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“With silver bracelets on her wrists and flowers in her hair”

June 28, 2010

I do not remember the first time I ever heard a Bob Dylan song. But I do remember the moment I fell in love with his music.

I was about nine years old. And I remember knowing this phrase: “The answer is blowin’ in the wind.” Well, at that point in my life, I thought it was just a phrase. But it was one of those phrases you know, but you don’t know exactly how you know it … you know?

I was sitting in the car with my Dad, and at that time in my life, whenever my Dad and I would drive together, the oldies radio station was always on. Always. Usually, I didn’t listen. I mean, I was a kid. I was more fascinated by my reflection in the rearview-mirror.

But one day in particular, that song played. I didn’t even notice when the song first started playing — I was most likely making faces at myself in that damned rearview-mirror. But suddenly, something took me out of my childish self-absorption: I heard that one lyric. It was the first lyric of Bob Dylan’s that I ever truly heard. I heard him sing (well, more like wail) “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind, the answer is blowin’ in the wind.”

My mind was BLOWN. It was certifiably blown. And I don’t even know why it freaked me out so much — but it did. Everything changed. I was nine, and everything changed. “It was a song!” I remember thinking. “A song!” And at that moment, all I could do was imagine how amazing the singer of that lyric must be that one of his lyrics could become so widely known that even I knew the lyric before I knew the song. (Little did I know at that ignorant stage in my life just how many of his lyrics are legendary … this was the first of many realizations for little, bitty me).

Now, at the ripe, old age of 18, I know just about every Dylan song there is. I’ve worshipped his lyrics, wept over them, studied them, memorized them, dreamt about them, analyzed them, laughed at them and, in some cases, lived by them. For instance, when it’s time for me to admit that the waters around me have grown, I’ll be damned if I don’t accept that I’ll soon be drenched to the bone. In that scenario, I’d immediately start swimming, ’cause, you know, otherwise, I’d sink like a stone. You know, things like that.

But now, after extensive Dylan listening, worshipping and even, in some cases, evangelism, I feel like I am now eligible to choose (drumroll please …) my favorite Dylan lyrics.

I know, I know, you’re all sitting there at your computers, laptops, iPhones, what have you, thinking, “Emilia, why are you attempting the impossible?”

Well, all I can say is, I’m willing to go that extra mile for my readers, and make tough choices like this for your entertainment and reading pleasure.

The lyrics come from Dylan’s masterpiece — wait, actually, it’s more than a masterpiece. It’s … well, how can I even say it? It is an immortal, golden messiah of song; it’s a sweeping, brilliant, resonating shower of musical inspiration. It’s Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing. It’s the most beautiful sunset you’ve ever seen. It’s the feeling you get when someone tells you, “I love you,” and means it.

It is Shelter From the Storm.

And these are my favorite Dylan lyrics of all time:

“Suddenly I turned around, and she was standing there with silver bracelets on her wrists and flowers in her hair. She walked up to me so gracefully and took my crown of thorns. ‘Come in,’ she said, ‘I’ll give ya shelter from the storm.'”

Oh my god, just writing those lyrics brought tears to my eyes. I’m not kidding! At this very instant, I am experiencing the burning sensation one feels in his/her eyes when he/she is holding back tears. Dammit, it burns so good!

But, just read those lyrics. And then, close your eyes and imagine them. Then, try to feel the sensation and experience they describe. Can you possibly imagine a more beautiful, soothing sense of calm? Is there a greater paradise than the one Dylan has so perfectly and immortally created for us? Try to picture yourself as Dylan earlier describes himself in the song: You’re burned out from exhaustion, buried in the hail, poisoned in the bushes, and blown out on the trail; hunted like a crocodile ravaged in the corn.

And then, you suddenly stumble upon this woman clad in flowers and silver bracelets. She gracefully walks up to you, and takes off your crown of thorns! Then, she tells you to come in — she wants to give you shelter from the storm through which you’ve been suffering. Could words describe your relief? Your joy? Your luck?

Yes, they could. ‘Cause Bobby does it: “I’m living in a foreign country, but I’m bound to cross the line. Beauty walks a razor’s edge — someday I’ll make it mine. If I could only turn back the clock to when God and her were born. ‘Come in,’ she said, ‘I’ll give ya shelter from the storm.'”

