100 Greatest Bob Dylan Songs

From "Just Like a Woman" to "John Wesley Harding," we count down the American icon's key masterpieces

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34. "Isis" (1976)

Sara Dylan was in the studio the day her husband recorded "Isis." Her presence was fitting: The song may well be an elaborate allegory of their marriage, separation and brief reunion – reimagined as the epic quest of a narrator who must trek through icy storms, scale pyramids and rob an ancient grave before winning back his runaway bride, the "mystical child" named Isis. Dylan wrote much of it in an all-night session with theater director Jacques Levy. He was so proud of the lyrics that he presented them to friends at the New York club the Other End. "Bob read the lyrics to a bunch of people sitting around the bar, and everybody responded," said Levy. "Everyone gets hooked in that story." Before long, an incendiary version of "Isis" became a mainstay of Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue. With his face painted white, Dylan would stalk the stage like a shaman, using only his voice, harmonica, hands and body to illustrate the song's tall tale. It was the first time most fans had ever seen him perform in concert without a guitar.

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