Compassion Offered By His Woman

‘Shelter from the Storm’ came out on Bob Dylan’s 15th studio album called, ‘Blood on the Tracks’.  This song is about his failed marriage that was a tempestuous relationship and it has nothing to do with the weather, as the storm is a metaphor for the trials and tribulations of Dylan’s life.  This song expresses the sadness of not knowing what you have until it’s gone. Dylan got the title from a line in Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Who’ll Stop The Rain?’, where they sing, “I went down Virginia, seekin’ shelter from the storm.”  ‘Blood on the Tracks’ was recorded in late 1974, in a studio in south Minneapolis and this came at a crucial time for Dylan, as he just returned to Columbia Records.  The musicians who played along with Bob on this album were Tony Brown on Bass, Buddy Cage on Steel Guitar, Paul Griffin on Organ and the band Eric Weissberg & Deliverance.

Joan Baez had a brief relationship with Bob Dylan that ended up crashing and burning.  They are both members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and they are the same age, but Joan Baez had already been crowned the ‘Queen of Folk’ when she met the still unknown Bob Dylan in ’61, at the Newport Folk Festival.  In 1963, she invited him to perform with her at Monterey Folk Festival.  Dylan was still with Baez when he got involved with his future wife Sara, but he has never been able to stay monogamous.  Actress and model Sara Lownds met Bob Dylan through a mutual friend in 1964, and the pair married in November 1965.  Bob enjoyed the stability that his family offered him and they had four children together, but by 1975 cracks started to form in their relationship over rumors of his infidelity.

Dylan had many affairs during the years that he was married to his wife Sara and the album released in 1975 ‘Blood on the Tracks’ famously depicting the demise of this couple while lifting the lid on their troubled marriage in a raw and shocking way.  Dylan had spent three years releasing no music of his own at all, however he did get together with The Band in November 1973 to record ‘Planet Waves’.  It seems like having his marriage smashed apart was the incentive that he needed to get his genius back, as ‘Blood On The Tracks’ pulled him from the wreckage.  The final straw came in February 1977, when Sara went down to breakfast at their Malibu home to find Dylan and a girlfriend sitting down to breakfast with her children. She was one of countless girlfriends Bob has been seeing over the previous year and perhaps it was Ellen Bernstein or Ruth Tryangiel, as both women were speculated to be his mistresses at the time.  Bearing a grimace Sara snapped, and the two got into it and Sara later claimed that Bob hit her in the jaw.  He told her to get out and Sara did retaliate by filing for divorce and they were never close after that.

“Come in, she said, I’ll give you shelter from the storm”, but this song never reveals exactly who she is.  Whoever she is, he is grateful to her for offering him again and again shelter from this storm.  Being with a woman, one who you are attracted to emotionally and physically, can give any man a certain kind of peace and getting that feeling that it is just the two of you together is wonderful.  This woman is a sanctuary, and losing her is devastating, like being in the midst of a storm without any shelter that he seems to think that she promised to provide for him, and Dylan probably saw his wife as this shelter that he was seeking, but when he took her for granted, he subsequently lost her.

Some of the lyrics appear to be religious  and sometime between 1979-1981 Dylan converted to Christianity.  The lyrics, “took my crown of thorns”, and “they gambled for my clothes” seem to relate to Jesus.  The beginning of this song, “‘Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood, When blackness was a virtue the road was full of mud, I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form”, might refer to how Dylan saw the start of his music career as he was just a kid out of Minnesota when he first arrived in NYC.  The next lines, “And if I pass this way again, you can rest assured, I’ll always do my best for her, on that I give my word, In a world of steel-eyed death, and men who are fighting to be warm”, seem to show regret that he failed in his relationship.  It seems like he wants another chance and he may be saying that life as a rock star is not always easy.  The third stanza, “Not a word was spoke between us, there was little risk involved, Everything up to that point had been left unresolved, Try imagining a place where it’s always safe and warm”, is probably signaling that he realized his marriage was over and he would no longer have that place where he could take shelter from the storm.

