Emotionally yours: the meaning behind the music and the lyrics

By Tony Attwood

“It’s like my whole life never happened.”

By 1985 Dylan was really into a new world of writing, exploring types of music that were far, far away from the gospel / religious songs that had dominated his writing for several years around the turn of the decade.

He was of course still exploring different formats, but the notion of the drifter who had been sung of so often in the past, now being attached to a lady, was really something that he seemed to find interesting.

“Emotionally Yours” was not a song that got too many outings on stage – it was played 19 times, and most of these were soon after its on-stage launch in February 1986, but it fitted very much with evolving thoughts about relationships, travelling and looking back, songs such as those written in the earlier part of the year…

In Trust Yourself, Dylan had firmly expressed his new vision.  He was telling us not to be a slave to what somebody else believes, but to be true to our own emotions.

Now he says the same – he is not God’s messenger or God’s servant, but he is giving all his love and feeling to a woman.  And he most certainly is not living for Jesus…

I could be dreaming but I keep believing you’re the one I’m livin’ for
And I will always be emotionally yours

And does he remember what he was going through with all the religious music of five years before?  Well, maybe not…

It’s like my whole life never happened
When I see you, it’s as if I never had a thought
I know this dream, it might be crazy
But it’s the only one I’ve got

So he’s met her and she’s turned his head, his heart and his soul.  He knows that he can change in so many ways as he goes on his never ending tour, but…

I could be unravelling wherever I’m travelling, even to foreign shores
But I will always be emotionally yours

Dylan was now working in a format with which he felt comfortable.  The three verses and the middle 8.   And there’s nothing wrong with having a format for an album – after all JWH contains a bountiful collection of songs all written in exactly the same format – in that case the three verses without the middle 8.

Musically however Dylan goes a little further than he has of late, with his old friend the descending bass set below the melody.   For the opening line it runs

C, (b), Am, F, C, (b), F

where the (b) is just a passing note each time.

We also get a nice move into the F major 9 chord for the opening of the middle 8, and a modulation, as he jumps through E, Am, D7, G11 in the last two lines of that section.

This is not dramatically radical stuff, but it is Dylan gently exploring the musical possibilities once again, now he has got his subject matter sorted.

I am not trying to say here that Dylan is breaking new ground.  Rather he is firmly re-establishing himself on old ground.  He tried the new ground in 1984 as part of his breakaway from the Christian songs.  Now he is saying, “some of these simply love ballads are ok to sing – and look I can still find a little bit extra to throw in here and there.”

And I think this is where I disagree mostly with other critics of Dylan’s work who tend to dismiss these songs as being below par.   Even the greatest of all artists needs to do some working out of ideas and possibilities in order to find which road to take in the future, and that is what Dylan is doing here.

I agree with others that it is not a great song, but it is a pleasant piece of music that can be enjoyed in its own right.  But more than that it is part of an on-going journey.  A journey that had started again the previous year with all sorts of strange explorations, and now was settling down into a familiar territory (the man moving on) but with some genuine looking back to those he had met along the way.








  1. Emotionally yours feels like a wedding march to, or a bride walking down the aisle.

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