Desire by Bob Dylan will always stand out in my mind as one of my favorite and most nostalgic albums. It’s one of my mom’s favorite albums so I have strong memories of listening to it in the car growing up. As a child I was captivated by Dylan’s lyrics and story telling abilities. Released in 1976, Desire starts off with “Hurricane,” and is an album full of stories. “Isis” is probably my favorite song on the album and instead of celebrating Cinco de Mayo every year, I always refer to May 5th as Isis day from the lyrics, “I married Isis on the fifth day of May/but I could not hold on to her very long.” This 5th day of May, I’d like to take a look at the women behind Bob Dylan’s Desire who make the album so magical.
One of the most dramatic parts to start off the album on “Hurricane” is the amazing violin part played by Scarlet Rivera. It was said that she was discovered by Bob Dylan in 1975 and she played on the album as well as being a part of the “Rolling Thunder Revue” tour. She has gone on to play with many other greats including Duke Ellington and the Indigo Girls. Her violin parts paired with Bob Dylan’s harmonica really are astonishing, so soulful. Her contributions to the album cannot be ignored, the violin parts help make the album such a slice of American folk history.
Ronee Blakley appears on “Hurricane” providing subtle yet striking backing vocals. She is a musician and an actress. She released her debut album in 1972 on Elektra Records. Her acting claim to fame is in the 1975 movie Nashville. Ronee Blakley also was on the “Rolling Thunder Revue” tour singing backing vocals.
Emmylou Harris….. talk about an important woman to the world of music. She has done so many amazing things and been apart of so many bands and albums. Her backing vocals on Desire really make the whole album as strong as it is. And of top of it, she’s an incredibly strong musician on her own! She has won 13 Grammys throughout her career! The way she sings with Bob Dylan on Desire adds such mystique to “One More Cup of Coffee,” heartbreak to “Joey” and flirty fun to “Mozambique”… just to name a few. Emmylou Harris is as much of a star on this album as Dylan himself is.
And last but not least is the mysterious Sheena mentioned in Bob Dylan’s credits on the album for congas and bells. She might have later gone of to be a punk rocker or join a goth gang…. it’s all a mystery now.
So on this fifth day of May (Isis day), take a listen to Desire and thank these wonderful women for making the album such a beautiful spring listen.