Next, “I was burned out from exhaustion, buried in the hail, Poisoned in the bushes an’ blown out on the trail, Hunted like a crocodile, ravaged in the corn”, seems to be a bunch of complaints about how tough his life is.  Then, “Suddenly I turned around and she was standin’ 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”, could be that he sees this woman as being his salvation because she is taking his pain away.  The sixth stanza, “Now there’s a wall between us, somethin’ there’s been lost, I took too much for granted, I got my signals crossed, Just to think that it all began on an uneventful morn”, appears to be a reflection that things did not work out and that it was probably his fault.

Some dismal words appear in the next stanza, “Well, the deputy walks on hard nails and the preacher rides a mount, But nothing really matters much, it’s doom alone that counts, And the one-eyed undertaker, he blows a futile horn”.  Seeing a deputy is usually a signal of bad news, perhaps you were speeding or since he is walking on hard nails, he might have stopped at your house to deliver bad news, possibly to tell you that one of your relatives was in an accident.  A preacher rides a mount may refer to Dylan’s childhood where he might have seen circuit rider clergy, who were clergy assigned to travel around specific geographic territories to minister to settlers and organize congregations.  Judgment is coming and the day of doom shall be the end of this time.  The undertaker is the end of life and the horn is futile because you are already dead and there is no need to announce this.

The eighth stanza, “I’ve heard newborn babies wailin’ like a mournin’ dove, And old men with broken teeth stranded without love, Do I understand your question, man, is it hopeless and forlorn”, is probably is about more regrets, as maybe Dylan sees himself as getting old, having broken teeth and being alone where his life will be hopeless and forlorn.  The ninth stanza, “In a little hilltop village, they gambled for my clothes, I bargained for salvation and she gave me a lethal dose, I offered up my innocence I got repaid with scorn”, probably is saying that he is bitter about getting a lethal dose and being repaid with scorn.  The final verse, “Well, I’m livin’ 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”, is about him living as an outcast, but he may work his way back into his family.  He sees beauty as a very narrow division between two alternatives which could be about having both his mistresses and his wife at the same time and he wants this to happen for him.  He might be putting his wife on the same level as God, seeing them as being born at the same time.  It is also possible that none of my thoughts are close to the real meaning in this song.

‘Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood
When 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 ya shelter from the storm

And if I pass this way again, you can rest assured
I’ll always do my best for her, on that I give my word
In a world of steel-eyed death, and men who are fighting to be warm
Come in, she said
I’ll give ya shelter from the storm

Not a word was spoke between us, there was little risk involved
Everything up to that point had been left unresolved
Try imagining a place where it’s always safe and warm
Come in, she said
I’ll give ya shelter from the storm

I was burned out from exhaustion, buried in the hail
Poisoned in the bushes an’ blown out on the trail
Hunted like a crocodile, ravaged in the corn
Come in, she said
I’ll give ya shelter from the storm

Suddenly I turned around and she was standin’ 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

Now there’s a wall between us, somethin’ there’s been lost
I took too much for granted, I got my signals crossed
Just to think that it all began on an uneventful morn
Come in, she said
I’ll give ya shelter from the storm

Well, the deputy walks on hard nails and the preacher rides a mount
But nothing really matters much, it’s doom alone that counts
And the one-eyed undertaker, he blows a futile horn
Come in, she said
I’ll give ya shelter from the storm

I’ve heard newborn babies wailin’ like a mournin’ dove
And old men with broken teeth stranded without love
Do I understand your question, man, is it hopeless and forlorn
Come in, she said
I’ll give ya shelter from the storm

In a little hilltop village, they gambled for my clothes
I bargained for salvation and she gave me a lethal dose
I offered up my innocence I got repaid with scorn
Come in, she said
I’ll give ya shelter from the storm

Well, I’m livin’ 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

Written for Daily Addictions prompt – Retaliate, for FOWC with Fandango – Stability, for Scotts Daily Prompt – Grimace and for Word of the Day Challenge Prompt – Tempestuous.

6 thoughts on “Compassion Offered By His Woman

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