“I Shall Be Released”

I consider Bob Dylan a mediocre singer and a journeyman guitar player, but boy, he wrote some fantastic songs. This is one of them. It was first released by The Band, and there’s also a terrific version by Joan Baez.

From “The Last Waltz,” and we’ll never again see talent like this on a stage at one time.


  1. jezgrove
    Posted August 15, 2020 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    “Bod Dylan”? (Sorry, proofreading never stops even when you’re reading for pleasure.)

  2. Posted August 15, 2020 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    Typo, now fixed, thanks.
    I hope people noticed Clapton in there. . .

    • jezgrove
      Posted August 15, 2020 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

      Neil Young and Joni, too!

    • Posted August 16, 2020 at 3:56 am | Permalink

      And Neil Diamond too, looking very snappy. I remember people being kind of nonplussed about his presence.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 16, 2020 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      And Van the Man. You ask me, the highlight of Scorsese’s film of “The Last Waltz” concert was Mr. Morrison’s “Caravan”:

  3. ronsch99
    Posted August 15, 2020 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    “I Shall Be Released” is one of my favorites. I used it to name a play I’m writing. I like Chrissie Hynde’s version on the 30th Anniversary collection.

    I certainly agree. Neil Young is a better singer and a far better guitar player, but Dylan is a great lyricist.

    • CR
      Posted August 15, 2020 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

      Quite a bit of talent on the stage there (the 30th anniversary event) as well.

  4. rickflick
    Posted August 15, 2020 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    I’ve always liked the Joan Baez version. She could really hang on a note.

    • Posted August 15, 2020 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

      Ditto – the version she did live with the Smothers Brothers on their show was great.

      I would also quibble a bit about Dylan being a journeyman guitar player; he certainly is not among the Clapton/Knopfler et al crowd, but his Travis picking, rhythm and fill playing, speed and clarity qualify him as a pretty good player.

  5. GBJames
    Posted August 15, 2020 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    The Last Waltz. Always good.

  6. Posted August 15, 2020 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

    I confess I only recently got what the imagery of this song is saying.

    Yeh, a list of Dylan’s songs that transcend the medium would be very long. Only a Pawn in Their Game is also timeless (and sharply relevant for today).

    His memoir is also great — Chronicles. He says that when he was recording with producer Daniel Lanois in the late 1980s, Lanoir was always prodding him to try writing another timeless classic. Dylan wrote something like ‘You can only write songs like that if you have command of the gods. I had it once, and once is enough.’

  7. RPG
    Posted August 16, 2020 at 2:35 am | Permalink

    Dont forget Joe Cockers version of the song:

  8. Jonathan Wallace
    Posted August 16, 2020 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    I’d agree that there are many musicians with better voices than Dylan’s but his voice is somehow perfectly suited to his songs (Though I’d accept that there are some great covers of various of his songs).

    • Chewy
      Posted August 16, 2020 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

      Yea, Dylan’s voice. A challenge, but once enlightenment is achieved, you don’t look back. He’s in that great chorus of “unlovely-voiced” singers who rise above mere purty singing. His musicianship is also fantastic. After an upbringing valuing “perfect” pitch and “flawless” tone, I discovered the blues and white rockers they profoundly influenced, and the all the rest of it.

  9. Posted August 16, 2020 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    Dylan doesn’t have a great voice, but he has learned to use it very effectively. On his latest album, “Rough and Rowdy Ways” his voice is ravaged with age, yet he delivers every line compellingly and clearly. I couldn’t stand the idea of him recording all those albums of Sinatra Covers (sorry, not a Sinatra fan), but listening to the new album makes me wonder if they didn’t help him improve his phrasing.

    Dylan’s latter day records all sound good, even if some might prefer his earlier songwriting. The early records had great songs, but his harmonica playing made me understand why dogs howl!

    It’s comforting and inspiring to see an artist age and continue to grow in some areas, even if his capacities are diminished in others.

  10. john reynolds
    Posted August 16, 2020 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    LOL! Neil Young is just ripped. I had heard that they had to wipe cocaine from his nose before he went on stage for ‘Helpless’ but there is a legend out there that he had a chink of it stuck in his nose and Scorsese had to edit it out using special effects:

    “In Band drummer Levon Helm’s autobiography, he wrote, “Neil Young had delivered a good version of ‘Helpless,’ but performed with a good-size rock of cocaine stuck in his nostril. Neil’s manager saw this and said no way is Neil gonna be in the film like this. They had to go to special effects people, who developed what they called a ‘travelling booger matte’ that sanitized Neil’s nostril and put ‘Helpless’ into the movie.” As a result, that crumb of cocaine is surely one of the most expensive ever snorted.”

  11. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 16, 2020 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    I’ve always been partial to sister Nina Simone’s cover:

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