Bob Dylan’s “She Belongs To Me”: the reinterpretation of Greek mythology

By Larry Fyffe

She Belongs To Me” is a 12 bar blues song, it’s lyrics open to different levels of interpretation.

Here’s one:

According to Greek mythology, Orpheus is such a great musician that when he plays the lyre everybody and everything is enchanted. His beautiful wife Eurydice dies, and descends to the dark Underworld.

Orpheus travels to the Underworld, and beguiles Hades with his music. Hades allows Orpheus to lead Eurydice out through the cave leading to the Underworld on condition that he does not look back until they have both reached the light. He looks back a moment too soon, and Eurydice falls back to the Underworld, her beauty lost to the world of the living forever.

Singer/songwriter and musician Bob Dylan revises the story – the female character Eurydice becomes the artist.

She’s transformed into Orpheus:

She’s got everything she needs, she’s an artist
She don’t look back
She can take the dark out of the night-time
And paint the daytime black

Possessing the talent of an artist, she can turn a Hell into a Heaven; a Heaven into a Hell:

You will start out standing
Proud to steal her anything she sees
But you will wind up peeking through her keyhole
Down upon your knees

She’s mature enough not to look back on the situation. It could spoil everything – she might lose what she’s got:

She never stumbles, she’s got no place to fall
She’s nobody’s child, the law can’t touch her at all

The title of the song is ironic. She has everything she needs. Because of the magic of her beauty, it is he who belongs to her:

She wears an Egyptian ring that sparkles before she speaks
She’s a hypnotist collector, you are a walking antique

So ‘Eurydice’ does not turn around. She’s got a mobile Grecian Urn that stays forever young. It’s best not to break it:

For ever warm and still to be enjoyed
For ever panting, and forever young
(John Keats: Ode On A Grecian Urn)

She’s an artist who has created a beautiful thing – an angel from Heaven that obeys commands to bring her beautiful things:

Bow down to her on Sunday
Salute her when her birthday comes
For Halloween give her a trumpet
And for Christmas buy her a drum

Best not to let him jump her railway gate -things could get ugly.

Apparently, Joan Baez makes the mistake of looking back to see if Bob Dylan is still following her folk crowd. And all Hell does break loose:

I bought you some cufflinks
You brought me something
We both know what memories can bring
They bring diamonds and rust
(Joan Baez: Diamonds And Rust)

You might also enjoy Dylan’s “She Belong to Me”: never has a 12 bar blues sounded more beautiful.”

And what is known as the definitive live performance

What else is on the site?

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  1. It was good and interesting but then again Joan Baez does not exist because she does not transcend. When I first heard here I took my car to the shop, had my brake pads and rotors changed, and it was just Bob again. Much better.

  2. Grimm Fairy Tales:

    Prithee, look back, prithee, look back
    no blood on the tracks

  3. You could enter this plausible explanation of She Belongs To Me on the Wikipedia website about Orpheus.

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