What does I Shall Be Released mean?

Bob Dylan: I Shall Be Released Meaning

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Album cover for I Shall Be Released album cover

I Shall Be Released Lyrics

They say ev'rything can be replaced,
Yet ev'ry distance is not near.
So I remember ev'ry face
Of ev'ry man who put me here.
I see my light come shining
From the west unto the east.
Any day now, any day now,
I shall be released.

They say ev'ry...


    #1 top rated interpretation:
    click a star to vote
    Feb 14th 2012 !⃝

    I Shall Be Released by Bob Dylan

    They say everything can be replaced
    They say every distance is not near
    So I remember every face
    Of every man who put me here

    "Everything can be replaced" isn't completely true and Bob knows it. He has lost a lot in his life, but it's mostly just stuff meaning material and stuff doesn't matter it is people who matter. When a person leaves to go on a journey by himself for a long time, he worries about his relationships. How will they survive? Who will be there when he returns? Will his friends and family all forget about him? Bob knows that everything changes in life. He is not saying that every person he loves can be substituted, swapped or that he has some clone at the ready to stand "in the place of". He would not say that about a daughter or a son or a mother or Sara. No one ever "replaces" someone that you truly love and who means a lot to you. A hole would be left in your heart that would slowly mend with time. What Bob is saying by "everything can be replaced" is that everything can be placed DIFFERENTLY.. positioned in an alternate vision.. more like re - placed. As in placed AGAIN, only this time better. This sentence is a big deal because he is giving himself a pep talk. He is saying, "Life will be different for sure, but it will go on and it will be great because I will make it so." Even if he fought this it is BOUND to happen. It will happen in every man's life to some extent or another. Bob's loved ones who stand long and who will be there for him when he returns would obviously have experienced some shifting and rejiggering in their own lives. What he is saying is that he will always make room in his heart for the people he loves. If any of his loved ones leave his life for a while, some parts of them travel along with Bob on his journey. These people collect in his heart. He hears their voices, their thoughts, their humour, their laughter... they live within him because he loves them. They emerge in the lyrics of his songs. The people who leave him & who never want to see him again are the ones who can be "replaced", most of all because he is trying to protect himself from the pain he feels. If he said or did something to make anyone and/or everyone leave his life, unless he was really mean & thoughtless, it is most likely their problem. Bob loves Dr. Seuss who said, "Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.” This means so many things... It means the people who love Bob will love him for being himself. It means, the ones who matter to him do not behave perfectly all of the time either, so they forgive him for his imperfections. It also means the ones who think they behave perfectly all of the time and judge others harshly don't matter. (That's when he brings in The Replacements.) It's no fun to be judged when all he is, is a human "man". He can only try his best. He needs people in his life who will love him when he misbehaves and love him BECAUSE he misbehaves, as it is the real Bob. Every distance is far away means we have to work hard to get to our desired destination. Sometimes we have to go through a massive shitstorm to get to where we want to be. Bob was only 26 years old when he wrote this song. I think he was a bit more sophisticated at that age than many of the rest of us were. Not me but you. He knows who his friends are and he knows who put him there which means they either put him on a pedestal or put him down or BOTH but none of that ever fazes him because he doesn't get affected by the words other people use to judge him. He doesn't judge the judgers. He often gives them a hard time, yes. But he let's people say what they want as he adores the Freedom of Speech rule in our country. Bob knows what his friends and enemies faces looks like and he thanks them both for putting him in his position of isolation because, as we have established, it is the strong man who doesn't judge his fellows... the weakling is a judger. He knows who he is and he knows how he arrived to the place WHERE HE'S AT and he's got your number. He might be alone but he is tough.

    I see my light come shining
    From the west down to the east
    Any day now, any day now
    I shall be released

    When Bob says that he "sees his light come shining", his light is his hope which means he has faith that he will be rescued from his loneliness & trauma eventually. At that point in time, his mood or "frame" of mind will shift & be repositioned from sunset to sunrise, darkness to light, sadness to hope. His dour thoughts will be freed from bondage. ;) His pain will be re-leased & re-placed as it will never fully go away.. It will simply get a new and different contract in his heart. IE= He will always remember the incredibly trying times he has experienced. But, emotions can be shifted and when this happens, BOB himself will actually be "released" from the stronghold his brutal ordeal has around his head. If you are a person going through a difficult time, these words are very comforting. Bob is saying that you will not feel this way for the rest of eternity. You won't be alone forever. You will be saved. You will be set free from your despair & confinement and you SIMPLY WILL NOT sit in a position of restraint til kingdom come. Release is in sight. Any day now. It should be soon, for sure.

