A Dylan cover a Day: She Belongs to Me

By Tony Attwood

“She belongs to me” is a simple 12 bar blues with a complex message about control and independence and… well I am not sure.  Is the subject of  the song the child of a divorced couple or a younger woman who is (rather unpleasantly) the object of desire of a much older man?  One is never sure.   Although Jochen as ever got to the heart of the matter if you want to explore it further.

And do any of the vast number of covers actually get anywhere near either to holding the paradox or resolving it?  I’m not sure – at least until the final version I selected (see below), although of course such uncertainty comes in part because we all now suffer from knowing the song so well, it gets ever harder to unravel what Dylan actually had in mind.  Thus it is impossible to unravel how the song ought to be treated.

It is a problem made ever greater by the huge number of covers that exist – far more than I can work my way through to give a balanced review.  So here is just a selection, although it does lead to a final conclusion.

A vision of the child approach comes from Hugo Montenegro – the string based instrumental break gives me pictures of a child making up a dance to the song and all the adults applauding and telling her she is going to be ballet dancer “when she grows up”.

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band do give us an interesting violin-based break or two but I just get the feeling that having gone that far they could have gone further – just to see where it all leads.

Robert Rex Waller Jnr of the wonderfully named I See Hawks in LA, seems to me to start out on the right tracks in terms of giving us some new insights, but as the song progresses it feels to me as if the ideas have been suffused under the song – which for a song that has been recorded so many times probably isn’t the best approach.  The last verse now really feels that he is singing to an adult who has everything, exactly as the song says. There is nothing else left to give, except for the children’s toys as a symbol of her continuing vitality.

And what I do particularly like is the move toward additional chaos implied in the final instrumental verse.

Hamster Axis of the One-Click Panther featuring Roland Van Campenhout takes the thought of this being an adult not a child: the man is so utterly overwhelmed by the woman he has no idea what to do: she walks with her feet never touching the ground, while he scrambles along in the gutter.   Now that of course is just my response and interpretation of their performance, and they may have had nothing like this type of thought in mind.  It’s just where I got to.

When we looked at this song in our very first series on covers of Dylan songs the version by Jerry, Phil and Bob, was suggested by Edward Thomas.  And I must say this is a relief, with performers who manage to balance their own input with Dylan’s original.  Now I don’t care if she really is a child or no, nor if the vision comes from a lover or a parent.   It is just a lovely interpretation of a long-loved song.

Margot Cotten continues the gentle theme, and I must say I do prefer these versions.  The individuality here comes from the occasional rhythmic changes – changes so slight they can easily missed.  Now the song doesn’t have to be about a person at all, but is somehow just about a time, a feeling, a place…   I am not quite sure how I got to that feeling but with this version, it really is at the heart of what I feel.  Suddenly despite all the cover versions I have listened to before starting to write this little commentary, I want to play it again.

I finish with the version Jochen picked – and it really does bring me back to earth with its straightforward gentleness.   There are some interesting musical touches in the simplicity as well, such as the bass staying on the same note through the first line rather than changing as the chord changes.  A tiny point, but it seems to help.

In a way it is very dated with the choral, backing but that’s hardly their fault; arrangements are always of the age in which they were written.  I’m rather pleased I left this til last (by chance not design).   I leave the song and move on to the rest of my day, feeling rested and happy, not concerned by its implications at all.

The Dylan Cover a Day series

  1. The song with numbers in the title.
  2. Ain’t Talkin
  3. All I really want to do
  4.  Angelina
  5.  Apple Suckling and Are you Ready.
  6. As I went out one morning
  7.  Ballad for a Friend
  8. Ballad in Plain D
  9. Ballad of a thin man
  10.  Frankie Lee and Judas Priest
  11. The ballad of Hollis Brown
  12. Beyond here lies nothing
  13. Blind Willie McTell
  14.  Black Crow Blues (more fun than you might recall)
  15. An unexpected cover of “Black Diamond Bay”
  16. Blowin in the wind as never before
  17. Bob Dylan’s Dream
  18. BoB Dylan’s 115th Dream revisited
  19. Boots of Spanish leather
  20. Born in Time
  21. Buckets of Rain
  22. Can you please crawl out your window
  23. Can’t wait
  24. Changing of the Guard
  25. Chimes of Freedom
  26. Country Pie
  27.  Crash on the Levee
  28. Dark Eyes
  29. Dear Landlord
  30. Desolation Row as never ever before (twice)
  31. Dignity.
  32. Dirge
  33. Don’t fall apart on me tonight.
  34. Don’t think twice
  35.  Down along the cove
  36. Drifter’s Escape
  37. Duquesne Whistle
  38. Farewell Angelina
  39. Foot of Pride and Forever Young
  40. Fourth Time Around
  41. From a Buick 6
  42. Gates of Eden
  43. Gotta Serve Somebody
  44. Hard Rain’s a-gonna Fall.
  45. Heart of Mine
  46. High Water
  47. Highway 61
  48. Hurricane
  49. I am a lonesome hobo
  50. I believe in you
  51. I contain multitudes
  52. I don’t believe you.
  53. I love you too much
  54. I pity the poor immigrant. 
  55. I shall be released
  56. I threw it all away
  57. I want you
  58. I was young when I left home
  59. I’ll remember you
  60. Idiot Wind and  More idiot wind
  61. If not for you, and a rant against prosody
  62. If you Gotta Go, please go and do something different
  63. If you see her say hello
  64. Dylan cover a day: I’ll be your baby tonight
  65. I’m not there.
  66. In the Summertime, Is your love and an amazing Isis
  67. It ain’t me babe
  68. It takes a lot to laugh
  69. It’s all over now Baby Blue
  70. It’s all right ma
  71. Just Like a Woman
  72. Knocking on Heaven’s Door
  73. Lay down your weary tune
  74. Lay Lady Lay
  75. Lenny Bruce
  76. That brand new leopard skin pill box hat
  77. Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts
  78. License to kill
  79. Like a Rolling Stone
  80. Love is just a four letter word
  81. Love Sick
  82. Maggies Farm!
  83. Make you feel my love; a performance that made me cry.
  84. Mama you’ve been on my mind
  85. Man in a long black coat.
  86. Masters of War
  87. Meet me in the morning
  88. Million Miles. Listen, and marvel.
  89. Mississippi. Listen, and marvel (again)
  90. Most likely you go your way
  91. Most of the time and a rhythmic thing
  92. Motorpsycho Nitemare
  93. Mozambique
  94. Mr Tambourine Man
  95. My back pages, with a real treat at the end
  96. New Morning
  97. New Pony. Listen where and when appropriate
  98. Nobody Cept You
  99. North Country Blues
  100. No time to think
  101. Obviously Five Believers
  102. Oh Sister
  103. On the road again
  104. One more cup of coffee
  105. (Sooner or later) one of us must know
  106. One too many mornings
  107. Only a hobo
  108. Only a pawn in their game
  109. Outlaw Blues – prepare to be amazed
  110. Oxford Town
  111. Peggy Day and Pledging my time
  112. Please Mrs Henry
  113. Political world
  114. Positively 4th Street
  115. Precious Angel
  116. Property of Jesus
  117. Queen Jane Approximately
  118. Quinn the Eskimo as it should be performed.
  119. Quit your lowdown ways
  120. Rainy Day Women as never before
  121. Restless Farewell. Exquisite arrangements, unbelievable power
  122. Ring them bells in many different ways
  123. Romance in Durango, covered and re-written
  124. Sad Eyed Lady of Lowlands, like you won’t believe
  125. Sara
  126. Senor
  127. A series of Dreams; no one gets it (except Dylan)
  128. Seven Days
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