BOOTS OF SPANISH LEATHER
“Boots of Spanish Leather” is a song written by Bob Dylan, released in 1964 on his
album The Times They Are A–Changin’. Lyrically, “Boots of Spanish Leather” is “a
restless, forlorn ballad for the ages and sages – a classic Dylan tale of two lovers, a
crossroads, and the open sea…”
Most critics have not found it far-fetched to say that this song was written about and
maybe to Suze Rotolo, Dylan’s New York City girlfriend in the early ‘60s, who in 1964
left him for Italy. Rotolo confirmed that interpretation in a 2008 NPR interview. The song
is written as a dialogue, with the first six verses alternating between the man and woman;
however, the last three verses are all given by the one who has been left, presumably the
man (Dylan). Within these nine verses, the woman goes across the sea. She writes, asking
whether the man would like any gift, and he refuses, poetically saying he only wants her
back. Towards the end it becomes clear that she is not returning, and she finally writes
saying she may never come back, “It depends on how I’m a-feelin’.” The man comes to
realize what has happened and finally gives her a material request: “Spanish boots of
Spanish leather.” Michael Gray has pointed out a strong parallel between this line and the
traditional folk song “Blackjack Davey,” which Dylan arranged and recorded for his 1992
album “Good as I Been to You”, and in which footwear of Spanish leather also plays a
Though performed live here and there since its composition, Dylan did not start
performing “Boots of Spanish Leather” regularly until his “Never Ending Tour” began in
Oh, I’m sailin’ away my own true love,
I’m sailin’ away in the morning.
Is there something I can send you from across the sea,
From the place that I’ll be landing?
No, there’s nothin’ you can send me, my own true love,
There’s nothin’ I wish to be ownin’.
Just carry yourself back to me unspoiled,
From across that lonesome ocean.
Oh, but I just thought you might want something fine
Made of silver or of golden,
Either from the mountains of Madrid
Or from the coast of Barcelona.
Oh, but if I had the stars from the darkest night
And the diamonds from the deepest ocean,
I’d forsake them all for your sweet kiss,
For that’s all I’m wishin’ to be ownin’.
That I might be gone a long time