I Shall Be Released

I was pleased to see the news story this week that Bob Dylan picked up a Nobel Prize in literature, the first for the U.S. in a generation. Dylan always considered himself a poet as much as a musician. He explored poetic and musical influences from all over the spectrum. I’ve been impressed with the way his songs continually evolved. The live versions often bear only scant resemblance to the album versions, and live versions from concerts several years apart often bear only scant resemblance to one another. I saw him in concert in Oklahoma City about fifteen years ago and was amazed.

I Shall Be Released was recorded by Dylan a number of times. I don’t particularly care for the album version of the song. For me, the quintessential recording is on the 1974 album “Before the Flood”–a live concert recorded with The Band. Robbie Robertson’s lead guitar work and The Band’s harmony vocals take the song to the next level. My own version owes more to Before the Flood than to Dylan’s original album version. This song, especially in The Band’s recording, shows a lot of blues and gospel influences that fit with the lyrics perfectly.

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They say every thing can be replaced
Yet every distance is not near
But I remember every face
Of every man who put me here

I see my light come shining
From the west down to the east
Any day now, any day now
I shall be released

They say every man needs protection
They tell me every man must fall
Yet I swear I see my reflection
Some place so high above the wall

I see my light come shining . . .

Down yonder stands a man in this lonely crowd
He’s a man who swears he’s not to blame
All day long I hear him shout it out loud
Calling out that he was framed

I see my light come shining . . .

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