Boots of Spanish Leather is a ballad written and performed by Bob Dylan, and released in 1964 on his album The Times They Are a-Changin’
Dylan’s recording features him solo on the acoustic guitar, playing the song using fingerpicking.
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.” 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. Within these nine verses, the woman goes across the sea. She writes, asking whether the man would like any gift, and he refuses, 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. The man comes to realize what has happened and finally gives her a material request: “Spanish boots of Spanish leather.”
Michael Gray says there is 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 significant role.
I don’t think Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye has recorded the song, but they did some wonderful live versions of the song. I’ve found two of them.
Patti Smith & Lenny Kaye – Boots of Spanish Leather (Bob Dylan cover)
Chapelle Sainte-Anne – Arles – France
15 nov 2011
Patti Smith & Lenny Kaye – Boots of Spanish Leather (Barcelona,2011, the first three minutes):
Patti Smith / Lenny Kaye – Boots of Spanish Leather live@DeDuif Amsterdam 29-5-2018: