I Shall Be Released

Album: Music From Big Pink (1968)
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Songfacts®:

  • Bob Dylan wrote this in 1967 but it was not until 1971 on his Greatest Hits Vol. II album that his version was officially released. The Band, who backed up Dylan on his first electric tour, recorded it for Music From Big Pink, which was their first album. Their version is the most well-known.
  • This song could be either an anti-death penalty composition or a metaphoric attempt by Dylan at looking forward to being released from Hell on Earth - possibly awaiting the "release" from the hell of being an innocent man wrongly imprisoned. There is a very solemn, religious hymnal quality to the song that is represented by the lyrics, "My light come shining from the west unto the east," which is an apocalyptic reference.
  • In Robert Shelton's biography No Direction Home, he gives the song a different meaning. After Dylan's motorcycle accident in 1966, when he was 25, he retreated from the spotlight. This was after he had suffered great disappointment at the reception his European and American tour dates brought. He'd been booed offstage, called a traitor, and attendance dropped at some of his concert dates. Dylan was seriously injured in the accident, and Shelton states that Dylan withdrew not only to recuperate, but to spend the time in self reflection, and with his family. He goes further, saying that the song represents Dylan's search for personal salvation. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Logan and Lucky - the Songfacts Forums for above 2
  • This was featured in the 1987 Emmy-winning documentary Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Mike - Little Rock, AR
  • Other artists to record this song include Bette Midler, Nina Simone, and Joan Baez, who performed the song at Woodstock while pregnant with her son, Gabriel. The Band also performed it during their set at the festival.

Comments: 16

  • Sid Clark from Elkins WvThink this was wrote during a bad amphetamine habit withdrawal, which is what really happened, not that motorcycle accident story. This was a real low point in his career and he was filled with helplessness and resentment. Give Dylan credit for turning his self pity and self absorption into a pseudo-gospel song. The west-east thing showed his faith in a re-birth, a "new morning".
  • Anonymousmy faourite verson of his is by the jamaican group THE HEPTONES , ewcorded circa 1969 in he reggae genre
  • Mae On Music from MaeonmusicI prefer not to define what the release is when it comes to this song because so many people can relate to it. I enjoy projecting my struggles onto the song, making listening to it very comforting (my personal favorite version is the Nina Simone version, the swelling of her voice in the chorus is just IT for me)
  • Ronald from ScrantonThis is not a song written by the Band. It's a Bob Dylan song. The Band plays on the album this is from.
  • Svante from Karlstad, SwedenI shall be released was also recorded by the Tremeloes in late 1968 but didn't make the England top twenty then. Peaked at #22.
  • Marty from Cleveland, OhPeter, Paul and Mary did an excellent version of this song in 1968 on their album entitled "Late Again."
  • Brenda from Panama City, FlI chose this as one of several songs to memorialize my departed brother. The beauty of Rich's voice evokes such emotion that I always want to be able to tap into when I think of who went before me.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn April 20th 1969, "I Shall Be Released" by the Box Tops entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #90; eventually it peaked at #67 and spent 5 weeks on the Top 100...
    Between 1967 and 1970 the Memphis-area quintet had ten Top 100 hits; their two biggest hits were "The Letter" (#1 for 4 weeks in 1967) and "Cry Like A Baby" (#2 for 2 weeks in 1968).
  • Marco from Belo Horizonte, BrazilJoe Cocker covered it too in his "With a little help from my friends" album. Great version.
  • Malisa from Philadelphia, PaI buried my father to this song. His favorite singer was Bob Dylan. We couldn't get the funeral home's boom box to play the Dylan song that my sister had chosen for him, "See that my grave is kept clean". It was a cold fall day and the mourners were getting impatient. I picked this song instead, never knowing that it was an original Dylan song. It was from a box set that Dad and I shared and I'd heard it a few times, but had never analyzed it. After visiting this site and reading this, I know that I made the right choice. I take it as the possible suggestion for Dylan's interpretation--being released from Hell on Earth.
  • Charles Hollingswort from Leeds, AlThe Box Tops also covered this song.
  • Christy from Morristown, TnThe first time I heard this song, it sent chills up and down my spine and moved me to tears. To me, this song is a constant reminder that I will one day go to heaven to be with God. Thanks to the late and great Richard Manuel, The Band's version is superior to Dylan's!
  • Joshua from La Crosse, WiThis song also served as the grand finale of The Band's famous "Last Waltz" concert (not counting the encore, of course). All the various guest musicians who had appeared throughout the show returned to the stage to sing on this.
  • Ken from Naivasha, KenyaThe Heptones have also done a Reggae Version of this song.
  • Dan from Tinley Park, Ili think jerry garcia band did too
  • Johnny from Los Angeles, CaApparently the Police also covered this song.
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