Legendary singer-songwriter Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize in Literature for 2016 “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”, the Nobel Foundation announced on Thursday, October 13. He has been an influential figure in popular American music and culture for more than five decades. Bob Dylan’s songs chronicled social unrest, global trends and inspired a whole legion of protesters. His songs became anthems for the American Civil Rights movement and anti-war movements.
Few artistes and singers have been as significant or noteworthy as Bob Dylan. He started off in the early ’60s and has come up with songs and albums in almost every decade. He has changed his style myriad times and has emerged as one of the most prolific singer-songwriters ever. Choosing a few of his great songs is like handpicking legendary Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan’s best roles! Nevertheless, here are a few gems from the Bob Dylan collection, which a lover of his music ought to be familiar with.
1. Blowin’ In The Wind:
Released in 1962, this is Bob Dylan’s breakthrough song that he wrote as a songwriter. It touches upon the topic of Cold War, civil war and general annihilation. This song gained more prominence, as a few months later American President John F Kennedy was assassinated thus lending it more significance. ALSO READ: Bob Dylan: Blowing in the Wind to Nobel Literature Prize
2. Mr. Tambourine Man:
The Byrds released their No.1 song after a month of Bob Dylan’s release of Mr. Tambourine Man. However, Bob Dylan’s version is wordier and lengthier and for the first time he showed his rock ‘n’ roll side.
3. Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door:
Bob Dylan wrote and sang this song for the soundtrack of the 1973 film Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. It reached the #12 slot on Billboard Hot 100 Singles. Its popularity lies in the fact that a number of other artistes have covered it including Guns N’ Roses, U2 and Avril Lavigne.
4. The Times They Are A-Changin:
Like Blowin’ in the Wind this song defined and stood for the changing times of the 1960s. The Times They Are A-Changin became an anthem of change, but Bob Dylan never claimed to be a protest singer. ALSO READ: Bob Dylan: 10 best quotes of the 2016 Nobel Literature Prize winner American singer
5. Like a Rolling Stone:
This is not your typical song. Bob Dylan literally snarls in this song! But it transformed the singer’s image from a folk singer to a rock star and is considered a cult song of postwar era. Artistes like The Rolling Stone, The Wailers and Green Day have covered it.
6. Just Like a Woman:
This song is rumoured to have been written on Bob Dylan’s relationship with fellow folk singer Joan Baez. The song has been criticised for supposed misogyny in its lyrics and tone, but at its heart it’s a love song and a pretty and sincere one at that.
7. Tangled Up in Blue:
Best described in Bob Dylan’s own words, “This Song took me 10 years to live and 2 years to write”. It depicts his crumbling marriage to Sara Dylan, the hurt and the anger associated with it.
8. A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall:
The greatest protest song ever written, it spans seven minutes cataloging appalling images and horrific consequences forecasting an apocalypse. Hard to define in words, listening will make the meaning clearer.
9. Visions of Johanna:
The song has been described as a masterpiece by several critics. It’s a seven-and-a-half minute epic, which sounds like poetry more often than not. This is a masterpiece of Bob Dylan’s chronicling New York City. It shows Bob Dylan’s dilemma between two girls – a more human Louise and Johanna who is more spiritual and idealistic and therefore not real.
10. Desolation Row:
My English professor told me that Desolation Row is Bob Dylan’s version of T S Eliot’s iconic poem The Waste Land, I’m not sure about this but it has some amazing imagery that gets your imagination working overtime.
By Vandana Srivastawa | The author is an avid blogger and social media manager with a publishing company.