I Shall Be Released By Nina Simone

To Love Somebody

1969 | Jazz

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“I see my light come shining, from the west down to the east. -- Any day now, any day now, I shall be released.”


  • To Love somebody features a number of cover songs inckuding numbers from Pete Seger and the BeeGees as well as more Bob Dylan.
  • The Band performed the first version of this Dylan penned song for their 1968 debut album, Music from Big Pink, with Richard Manuel on lead vocals.
  • Eunice Kathleen Waymon was a Juliard trained pianist who went by the stage name Nina Simone to prevent family from knowing she was playing the devils music for a living.
  • In 1985 Simone fired a gun at a record executive, she had accused of stealing royalties.


Luke Tatum

Well, I underestimated this song. A rendition of a classic Bob Dylan song, "I shall Be Released" is about being trapped in prison. We are given images of someone wasting away, waiting to be released. Not just from the prison itself, but probably from the suffering of physical existence. Waiting to die. Around our narrator, we have a man crying out every day that "he's not to blame." We have other imperfect humans, some of whom are prisoners, some of whom are guards. A twist of fate is all that separates them. And we have an ever-present bitterness: "So I remember every face; Of every man who put me here." It's a heratbreaking song about a harrowing place.

Sherry Voluntary

This Dylan really gains depth in this rendition from the uniquely voiced, Nina Simone. It gives the impression of a dark prison and the loneliness and misery that is felt. There is something else though, and that is hope. The hope of release. I can’t imagine the desperation, anguish, frustration, loneliness, and fear of being in prison, especially if it is for something you didn’t do or something that shouldn’t be a crime. It makes me think not only of the thousands of non-violent offenders in prisons in this country, but especially Ross Ulbricht, and Schaeffer Cox. Two men who have been so clearly railroaded by the in-justice system. Freedom is among the most valuable things a person has, and to take it from someone who has not been violent with others is one of the worst travesties that can be committed on someone. As libertarians we value peoples complete self ownership, and recognize that putting someone in jail for victimless crimes is the real crime. We must keep fighting for those people who have lost their freedoms for no other reason than a politician made a law criminalizing something they just don’t like. It is very difficult for them to have a voice and we can provide that for them and hopefully change the system that is so cruelly abusing them.

Nicky P

So, I’ve no confirmation on this but I’d venture this songs meaning to Nina wasn’t about prison in the sense Dylan intended it. Simone was an ardent activist for civil rights and I suspect that worldview shaded these lyrics for her. The idea being that while technically free many of her brothers carried around the chains of a different kind of slavery with them. Sadly thanks to the drug war what used to be more metaphorical is now all too real for many. We all read the metaphors we want to in the music. What I suspect represented a racial prison for Nina represents a more general sort of imprisonment to me. I see all around me my own brothers in a slavery they’re not even aware of. They’ve willingly given the keys to they’re own freedom to power mongers. To me the most terrifying prison is the one you constructed around yourself and still don’t know is there. Maybe your ancestors started piling the bricks up, but we choose to seal things up.

Created By
Nicky P

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