Philly Front Office

How One Song Changed A Life

’Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood…

My life could have turned out very different than how it has, if I’m honest. I was raised in a family of immense contradiction and chaos. I was lucky, no doubt, I still am. My father, who passed away last year at the age of 69, was a lifelong drug addict. He was a lovable, affable man who was both immensely selfish and self centered, and also generous and kind. My mother’s side is a large boisterous, Irish Catholic family who loved and perhaps drank too hard. The relative chaos of my early life made me a quiet observer. I saw everything, I didn’t say much. 

I found myself craving quietude and solitude. I lost myself in the comfort of books and music early on. My father loved the Rolling Stones, my mother loved Motown and disco. 

….When blackness was a virtue and the road was full of mud

My father was subversive to the core and irreverent in the truest sense of the word. His irreverence was founded in a deep sense of equality and fairness, to be honest. My mother sent me to Catholic school where my inherited irreverence made me a source of constant strain for the nuns. But in many ways, it was my shield. Our diocese, like so many, was riddled with abuse in a manner that would only distract from my central point if I were to delve into here. Suffice to say, my father protected me without knowing it by teaching me to speak truth to power and to believe that nothing is sacred. 

As I grew up, the rap music and punk music of the 80s reinforced my irreverence. The nuns would have called it disrespectful obstinance or rebellion, but I wasn’t a rebel. Nor was I a lone wolf. I simply was not a sheep. I was blessed with many great friends, perhaps attracted to my devil-may-care perspective. I still have great friends. 

I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form

But, as anyone who has known me since I was a child will attest, I essentially raised myself from the age of about 10. My parents divorced when I was 10, and I bounced back and forth, living with my mom and dad until I was about 19. Most of that time, I lived with my father who, by the time I was 13, had retreated into the basement of our three-story house. That essentially left the rest of the house to a young wildling. Great for a teenage boy, bad for a student. No one looked at a report card of mine after perhaps 6th grade or so. I had jobs starting at age 13, so I always had my own money. At 16, I had a car, I had friends, I had fun in the company of girls. I was very lucky. It could have gone a very different direction for me. 

“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”

I was 19 or so and one of my oldest and truest friends, Charlie, and I were walking late one night and talking about music and old songs. At one point he said, “Well sure, but have you listened to Dylan?” I replied, “Uggh, I hate Dylan,” and did a bad impression of his nasally voice as I sang “everybody must get stoned” derisively. 

He replied, “No, that song is a joke; have you actually listened to Bob Dylan?” After some light argumentative banter, he said, “Let’s go, you need to listen to something.” We walked to his house, and he got out a vinyl record. Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks album. As he put the needle on the B side, track 9, everything in my life and brain changed…..  

Shelter from the Storm

WRITTEN BY: BOB DYLAN
’Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood
When blackness was a virtue and the road was full of mud
I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form
“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”
 
And if I pass this way again, you can rest assured
I’ll always do my best for her, on that I give my word
In a world of steel-eyed death, and men who are fighting to be warm
“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”

Not a word was spoke between us, there was little risk involved
Everything up to that point had been left unresolved
Try imagining a place where it’s always safe and warm
“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”

I was burned out from exhaustion, buried in the hail
Poisoned in the bushes an’ blown out on the trail
Hunted like a crocodile, ravaged in the corn
“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”

Suddenly I turned around and she was standin’ there
With silver bracelets on her wrists and flowers in her hair
She walked up to me so gracefully and took my crown of thorns
“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”

Now there’s a wall between us, somethin’ there’s been lost
I took too much for granted, got my signals crossed
Just to think that it all began on a long-forgotten morn
“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”

Well, the deputy walks on hard nails and the preacher rides a mount
But nothing really matters much, it’s doom alone that counts
And the one-eyed undertaker, he blows a futile horn
“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”

I’ve heard newborn babies wailin’ like a mournin’ dove
And old men with broken teeth stranded without love
Do I understand your question, man, is it hopeless and forlorn?
“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”

In a little hilltop village, they gambled for my clothes
I bargained for salvation an’ they gave me a lethal dose
I offered up my innocence and got repaid with scorn
“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”

Well, I’m livin’ in a foreign country but I’m bound to cross the line
Beauty walks a razor’s edge, someday I’ll make it mine
If I could only turn back the clock to when God and her were born
“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”

Jason Blevins