Bob Dylan – Life and Legacy

Born on 24 May, 1941 Robert Allen Zimmerman changed the face of country music. To put it more aptly, he became the face of folk music. He is an American singer-songwriter, artist and writer. Though Zimmerman embarked on his musical journey on a different note, he realized that instead of the catch-phrases and pulse rhythms he was more into songs that told stories about people.

You probably know him by another name though – that being, Bob Dylan.

We all know about his exploits in the field of music but very few of us know that he was considered a spokesperson of his generation. His music caused quite a bit of unrest among the common people and he was thus ridiculed by the journalists at that time. Dylan’s lyrics had a sense of despair and faith. At the same time, it had stories of sadness and triumph, and also hinted at a subtle belief in the supernatural.

Dylan’s career kicked off when Joan Baez asked him to join her on her August tour in 1963.

At that time, Baez was considered to be the Queen of Folk and her endorsement played a great role in Dylan’s early rise to success. Released on May 27,1963 his second album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan was a huge hit and Dylan’s career soared as he stole the fire from his stage mate and lover. Soon the tables would turn, with Baez needing Dylan’s endorsement, which he gave by way of his sleeve notes for her second live album.

Without further ado, we take a look at the top 10 songs of Bob Dylan!

1) Blowin’ in the Wind

Released in 1963, this is considered to be a song of war and protest. And this is the first song that comes to our mind when the name of Bob Dylan is uttered. The chorus of this song poses a string of of rhetorical questions to the listeners. How do you bring reason to the refrain “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind”? Is the answer so obvious that it is right on your face? Or is the answer as tangible as the wind?

2) Positively 4th St.

The most surprising thing about this song is that the song does not feature its title anywhere in the song’s lyrics; nor does it have any repeatable refrain. And the best part about this song is that anyone and everyone can relate to it. The lyrics are kind of bitter and the song will probably lift your spirits after you have had a fight with someone and you are thinking about what more you could’ve said to bash them a little more.

3) Like a Rolling Stone

Written in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, this song aptly describes the condition of the erstwhile society. Street protests, rioting and civil unrest were the reality in these times due to the drama of the generation revolt. Hence the chorus directed at those people,

“How does it feel, how does it feel?

To be on your own, with no direction home

A complete unknown, like a rolling stone”

4) The Time They are a Changin’

The song gives the ever-lasting message that change is the only constant in the world. Dylan goes to explain that simple, yet most difficult statement with numerous examples. He says that you got to adjust and adapt yourself to this change, or else you’ll just be a memory. And Dylan could not emphasize more on the fact that the tables can and will turn at any moment, so tread carefully.

5) Rainy day women #12 & 35

Like Positively 4th St. the song’s title doesn’t appear anywhere in the lyric. Several controversies surround the meaning of the recurrent chorus, “Everybody must get stoned”. Is this really a “drug song” or does it have any greater meaning or significance? Occasional laughter and shouting accompany the song in the background and Dylan himself laughs several times while singing.

6) Mr Tambourine Man

Almost 51 years ago, the appearance of The Beatles the American shores were flooded with a steady stream of British bands. At the same time, Mr Tambourine Man by Bob Dylan was a shining beacon in the United States of America to fight the British invasion in American music. In this song, the lyrics ask the title character to play a song after a long day and the narrator follows. Though many interpretations of the song are there including drugs and LSD, this is one of the more popular songs of the great bard.

7) Subterranean Homesick Blues

Set in the 1960s, this song depicts the burgeoning counterculture and the widespread the use of drugs and the turmoil and tension surrounding the Vietnam War. This was kind of a protest song with Dylan expressing the anti-establishment stance.

According to rock journalist Andy Gill, “an entire generation recognized the zeitgeist in the verbal whirlwind of ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’.

8) I want you

When you hear the song for the first time, it seems that it is a classic rendition of Dylan’s music. Just a few words strung together with apparently no meaning. Hence you can interpret the song in whichever way you feel like. The song stays almost the same all the way through. Lastly, a way of looking at the lyrics would be flashing images while travelling quickly. As if these are images and incidents flashing by.

9) If you see her, say hello

Bob Dylan has a number of qualities, the greatest of them being story-telling. In this song, he tells the story and describes the heartache of a person whose lover has abandoned him. Anyone who has gone through a bad break-up can relate to this song. Dylan’s pronunciation of the words ‘chill’ and ‘separation’ changes the mood of the song subtly as well as abruptly. You cannot clearly identify the beginning of the change of mood but can relate to the abrupt end.

10) Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door

Contrary to popular beliefs this song has nothing to do with the Vietnam War. This song is about a deputy sheriff who’s on the verge of death. The song “aptly” describes the thoughts that race through the mind of a person who doesn’t have a long left to live in this world. Dylan points it out that during our last few breaths, we remember those who are the closest, in this case the sheriff calls for his mother.

Shreyan Datta Chakraborty for MTTN

Rahul Basu

Me? Well, I'm a pretty basic person, I guess. I like nature. I like it when it's quiet. I like the rain. I like food. I'm always confused, but quite okay most of the time. I'm a vocalist, guitarist, keyboardist, metalhead,jazz-man,computer geek, cricketer, bookworm, gamer and a hater of seafood. I also write from time to time.

%d bloggers like this: