Song of the Day #615: ‘Lay Lady Lay’ – Bob Dylan

In 1969, following the stripped-down acoustic approach of John Wesley Harding, Bob Dylan threw his fans for another loop with the straight-up country album Nashville Skyline. But the musical genre was only half of the surprise… the real bombshell was Dylan’s velvety voice, a laid-back croon that was a far cry from his oft-imitated trademark whine.

I remember being told as a kid (thought I don’t remember by whom) that Dylan had gotten into a motorcycle accident and emerged with this new singing voice. That was close to the truth, chronologically, but it gave me the creepy impression that the accident itself had physically altered his vocal chords.

The truth is this voice was something Dylan had always had in his repertoire; he just didn’t see a use for it until Nashville Skyline came along.

‘Lay Lady Lay’ was the biggest hit from this album and remains one of Dylan’s biggest hits, period. It’s a sweet seduction that sticks to the simple structure — both lyrically and musically — of every song on the album.

Over at SongMeanings.net, fans have surmised that this song is about Edie Sedgwick, a prostitute, Dylan’s wife and a dog, among other things. Maybe it’s not so simple after all.

Lay, lady, lay, lay across my big brass bed
Lay, lady, lay, lay across my big brass bed
Whatever colors you have in your mind
I’ll show them to you and you’ll see them shine

Lay, lady, lay, lay across my big brass bed
Stay, lady, stay, stay with your man awhile
Until the break of day, let me see you make him smile
His clothes are dirty but his hands are clean
And you’re the best thing that he’s ever seen

Stay, lady, stay, stay with your man awhile
Why wait any longer for the world to begin
You can have your cake and eat it too
Why wait any longer for the one you love
When he’s standing in front of you

Lay, lady, lay, lay across my big brass bed
Stay, lady, stay, stay while the night is still ahead
I long to see you in the morning light
I long to reach for you in the night
Stay, lady, stay, stay while the night is still ahead

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5 thoughts on “Song of the Day #615: ‘Lay Lady Lay’ – Bob Dylan

  1. pegclifton says:

    I’d like to think it was about his wife 🙂

  2. Dana says:

    I wonder if I was the one who gave you that impression about the accident causing his voice to change, since that is what I had believed as well:)

    As I said on an earlier post, I’m not crazy about this song–probably both because of its country influence and the Kermit-the-Frog voice. I am curious, however, to know if this voice works better on the rest of the album (assuming he sang like this on the whole album).

  3. Dana says:

    🙂 I have always loved this song. So simple and lovely. It better not be about his dog! 😉

  4. Amy says:

    yeah… that was me…. don’t think Dana went looking for a cute guy doing a funky cover of the song just to demonstrate how romantic and sexy it can be when Dylan isn’t singing it 🙂

  5. Clay says:

    Dana: Tomorrow you’ll hear another example of Dylan’s voice on this album, so we’ll see what you think of that one. And you need to get past this aversion to country!

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