Need A Woman

Album: The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961-1991 (1991)
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Songfacts®:

  • Bob Dylan needs a woman - one who takes him as he is and doesn't give a damn. The chorus of "Need A Woman" really makes it seem that simple, but as with most of Dylan's music, there's plenty of mystery and strangeness thrown in to spark the imagination.

    Well, if you believe in something long enough you just naturally
    come to think it's true
    There ain't no wall you can't cross over, ain't no fire you can't walk through
    Well, believing is all right, just don't let the wrong people know what it's all about
    They might put the evil eye on you, use their hidden powers to try to turn you out


    This verse more than any other stands out as if it doesn't belong in the song. There doesn't seem to be anything about love in it, at least not romantic love.

    The song was recorded on April 1 and 27 for Shot Of Love, which was part of a trilogy of overtly Christian albums that Dylan did (the others being Slow Train Coming of 1979 and Saved of 1980). The errant verse about belief and walking through fire fits more neatly into those spiritual songs than it does in this love song, which leaves us wondering if the "woman" is a metaphor for something else. We don't know the answer for that and likely never will.
  • According to Bob Dylan: All The Songs, Dylan changed the lyrics throughout the various recordings, seemingly dissatisfied with each one. That's probably the reason the song was dropped off Shot Of Love.
  • They might put the evil eye on you, use their hidden powers to try to turn you out

    This line probably isn't humorous or symbolic. From very early in his career all the way up to (and past) his memoir, Chronicles, Dylan has made statements about his belief in things like curses, black magic, the occult, and literal spiritual wars here on Earth. Dylan's spiritual ideas have rarely been metaphorical or "psychological."
  • Dylan recorded one take on April 1, 1981, and another four takes on April 27. On May 4 they mixed the takes for the final version later released on The Bootleg Series.
  • Ry Cooder recorded "Need A Woman" in 1982 for his album The Slide Area. Cooder changed the lyrics quite a bit because he wanted it to be more linear and rational.

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