    They say every man needs protection
    They say every man must fall
    Yet I swear I see my reflection
    Somewhere so high above this wall

    "Every man needs protection" is not that every man needs condoms in prison but that he needs to strengthen his heart because it aches so. He needs a protective sheath on his soul. A wall is a barrier which exists between a person and the other side & often the other side is where that person wants to be. Bob wants to be on the outside of his problems. He is sick and tired of festering in his predicament. BUT, he knows that he needed to fall because he wouldn't be the strong man he is today if he hadn't gone through so much serious shit in his life. It is like that quote by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, "God, I keep remembering to thank you for the roses, but I keep forgetting to thank you for the thorns." He knows his reflection is above the wall meaning he is meant to transcend the ordeal he is experiencing and he just needs to have faith in his reflection. His reflection throws back light onto Bob and gives him strength and hope. It also means he has faith that he will soon be in a different position (re-placed), high above this wall, and will have the ability to reflect upon his terrible time. He will be able to process his turmoil and put it into perspective.

    I see my light come shining
    From the west down to the east
    Any day now, any day now
    I shall be released

    Now yonder stands a man in this lonely crowd
    A man who swears he's not to blame
    All day long I hear him shouting sooo loud
    Just crying out that he was framed

    Here he is talking about himself and the many thousands of people who have gone through devastating periods in their lives and have felt alone among the crowd. Often a person doesn't understand how he deserved to be confined in a place of extreme loneliness or shittiness but there he sits. He finds himself in the festering poop pile of nothingness. Literally. His soul gains strength from within the blackness. Still, he doesn't "enjoy" feeling desperate and inconsolable and so he shouts sooo loud. He cries, "I was framed!" Bob wants people to know that he isn't as bad as they think he is. He wants to yell it out so that people realize that he was PUT or PLACED in that "frame" of mind. He didn't do it to himself. He was framed by the crowd. They wanted him to go through trauma. He WANTS to be re-placed.

    I see my light come shining
    From the west down to the east
    Any day now, any day now
    I shall be released

    From the Gospel of Yahoo... This song means, "Not death, but emancipation from the burdens of living". I also read somewhere that David Crosby wrote the words to the song on a Texas prison cell wall when he was doing some time on a few drug charges. He was wearing a cape. He said that when he wrote it down it really entered his heart and helped him through his experience. I think the song particularly touches people who are feeling alone in life. It is a gorgeous reminder to those people to hold on to hope. Bob is telling them that they will be released from the bondage of their pain and sorrow.

  2. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Oct 8th !⃝

    I haven't an interpretation to share at the moment but I Shall be Released is my song. I believe that,and I don't share because I don't trust and need to go into the dark first from the west into the east. Not near, a the rapist agreed about the distance, echoing surely the work is going to be long.

  3. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Oct 3rd 2022 !⃝

    Just a try. Just an interpretation. We all see, we all interpret what we so choose, what we so want.
    Real sight, real seeing is being “still”. As difficult as it is in being still, the opportunity is always there. “Every day ..” passes. Every way appears. Yet, as thought matures and finally listens we have our opportunity to be “released” from the bondage of thought. Thus, “Oh Gentle Presence” (always there at all times)is revealed as the door finally (seemingly) opens.
    No more “knockin”!

  4. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Apr 26th 2022 !⃝

    This song really tells where Mr. Dylan was at in his life at present and in his future. Mr Dylan weaves the literal and metaphoric in the literary sense that he does so effortlessly. They say everything can be replaced epitomizes the masses thought process that seems to affect every generation, whether it is the idols and heroes of the day or the material things that that are replaceable and exhaustible, but Mr. Dylan reminds the listener that some things are too far away to be affected by anyone or anything in the physical or spiritual sense...using distance as the reference. Mr Dylan's reference to remembering every face that out him here seems to highlight that people are not replaceable and alludes to the soul above the material. I see my light come shining from the West down to the west side yearning to the East...the God side...Jesus went from the East to the East....seems to allude to the human side theWest....A Man goes from from the West to the East. They say every man needs protection....Spiritual or physical to survive the world...they must fall from their arrogance and original sin to find the true Spiritual soul and truth...but a man's ego reflected back wants to put himself higher on the plane of the masses. Mr Dylan states that next to him in this lonely crowd..(the physical world) a man swears he is guiltless and not to blame for any strife or promotion of making this world a worse place...unable to see their own ego and hypocrisy they defend their position to the end..seems to remind us all that without the light and seeking the truth we will be just like that man..unable to see the light and defending the darkness!

