This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #79: The Times They Are A-Changing by Bob Dylan.
A few years ago, the handwritten lyrics to Bob Dylan’s classic protest song, “The Times They Are a-Changing” went up for auction. When the bidding had closed, someone had agreed to pay almost a half a million dollars for the weathered loose-leaf paper that contained Bob’s original poem. We do like our artifacts, don’t we?
Those original lyrics were scribbled out in the early 1960s. That was a time when Dylan was just a young man so, the words to his poem were seen through the lens of a young man’s eyes. He wrote of parents coming to understand and accept the changes their children were going through (It was the dawning of the age of Hippies and love-ins and counter-protests over far-flung Wars). Dylan wrote of the need for those in charge….the senators and congressmen…..to heed the words and the wishes of the young. Finally, he waxed biblical at the end as he closed with the philosophical words that the greedy, who always wished to be first would end up being last when it came time to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
At the time he wrote “The Time They Are a-Changing”, Dylan was on to his third album and had already gained a reputation as someone who was re-defining what it meant to be a songwriter. As his lyrics clearly show, he truly believed in the power of poetry and that poetry could have melodies added and become songs. Along with Pete Seeger’s, “Turn, Turn Turn”, Dylan was changing the way music sounded and felt and, as such, he was quietly revolutionizing, not only an industry but, a generation.
But, do great works borne out of youthful idealism hold up over time? There is a great deal of earnestness to be found in “The Times They Are a-Changing”. For what my opinion may be worth, I think Dylan really captured the mood of the times well in this song but I, also, think he did better by capturing a moment in time of our lives, as we grow up. While “The Times They Are a-Changing” was definitely written with events of the 1960s in mind, I believe that the way he immortalizes the idealism of young adults is what really sets this song apart. For me, this is a song that you, as a young twenty-something, sing before you come to know how the world really works. This song seems told from the point of view of someone who works to get signatures on petitions to present to those in Authority in the belief that by doing so, they can affect change. It is a song sung by someone who still has Hope for a brighter future for All.
In capturing that spirit of idealism and Hopefulness, Dylan has ended up creating a song that has endured over the generations. “The Times They Are a-Changing” was, originally, based upon the old Scottish and Irish ballads of yore so, it has tradition and staying power on its side. Nowadays, the poem and song are taught in universities and to immigrants, newly arrived, seeking to better their grasp of the English language. But, most of all, the power of this song remains because of the universal message given to those young enough to still believe they have the power to create a fair and just world that, indeed, all Hope lay with them. It is the gift of optimism, wrapped in the words of a poem. It is an endorsement of the potential for good that the youth of our world possess and it is a plea for them to use their power before time runs out and cynicism takes hold, as it does for most everyone in time.
So, to the man who paid dearly to acquire some paper with words on it, I hope he realizes that the paper is actually worthless without the spirit of the words on which they were written. All hail the sweet, young folk who see the injustices of the world and rail against them with all of their heart. I pray, as Bob Dylan did way back then, that you are successful because, let’s be honest, these times we find ourselves in sure are in need of a-changing! So, without further delay, let’s hear these words sung aloud by the man who wrote them on that scrap of paper over a half-century ago. Here is Bob Dylan with, “The Times They Are a-Changing”. Enjoy.
The link to the video for the song, “The Times They Are a-Changing” by Bob Dylan, can be seen here.
The link to the official website for Bob Dylan, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.