Just Like a Woman


Just Like a Woman is a catchy tune, so it’s no surprise that it was released as a single. It was moderately successful, rising to number 33 on the Billboard charts. The relative simplicity of the lyrics and the sing-along friendly repetition of the chorus at the end of each verse makes the song decent radio fodder. It’s also not surprising that the song has been covered by many, many artists. Here’s an interesting version by Nina Simone.

Yet Dylan always has a couple of tricks up his sleeve. The narrator speaks about the woman in the third person (she) all the way until the end when he suddenly changes to the more personal second person (you). The shift adds a lot to the song, makes the song much more personal, much more direct.

Once again, many have theorized that the song could have been written about Edie Sedgwick. Dylan did know her around the time the song was written. Edie’s personality traits – fashionable, spoiled, sexy, emotional, and often distraught to the breaking point – fit the lyrics. However, at any point in time, there are thousands of similarly challenged women in NYC, and Dylan surely knew dozens.

For what it is worth, I’ve always thought there could be a connection to Joan Baez. The lines “Please don’t let on that you knew me when/I was hungry and it was your world” would seem to describe his relationship with Baez during the early sixties when she was the queen of folk music and he was a nobody who somehow convinced her to let him play during her shows, a break that significantly helped his career. Of course, that is pure speculation.

It’s been argued by many that the lyrics are sexist, that the phrase “just likes a woman” is a stereotype similar to “black people are good dancers”. Another objection is aimed at the song’s description of the feeling of sexual longing as somehow being different for women than men (“You make love just like a woman”). Others argue that the song is not sexist at all, but rather it holds the woman in question in a mostly favorable light.

The meaning of this song can also be influenced by the vocal performance. Listen to the original and the sexist argument is kind of persuasive. Listen to the tender version on The Bootleg Series Volume 4: Live 1966 and it makes no sense at all.

Dylan sometimes plays around with the lyrics a bit during live performances. Most often he changes “introduced as friends” to “introduced by friends”, which makes a bit more sense. At the Concert for Bangladesh he changes the phrase “she breaks just like a woman” to “she bakes just like a woman”, to humorist effect.

Dylan has performed Just Like a Woman many, many times. It appears on several live albums. The solo version on The Bootleg Series Volume 4: Live 1966 is interesting. Dylan focuses on every syllable and keeps the guitar so far in the background that it almost qualifies as an A capella version. The slightly countryish version on Concert for Bangladesh is very good. Other versions, none particularly effective, appear on The Bootleg Series Volume 5: Live 1975, At Budokan, and the concert film Hard to Handle.

The lyrics are quoted in Woody Allen’s great film, Annie Hall. In the film, Allen’s character is dating an air-head reporter from Rolling Stone magazine. As they are walking down a hallway the reporter reverently quotes the chorus of Just Like a Woman, indicating the great depth the lyric has for her. Allen’s character dismisses it with an exaggerated roll of his eyes and mutters a sarcastic “Yea…that’s just great.” Without the music, it does sound trite, but it’s a song, not a poem.

An episode of the animated comedy King of the Hill has the title Joust Like a Woman. The episode involves a character participating in a jousting match at a medieval fair. Alas, there are no other Dylan references in the episode (although Dylan references appear in other episodes).

According to a writer on rec.music.dylan, Dylan once introduced the song with one of the corny jokes he was so fond of during his shows in the late nineties: “I wrote this for my wife because she was so conceited. I used to call her Mimi.”


Nobody feels any pain
Tonight as I stand inside the rain
Ev’rybody knows
That Baby’s got new clothes
But lately I see her ribbons and her bows
Have fallen from her curls.
She takes just like a woman, yes, she does
She makes love just like a woman, yes, she does
And she aches just like a woman
But she breaks just like a little girl.

Queen Mary, she’s my friend
Yes, I believe I’ll go see her again
Nobody has to guess
That Baby can’t be blessed
Till she sees finally that she’s like all the rest
With her fog, her amphetamine and her pearls.
She takes just like a woman, yes, she does
She makes love just like a woman, yes, she does
And she aches just like a woman
But she breaks just like a little girl.

It was raining from the first
And I was dying there of thirst
So I came in here
And your long-time curse hurts
But what’s worse
Is this pain in here
I can’t stay in here
Ain’t it clear that–

I just can’t fit
Yes, I believe it’s time for us to quit
When we meet again
Introduced as friends
Please don’t let on that you knew me when
I was hungry and it was your world.
Ah, you fake just like a woman, yes, you do
You make love just like a woman, yes, you do
Then you ache just like a woman
But you break just like a little girl.

2 thoughts on “Just Like a Woman”

  1. There’s a theory that this song was about a transvestite. I believe Dylan was hanging out with Andy Warhol at this time and he took him into the oddity of his world and introduced him to lots of different characters. The line about not fitting might have some thing to do with this too? I don’t know – it’s still mystery and one to chew over.

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