*She can ruin your faith with her casual lies…
She hides like a child…
She can ask for the truth
But she’ll never believe you
Yeah, she steals like a thief…
Then she’ll carelessly cut you
And laugh while you’re bleedin’
I mean, what the fuck? If anyone treated me like this I’d divorce them. That’s a hell of a lot of disrespect. The song sounds like he respects and even admires her for these traits, but these are some awful traits to have.
So - what gives? Was he just going through a really bad breakup? Is this supposed to be a love song? I don’t know and it’s been bothering me for a long time.
“The song was released in 1977, following several other hits from The Stranger including “Just the Way You Are”, “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)” and “Only the Good Die Young”. Musically, Joel has said that he was influenced by Gordon Lightfoot and his mellow acoustic guitar ballads. It is a love song that Joel wrote for his then wife, Elizabeth. Elizabeth had taken over management of Joel’s career, and was able to put his financial affairs in order after Joel had signed some bad deals and contracts. She was a tough and savvy negotiator who could “wound with her eyes” or “steal like a thief”, but would “never give in”. Because of her tough-as-nails negotiating style, many business adversaries thought she was “unfeminine,” but to Joel, she was always a woman. The two eventually divorced in 1982.”
That’s essentially the explanation I always heard. Elizabeth Joel was Billy’s agent at the time. She was a hard-nosed, cutthroat businesswoman, and from time to time, record executives who’d been through gruelling meetings with Elizabeth would say something like, “Geez, Billy, I feel sorry for you, being married to such a bitch.”
The song is saying to them, “You don’t understand- she’s not like that with me. In the business world, she’s a shark, but when she’s home alone with me, she’s a very different person- with me, she’s sweet and feminine. You just don’t see that side of her at work.”
Some of Bob Dylan’s songs (It Ain’t Me Babe; Like A Rolling Stone; Sign On The Window) seem to me to be similarly condescending and critical, although I guess he’s addressing a specific woman and not necessarily women in general.
Many of Dylan’s songs about former loves ARE negative and critical, but that doesn’t necessarily make them sexist.
“It Ain’t Me, Babe” is about a woman who’s too needy and clingy. There ARE such people, both male and female, and it’s probably wise for anyone who gets involved with such a person to say, “I’m out of here- I’m never going to live up to your fantasies, and I’ll never make you happy.”
“Like a Rolling Stone” certainly paints a negative portrait of a particular TYPE of girl, but again, that doesn’t make it sexist. In the Sixties, there were a lot of rich, sheltered, pampered kids of BOTH genders who “dropped out” and joined the counterculture. Dylan knew many such kids, and found them slightly ridiculous. He was telling them, “Hey kid, you left your nice, comfortable, white bread life to become a Bohemian in Greenwich Village, but now you see that you don’t belong belong here either. You don’t really fit in ANYWHERE, do you?”