I Shall Be Released (commentary)

I Shall Be Released  ( Bob Dylan – 1967 )


The song, influenced by gospel music, combines imagery of religious redemption, or release from sin, with release from prison.


The first person narrator speaks from a prison cell and describes life behind a wall repeating that “any day now” he will be released. He is referring to  the day when he can re-enter the larger world and reintegrate himself into society. Dylan  channels the pain of that experience with perfect simplicity, even if , there’s never any outright mention of jail throughout the song


The prison of the body – and more broadly the cruelty of the justice system –is linked to the prison of the mind and the release is above all from the cage of physical existence  and from the “lonely crowd” that surrounds us. It isn’t just from a prison that we might want to be released from because sometimes we all find ourselves in situations that we don’t want to be in, situations where we believe that we are wrongly accused, and moments in our life where we would simply like to be anywhere else. Therefore this song  can be seen as both an anti-death penalty composition and  a metaphoric attempt at looking forward to being released from Hell on Earth


A different meaning has been suggested: Dylan had a serious  motorcycle accident in 1966, when he was 25, after which he withdrew from the spotlight. not only to recuperate, but to spend time reflecting about life and mortality.





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