  5. anonymous
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    Dec 3rd 2021 !⃝

    My Interpretation is mind and prob not right but then again alot of song writers write songs for people so they can all have their own interpretation. I feel like it's a man who had been drafted into the unpopular Vietnam War which was raging at the time. He remembers the face of every man who put him there. He wants to be released from the military and more than that the hell of war He has seen that is torturing his mind. The part about the man shouting out he was framed is the government senators congressmen who voted for the Vietnam War and LBJ for widening the war . The same senators and congressmen who never lost a single son or daughter in Vietnam not one.LBJ is saying I was framed I didn't start this war I inherited it from Kennedy.i sing it as an anthem for my dad and all the men who went to Vietnam who the ones that came back and the ones that didnt.

  6. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Apr 1st 2020 !⃝

    I'm not sure about that I think that's your interpretation not the author's I imagined he was a prisoner in a cowboy spaghetti type Western,his outlaw band of murderers set about to 'release' their leader that ruthless leader is a bald headed head hunter who sells guns to the Apache's perhaps a vehicle for telly savalas no doubt

  7. anonymous
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    May 8th 2019 !⃝

    Release from Pain and Suffering of the egoic mind in this Life and Embracing the Awakening into the Light!!

  8. anonymous
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    Oct 23rd 2016 !⃝

    A song about ''The Socratized Phyilasophical Soul''that yearns for freedom to one side now, that has been very debatable throughout the years in ''the west'', now to go back to ''the east'' where he wants to be finally free for some kind of redemption of freedom that would come in ''Any day now, any day now, I shall be released''.

  9. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Oct 23rd 2016 !⃝

    A song about '' The Socratized Phylosaphical Soul'' that yearns for freedom to one side now, where throughout the years in ''the west'' he has been very debatable and now wants to go back to ''the east'' where he wants to be finally free for some kind of redemption of freedom that would come in ''Any day now, any day now, I shall be released''

  10. m320753
    click a star to vote
    Aug 6th 2013 !⃝

    bob said at a concert in Danbury,Ct. around 1990, that " this song is from my prison years" meaning he was locked into folk music as his expanding into electric rock was being hindered by the folk music people. they liked what he sang with his acoustic guitar and so were opposed to his changing his style. this was evident at Newport, in England and in his home city of New York at Forest Hills.eventually his lyrics and sound made him more popular than ever. Springsteen said at bob's induction into the rock and roll hall of fame " like a rolling stone made every song written after it possible" i shall be released was his knowledge about the future he would soon face. i never heard him talk so much at a concert as he did at West Fest on a sunny Saturday afternoon. then some girl ran onto the stage to kiss him and he was gone in a second

  11. anonymous
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    Aug 3rd 2013 !⃝

    this song a warning.And those of who this warning is meant for can hear it plain as day. the warning is from the masters of the american military industrial complex and is meant for those who would have the means to interfear with their plans .one of the more sinister versions of this song is sung live on tv in 1969 by mama cass,joni mitchell and mary travers before a back drop of artistic red and white panels whitch are in fact pictures of the irradiated skin of atomic blast victims. bob knows this songs purpose and he knows well that he is a tool of the empire.

  12. anonymous
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    Dec 17th 2011 !⃝

    Bob is talking about when u die, the transition from earth to heaven,i see my light come shining....

  13. anonymous
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    Oct 10th 2011 !⃝

    Bob is saying that things arn't quite as they seem, that theres more to life, a bigger picture. People see one thing but he sees things differently.Hes waiting for Jesus to return and set him free : "Any day now I shall be released". But in the mean time he shines light as far as he can affecting as many people as he can, "I see my light come shining from the west down to the east".

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