Certain Songs #98: Bob Dylan – “Isis”

Album: Desire.

Year: 1976.

Written and recorded in the middle of the Rolling Thunder Revue, Desire has always struck me as one of Bob Dylan’s most singular albums. Mostly co-written with Jacques Levy, it’s filled mostly with protest songs, travelogues and love songs, and musically, it’s dominated by Scarlet Riveria’s violin. I’m indifferent to about half of it, but “Isis” – half travelogue and half love song – is fucking awesome.

Played in sped-up ¾ time, and sparse musically: mostly just Dylan on a repetitive piano, bass, drums, and that violin. ¬†Which is perfect, because “Isis” is all about the witty parable he’s spinning:

I married Isis on the fifth day of May
But I could not hold on to her very long
So I cut off my hair and I rode straight away
For the wild unknown country where I could not go wrong.

While he’s off seeking his fortune with a dude he runs into in a laundromat, Isis is always on his mind, and in the middle of it is one of my all-time favorite Dylan one-liners:

When he died I was hoping that it wasn’t contagious

Unlike so many of the stories he was telling on Blood on the Tracks, “Isis” is fundamentally an optimistic song about love, marriage and reconciliation.¬†

Official video for “Isis”

My Certain Songs Spotify Playlist:

Every “Certain Song” Ever

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