This is my favorite version of the song:

Please, listen to it — really listen to it. You can read the lyrics here. Just read them, and really think about them. Try to imagine them — what they look like, what they feel like, what emotions Dylan felt as he penned those pretty pieces of poetry.

And if you disagree, and feel that these aren’t the best lyrics, then please, by all means tell me your favorites! I can’t think of a more pleasing, exciting and fun debate to have. Because, you know, either way, I get to read more Dylan lyrics. No matter how the debate turns out, it’s going to be a win.

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21 Comments leave one →
  1. john wyburn permalink
    June 29, 2010 12:39 am

    try love minus-zero

  2. June 29, 2010 1:24 am

    I don’t know if these are the best, but they’re dammed good, The whole song is dammed good. The Christ analogies have always fascinated me and they are so powerful: “In a little hilltop village, they gambled for my clothes/I bargained for salvation an’ they gave me a lethal dose.”

    Man, you are so young to be digging Dylan, and it’s very cool. It never fails to amaze, although I don’t know why it should, when young people get into him, and they always seem to get into him heavy, too.

    I was there that day, May 23, 1975 in Fort Collins Colorado when Bob strapped on that white guitar and performed that particular version of “Shelter.” So, that should give you an idea of how old I am. I had already been a fan for at least ten years but it was my first opportunity to see him in concert, and what a concert it was. Definitely not my last Dylan concert, either. It rained off and on all day, which is why they titled the live LP “Hard Rain” and before it started they must have played every single Beatles song on the sound system . . .

    Well, I can go on about it. But I won’t. Hey, great post, good luck to ya, and happy Dylan listening.

    • emiliab9291 permalink*
      June 29, 2010 9:03 am

      That is SUCH a cool story — I feel like it adds whole new meaning to the video that I’ve now watched around, like, 23,435,345 times! Thanks for the great post.

      Peace, Love and Dylan

  3. daniel permalink
    June 29, 2010 3:09 am

    Well, I must admit that sfts is a great one, along with many (many!) others. I’ve always wondered about the opening line “T’was in another lifetime” Wonder what Bob thinks really… about reincarnation…
    By the way, your video is blocked here in Norway, Sony doesn’t want us to enjoy Bob without cutting in on the profits.

    Greetings from the “land of the midnight sun”

  4. Joe permalink
    June 29, 2010 7:16 am

    For all those who have eyes & all those who have ears. It is only HE that can reduce me to tears.

  5. Anonymous permalink
    June 29, 2010 7:18 am

    “I decided to flip a coin
    Like either heads or tails
    Would let me know if I should go
    Back to ship or back to jail
    So I hocked my sailor suit
    And I got a coin to flip
    It came up tails
    It rhymed with sails
    So I made it back to the ship”

    Tails also rhymes with jails.

    • gypsymusik permalink
      June 29, 2010 6:58 pm

      I can’t believe I never made that connection before – jail and tails. Thanks.

  6. Joe permalink
    June 29, 2010 7:20 am

    For all those who have eyes & all those who have ears. It is only HE who can reduce me to tears.

  7. June 29, 2010 8:01 am

    I think these are great lyrics, and I think considering them in a Biblical context reveals even deeper layers of meaning. I have to go with “Angelina” as my favorites, though.

  8. Darkeyez permalink
    June 29, 2010 8:08 am

    cover

  9. Collingsworth Swan permalink
    June 29, 2010 10:41 am

    Fantastic post and clip, loved both, been a Dylan disciple for near 50 years! Have to say “Chimes of Freedom ranks at the top of my list, read and reread the lyrics, find a performance or two, both by Bob and others, transcendent! Pretty sure a performance is included in Scorsese’s “No Direction Home”..anyway thanks again and your good soul shines through the post…

  10. Dave permalink
    June 29, 2010 11:48 am

    Nice post…I was in college (early 80s) when I really started getting into Dylan. This line from “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” was particularly relevant to me as I was trying to figure out who I was and where I belonged:

    And though the rules of the road have been lodged
    It’s only people’s games that you got to dodge
    And it’s alright, Ma, I can make it

    “It’s only people’s games that you got to dodge” summed it up perfectly for me—other people give us our happiness, but they give us our misery, too. In other words, be happy with who you are and try not to worry too much about everyone else thinks, because there’s always gonna be someone who’ll want to bring you down.

