In The Summertime

Album: Shot Of Love (1981)

Songfacts®:

  • The Christian-conversion allusions that fill "In The Summertime" wouldn't be so obvious if it wasn't for the fact that Shot of Love was the third in Dylan's "Christian trilogy" of albums (following Slow Train coming in 1979 and Saved in 1980). Looking at the song through the lens of the album and that period of Dylan's life, the subtext becomes obvious.

    The song is about Dylan's Christian conversion experience. It starts with the first lines:

    I was in your presence for an hour or so
    Or was it a day?


    The figure Dylan is speaking to is Jesus Christ; he's recalling the moment he felt Christ's transformative presence.

    We can't be sure whether the conversion experience was something that zapped Dylan all at once or if he is condensing time for poetic effect because, while he's spoken openly of his conversion, he's never gone into specifics.

    The rest of the song has Dylan trying to make sense of the experience. He no longer feels Christ's presence burning in his life, but the memory of the encounter has transformed him forever (or at least it seemed like it would last forever at the time he was singing it).

    And I'm still carrying the gift you gave
    It's a part of me now, it's been cherished and saved
    It'll go with me unto the grave
    And into eternity
  • That last verse is interesting when contrasted against the last verse of "Every Grain of Sand," which is the final song on Shot of Love, appearing two songs after "In the Summertime."

    "Every Grain of Sand" ends:

    I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
    Sometimes I turn, there's someone there, other times it's only me


    It's essentially the same notion but portrayed in two different lights. Dylan knows only gratitude and continued faith even in the absence of Christ in "In The Summertime." In contrast, in "Every Grain Of Sand," the absence of Christ and/or God is haunting and uncertain. It leaves us wondering if that divine presence was ever actually real at all. There is no such doubt in "In The Summertime."

    Whether this contrast ever occurred to Dylan is unknown. Most likely he wrote each song in different moods and with different intents, the same way our love for a person can seem nothing but bright one day and then nothing but jealousy and trepidation the next.
  • In 2009, Dylan gave an interview to MTV producer and rock journalist Bill Flanagan. Some portions were published on Dylan's website while others were posted on Huffpost.

    In the Huffpost section, he said that with "In The Summetime" he'd tried to capture the spirit of the parlor tunes he used to hear coming out of doorways and windows while walking through his hometown of Hibbing, Minnesota.
  • Jim Keltner played drums on this one. Keltner is one of the most respected session drummers in the world, having played with Leon Russell, Joe Cocker, Carly Simon, Barbra Streisand, and many others. He played on solo albums by Beatles John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr.

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