S. Elle Cameron

All love is a tragedy...

Bob Dylan Said I (We) Shall Be Released

I've been compelled to write this today because I can't stop listening to Jeff Buckley's cover of "I Shall Be Released", originally written and recorded by the legendary Bob Dylan. There's a lot of pain and torture going on out there and I think at times we all forget that we will be released from all of the pain and struggles we must face. It's easy to forget when life won't let go of the harsh grasp it has around your throat.

I just wanted to take the time to dissect these magnificent lyrics that Bob Dylan took the time to write for our ears. At this very moment, I can't thank him enough. Let's start with the first verse:

They say everything can be replaced,
Yet every distance is not near.
So I remember every face
Of every man who put me here

The last two lines of the verse are probably the most important lines of the song because it brings everything full circle. It gives the song its meaning. "So I remember every face of every man who put me here," Dylan wrote. It's sort of him wallowing in his pain and being reminded of his past. Dylan made pain so relatable (as it should be) and I think that is what makes this such a great song. We all have a road that led us to where we are now, whether we're in a good position or a bad one. We remember all of the faces and circumstances that caused us to sit in the spot we're currently in. Someone (or in most cases multiple people) has caused us all pain. Someone helped mold us into the people we are today. We have all lost something that hit us to the core ("they say everything can be replaced"). When Dylan wrote the first line of the song, I like to believe that he was trying to convince himself that everything will be okay. You know, as in, 'hey, I can get it back'. The second line is a reminder that everywhere the road takes us will not be close by or easy to get to but if you want your emptiness to be replaced by happier times, you have to go the distance. 

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

In the chorus, Dylan begans to look at things a little differently. The key word in the first line is "my". He didn't say he sees "a" light, he said "I see my light come shining..." This small difference gives the song a major concept. Dylan isn't looking to be saved, he's doing the saving. His own light will save him, not some magical moment where the sun rays shine out among the clouds. The second line is a continuation of the first and some thought is needed to decipher the meaning. He says his light is shining from the west unto the east. Astronomy teaches us that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west; this means that Dylan is looking for an ending or a setting. The third line is more of a exclamation, ("Any day now, any day now!") where Dylan is shouting that his time is coming when he shall be released. He's suffered enough and any moment, all of the pain he's experienced shall be released. He will no longer be imprisoned.

They say every man needs protection,
They say every man must fall.
Yet I swear I see my reflection
Some place so high above this wall

 The first two lines are self-explanatory. We all must fall (or at least that's what "they" say) and deal with hardships. Dylan uses these lines as a way to express his doubt in what "they" say (whoever "they" are) because he believes that he is better than what they say. Every man may have to fall but he sees the better in himself and the high position that he is meant to be in. Shouldn't we all think like Dylan? The walls he can see his reflection high above are the same walls that are imprisoning him. It is likely his pain and tribulations. Dylan is saying that he is better than his pain, therefore any moment now he's going to be released from it all so he can continue his ride above it all. He follows the verse with the chorus as an emphasis on his upcoming freedom.

Standing next to me in this lonely crowd,
Is a man who swears he's not to blame.
All day long I hear his voice shouting so loud,
Crying out that he was framed

We are all (or have been) that man in the big lonely crowd. None of us believe that we are to blame for our current situations. When bad things hit us all at once, we don't like to think that we somehow caused it (I'm not saying that we do always cause it). We scream and cry how much we don't deserve this and how much more we should have. We believe we've been framed or there must have been a typo in the writings of our stars because we've been nothing but good. Notice that Dylan also states that he's in a "lonely crowd". This means that he knows that he's not the only one who feels the way he does. He is not the only imprisoned soul. There are a lot of us out there. We're all in the same crowd yet we're all just as lonely. It's a bit of an oxymoron. Dylan ends the song with the chorus, just to remind us that any day his freedom is coming.

I want to thank Bob Dylan for giving me hope that things can get better. I understand by him saying "any day now," that it may not actually be soon, but the day will come. The sun has to set on all pain and all imprisonment and the day will come when it's time for your light to shine its brightest. We can fall and we can feel like we need someone by our side to cover us when things get bad but we have to keep seeing ourselves as being higher than our problems. We have to believe that we shall be released...

Jeff Buckley covers this song like no one else ever could.