  11. Lookoutkid permalink
    June 29, 2010 12:45 pm

    What a great post! You expressed what so many others feel regardless of their personal favorite lyrics. At first I thought that perhaps I had written your post. It hit me right between the eyes! But I was 11, not 9 and I DO remember where I was – hot summer day at a BBQ with family & friends and one of the older girls said ‘Hey, listen to this!” I did and nearly 50 years later I’m still listening and thinking and humming and day dreaming to the bard Bob. You say that at the ripe old age of 18, you’ve worshipped the lyrics, wept over them, memorized them, analyzed them and sometimes lived by them. You are not alone in that. But, Gee I thought I was the only one who actually experiences that vicarious ‘living the lyrics’ stuff – I guess not! Lots of times I speak in the lyric tongue and some folks wonder what I’m really saying! I just smile and think – Don’t think Twice……..

  12. Hilltop permalink
    June 29, 2010 12:53 pm

    There are lots of great Dylan songs and lyrics but you nail it right that the Hard Rain version of Shelter is very good, it is also on the album Hard Rain and I consider it to be one of the best (all time top 5 ?) pieces of rock & roll ever.

  13. gypsymusik permalink
    June 29, 2010 6:56 pm

    What a great post. I think being into Dylan so young has maybe given you the ability to connect with that ether where he believes all his songs come from. I did it once and it was amazing. I can’t imagine having an ongoing connection. It must be like holding a power line in one hand and a magic pen in the other.
    But I digress.

    My favorite Dylan lyrics:

    Ain’t it just like the night to play
    tricks when you’re trying to be so quiet?
    We sit here stranded,
    though we’re all doing our best to deny it.
    And Louise holds a handful of rain
    tempting you to defy it.
    Lights flicker from the opposite loft.
    In this room, the heatpipes just cough.
    The country music station plays soft.
    But there’s nothing, really nothing, to turn off.
    Just Louise and her lover so entwined,
    and these visions of Johanna that conquer my mind.

    You can see this guy lying in bed, trying to sleep, missing his absent lover. But he can’t sleep because the lights, the heatpipes, the music, and most of all Louise making love in the next loft, reminding him of Johanna, (tempting him to … what? find a lover in Johanna’s absence?) all make sleep impossible. And there’s nothing to turn off because the real torture is inside his head.
    God! What genius! Elegant, liquid, enduring genius!

  14. Ewald Spanner permalink
    June 29, 2010 10:48 pm

    Hi, Emilia !
    I read your blog and was BLOWN, too ! I was 18, when I first heard “Blowin` in the wind”. I`m 57 years now
    so I really heard it back in those magic years of the sixties. I felt very much the same way you did.
    It`s wonderful and amazing, that a young woman of nowadays can still feel and appreciate Bob so much !
    He obviously speaks to all generations ! Yes, and then came: “Like a rolling stone” and that one really
    stuck with me ! Yes, you are totally right a thousand times, Bob`s lyrics are amazing ! They also helped me
    in so many situations of my life. They always were and are until today my true companion ! I couldn`t do
    without Bob ! Please, check out: “Every grain of sand.” Those lyrics, I think, belong to the top !!
    Yeah, Emilia, may you always be courageous, stand upright and be strong and may you stay forever young !
    Cheers !
    Ewald

  15. JohnH permalink
    June 30, 2010 2:29 am

    I’m not sure what Dylan really believes about reincarnation (I suspect he’s. . . skeptical), but in 1964/1965 he wrote a song called “Love Is Just A Four Letter Word.” Perhaps this verse touches on reincarnation?

    “I said goodbye unnoticed
    Pushed towards things in my own games
    Drifting in and out of lifetimes
    Unmentionable by name
    Searching for my double, looking for
    Complete evaporation to the core
    Though I tried and failed at finding any door
    I must have thought that there was nothing more
    Absurd than that love is just a four letter word.”

    Dylan may or may not have completed this song, and it’s almost certain that he never recorded it. However, a quick YouTube search of : love is just a four letter word baez should bring up an incandescent version by Joan Baez.

  16. Savage Rose & Fixable permalink
    June 30, 2010 5:20 pm

    i/m still working on the liner notes from Highway 61 Revisited

    but I would not argue with your pick

  17. Viktor permalink
    July 1, 2010 5:19 pm

    Changing of the guards is bob’s best songs by lyrics by far in my opinion.

  18. July 26, 2010 12:56 am

    Good post!!

    New Episode Burn Notice

  19. December 4, 2010 10:18 am

    Couldn’t be written any better. Reading this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this article to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!

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