Man In The Long Black Coat

Songfacts®:

  • "Man In The Long Black Coat" is a mysterious song, even for Dylan. He intended it to be so. In his autobiography Chronicles, Dylan compares the song with "I Walk the Line" by Johnny Cash, which Dylan describes as "a song I'd always considered to be up there at the top, one of the most mysterious and revolutionary of all time."

    The song details an unnamed man in a long black coat who enters a village and seems to sort of float around, eventually catching the attention of a woman who later leaves with him. The man seems supernatural or even paranormal, but nothing's ever specified. There are also religious overtones in the song, but nothing specific as far as that goes. The story is emotionally punctuated with one cryptic verse:

    There are no mistakes in life some people say
    It's true sometimes you can see it that way
    But people don't live or die people just float
    She went with the man in the long black coat


    Of the song, Dylan explained, "The lyrics try to tell you about someone whose body doesn't belong to him... someone who loved life, but cannot live, and it rankles his should that others should be able to live."
  • Dylan recorded the song on March 29, 1989 at The Studio in New Orleans. He composed the song entirely in the studio, which isn't normal for Dylan.
  • The cricket sounds in the song came from the sound database of producer Brian Eno, who'd initially recorded them for the Neville Brothers album Yellow Moon, released earlier in 1989.

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