In his recent book The Dylanologists, Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Kinney identifies various classifications of Dylan fandom, from memorabilia collectors to those who follow his concerts to the lyrics dissectors. Followers of this blog know that I occasionally dive into the dissection of lyrics and have even been occasionally reprimanded by some who consider it a useless pursuit to try and explain what everything he's written means. Sometimes these folk may be right.
Nevertheless, holding a magnifying lens over various passages of poetic verse is a difficult habit to break, especially when it often yields surprising rewards. At times it can be a stimulating form of entertainment.
One of the websites I return to now and then is songmeanings.com. It's a site where people share their insights and interpretations of songs from popular culture. In some respects it's a form of crowdsourcing. You have a particular perspective on something and then go here to discover ten other ways of looking at the same picture.
But it's not the only source of ideas for interpreters. Here are two interpretations of "She Belongs To Me" that I found especially intriguing, notably because of their novelty. The first here is by lyrics dissecter Tony Atwood.
It's About His Little Girl
Never has a 12 bar blues sounded so beautiful, so relaxed, so warm, so kind. Perhaps a listener who is in his 20s smoking dope might not find it so, but anyone who has a daughter instantly sees it, feels it, warms to it.
If the lyrics don’t convey the message then the music and the accompaniment does. The most famous version of course is on Bringing it all Back Home, but there are also examples on the curious Self Portrait album, recorded at the Isle of Wight, and a truly lovely version on “No Direction Home”. This last version is perhaps the earliest attempt by Dylan to have an instrumental break without a lead instrument – something that he worked on over and over again in the concerts and recordings of the late 90s and early 21st century.
The girl in the song has everything – she never stumbles, she has an Egyptian ring, she’s got everything she needs…
Of course it is a child – the child who can play forever with the simplest toys, who can paint or crayon a picture and make it exactly what she wants it to be. She is the girl you idolize, the girl you bow down to, the girl whose birthday you make into the biggest occasion in the history of the world. The girl to whom you want to say, “I made you, you are everything, this is the world I give you.”
And of course you buy her toys.
How he got this from the song is explained when you read the rest his blog entry at Tony Atwood's Untold Dylan blog. Bookmarking recommended.
It's About The Catholic Church
Here's another interesting interpretation that doesn't immediately jump out at you, but it struck me as intriguing for reasons I will explain afterwards.
This song is about the Catholic church
“But you will wind up peeking through her keyhole down upon your knees” refers to the confessional
“She never stumbles” refers to the church’s infallibility
“She’s nobody’s child” refers to the Jesus being the son of God (and not of man)
“She wears an Egyptian ring” refers to the Papal ring
“Bow down to her on Sunday (weekly mass), Salute her when her birthday comes (Easter)
For Halloween buy her a trumpet (All Saints’ Day, which is the day following Halloween)
And for Christmas give her a drum (nice interplay with the song Little Drummer Boy)”
What's cool about this interpretation is that it's not entirely impossible that even though the song itself is a completely different story, the inspiration (or catalyst) for this song could have conceivably been germinated by something Dylan had read about the Church, with a capital C.
I say this because my own recently published story A Remarkable Tale from the Land of Podd was itself a veiled re-telling of a wholly unrelated workplace incident that took place two decades ago. When you read the story you have no clue whatsoever that we're talking about a corporate environment and a lesson derived from that culture. Yet the story is not about corporate culture at all. The lessons it teaches have to do with self-esteem and courage.
This is the way creativity works. Someone sees an article that triggers a memory of an experience which becomes a catalyst for something wholly other, such as Yertle the Turtle or Frozen.
This is all hypothetical, of course. It may simply have been what it appears to be. But then, that would be so un-Dylan, wouldn't it? Or would it?
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EdNote: A Remarkable Tale is now in print, available at both Createspace and Amazon, the latter possibly with a Black Friday deal.