One measure of the popularity of a song over time, and not just on the charts at a given time, is the number of covers it has. Well, there’s no shortage for Bob Dylan’s I Shall Be Released!
With every cover, there’s a little variation on it from the others and from the original. However, for this song, most only differed slightly in the notes sang and tempo. There’s no big rearrangement involved. My tabbed version is no different, with only a high D to emphasize a few important points in the lyrics. It is noted among the notes that come with the tabs.
These tabs all fit on one page to avoid the inconvenience of page turns. However, the letter size tabs (8.5″ x 11″) may be too small for your eyes. If so, you can either enlarge to tabloid size (11″ x 17″) using an automatic enlarge feature on many photocopiers, or download the tabloid sized versions for printing. The tabloid size tabs can be inserted into a typical letter sized binder on the 11″ size, and folded almost in half to fit. You just open each tab to use it.
The chord sequence is fairly easy with G, Am, Bm and back down again with Am and G. Then a D7 separates the next phrase, and it cycles all over again throughout the entire song. You need to Capo 2 this to get it in the key of A that Bob originally wrote it in. I took the chords off The Definitive Bob Dylan Songbook.
If you have trouble playing the Bm on guitar like I do, you might try the version in C, capoing as you need to get it in your voice range. That uses C, Dm, Em and G7. These are a lot easier than that Bm, in my opinion.
The ukulele challenge is also with that Bm, but I tabbed an alternate version in F because the Em (like in the guitar alternate version), is almost like that Bm on guitar, which was what I was trying to avoid. The version in F on the ukulele uses F, Gm, Am and C7, which I find all fairly easy chords to play.
As for trying to find a video close to my tabbed version, the one below from a concert in 1976 matched it best, though not exactly. This was some concert, featuring Bob and an all-star cast like Joni Mitchell, Ringo Starr and many other famous musicians! It should serve as a good guide to figuring out the tabs.
The good thing about a “solid” song like this, though, is that the chords are pretty robust to any little variation you might want to put in the melody to “make it your own”. So you don’t have to follow the notes I have. Just sing it the way it feels to you for notes and it will work.
Rhythm is another story, though! The trickiest part to this song is adjusting from phrase to phrase of when you start in. For some phrases, you strum the opening chord (like G) on the first word. For many phrases, you start in while still on the 7th chord that separates the phrases. Then for the rest, you actually strum that opening chord before you start singing, like with the opening line to the chorus. Figuring out the adjustments from line to line is the hardest part, by far, as far as I’m concerned, to learning this song.
But it just wouldn’t be Bob if it were otherwise! 🙂
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Reading Level: 6.7