443. ISBN 0450048438.
  4. ^ "Shelter from the storm: Dylan the poet laureate, Dylan the myth maker | Untold Dylan". Retrieved 2021-05-14.
  5. ^ Margotin, Philippe; Jean-Michel Guesdon (2015). Bob Dylan : all the songs : the story behind every track (First ed.). New York. ISBN 1-57912-985-4. OCLC 869908038.
  6. ^ "Bob Dylan's 20 Best Songs of the '70s". Spectrum Culture. 2020-07-17. Retrieved 2021-05-14.
  7. ^ Rolling Stone (2020-05-24). "100 Greatest Bob Dylan Songs". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2021-05-14.
  8. ^ "Beyond Mr Tambourine Man: 80 Bob Dylan songs everyone should know". the Guardian. 2021-05-22. Retrieved 2021-05-22.
  9. ^ "More Blood, More Tracks – The Bootleg Series Vol. 14 to Be Released on November 2 | The Official Bob Dylan Site". Retrieved 2018-10-21.
  10. ^ "Setlists that contain Shelter from the Storm". Retrieved 2021-05-13.
  11. ^ "Shelter from the Storm". Retrieved 2021-05-13.
  12. ^ a b Williams, Paul (2004). Bob Dylan: performing artist. 1974–1986 the middle years. Omnibus Press. pp. 62–63. ISBN 1844490963.
  13. ^ Songs of the year - Times Online
  14. ^ "Pakistan's Sachal Jazz Ensemble rises above the risks in 'Song of Lahore'". Los Angeles Times. November 5, 2015.
  15. ^ "Bill Murray sings Bob Dylan's 'Shelter From The Storm' in new clip from 'St Vincent' - watch | NME". October 7, 2014.
  16. ^ Perkins, Dennis (April 12, 2020). "The Cast and Tom Hanks Cobble Together a Scattershot But Welcome Saturday Night Live Return". The A.V. Club. Retrieved April 12, 2020.
  17. ^ Public Enemy – The Long and Whining Road, retrieved 2021-04-12

External links[edit]