RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #105: All Along the Watch Tower by Bob Dylan (+) covered by Jimi Hendrix.

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 #105: All Along the Watch Tower by Bob Dylan and covered famously by Jimi Hendrix.

For those of you who are well-acquainted with the Bible, you will know that there is a lot of symbolic importance to the image of a Watch Tower. In the Book of Ezekiel, there is much talk about preparing for the Second Coming of the Lord. As part of those preparations, a Watch Tower is to be constructed and manned with followers in order to be ready to receive the Lord when that Second Coming happened. If you require further proof that a “Watch Tower’ holds religious significance, note that the Jehovah Witness organization publishes a newsletter/magazine that they have christened as “The Watch Tower”, too.

This brings us to Bob Dylan. Dylan is universally regarded as being one of the most influential and important figures in all of music history. There are many reasons this is so but, foremost among them, is the impact he had on how songs were written. Prior to Bob Dylan appearing on the scene, many hit songs were written in a fairly simplistic manner. For example, think of “Peggy Sue” by Buddy Holly, “Wake up, Little Susie!” by The Everly Brothers and, of course, that old chestnut, “How Much Is That Doggy In The Window?” When Bob Dylan appeared, he did so with a poet’s sensibility. It was because of Bob Dylan’s storytelling that songs were permitted to extend beyond the three minute mark that was the benchmark for songs prior to that. Dylan is also credited with bringing a sense of complexity to his lyrics; creating songs that read like novels, with verses that contained fully-developed characters and scenarios that unfolded at a more leisurely pace. More than anything, Dylan wrote like someone who was a perfect marriage of a poet and a musician; he created songs with beautiful language that, also, contained excellent musical structure.

There are many who claim that when Bob Dylan write “All Along the Watch Tower” for his eighth studio album, “John Wesley Harding”, he was actually using the song as a ploy during contract re-negotiation. That he dressed up his lyrics in Biblical imagery doesn’t change the fact that Dylan, at the time, thought his reputation had grown to the point where he deserved a greater share of the revenue he was bringing in. Read the first two verses and see if you agree:

There must be some kind of way outta here!

Said the Joker to the Thief.

There’s too much confusion.

I can’t get no relief.

Businessmen, they drink my wine.

Plowmen dig my earth.

None will level on the line

Nobody offered his word.”

That Dylan borrowed language from the Bible seems fitting in that there is much in the way of beautiful langauge in the Bible. But, more than that, what Dylan did was create a new standard for songwriting. One bit of evidence for this can be seen in the fact that, not only did he write songs that sold well for him but, he also wrote songs that were so lyrically-poetic and so structurally-sound that they were admired by others who were able to cover them well and turn them into something uniquely their own. The Byrds did that with “Mr. Tambourine Man”, for instance, and so did a young guitar prodigy known as Jimi Hendrix, with “All Along the Watch Tower”.

How Jimi Hendrix came to record “All Along the Watch Tower” remains open to question but, the general consensus is that he was given a cassette of songs that Dylan had been working on that were recorded as demos. One of the songs was “All Along the Watch Tower”. Hendrix was already a huge admirer of Bob Dylan and was excited to listen to new work of his. So, as the story goes, Hendrix took the cassette tape back home, listened to it on repeat and, as midnight gave way to dawn, he began seeing the song through his own eyes. Consequently, Hendrix began to see where he could add in his own signature guitar licks (which were the guitar-version of Dylan’s poetic lyrics). Jimi Hendrix is regarded as highly for his guitar playing as Bob Dylan is for his songwriting. So, in covering “All Along the Watch Tower”, Hendrix is matching Dylan’s genius, note by note and, in the end, he created a cover song that, even Bob Dylan, himself, declared as being the best version of the song.

All in all, “All Along the Watch Tower” is a song that spawned two enormously strong versions of itself as gifts to the world. The genius of a songwriter, matched with the genius of the world’s greatest guitar player, gives us all one of the greatest single songs of all time. So, without further delay, here is “All Along the Watch Tower” by, both, Bob Dylan and by Jimi Hendrix. Enjoy them, both.

The link to the video for the song, “All Along the Watch Tower” by Bob Dylan, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “All Along the Watch Tower”, as covered by Jimi Hendrix, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Bob Dylan, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Jimi Hendrix, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #8: Like A Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan.

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 #8: Like A Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan.

“Like A Rolling Stone” is one of the most famous and impactful songs of all-time. It has actually been listed as Song #1 on several countdowns of the best and most-important songs of all-time; including on the list produced by Rolling Stone Magazine in 2010. In fact, Rolling Stone Magazine got its’ name from this song. However, having said that, the band, The Rolling Stones, did not get their name from this song but, instead, drew inspiration from a Muddy Waters tune. In fact, according to Keith Richards, it took the band years before they felt comfortable enough to cover this song on stage. “Like A Rolling Stone” is a noteworthy song because of its’ influence, for sure but, it is a big enough song, all on its own, to make a splash worthy of placement this high up on our own musical countdown list. So, sit back and relax because here comes the story of “Like A Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan. It is quite the tale.

“Like A Rolling Stone” comes from an album called, “Highway 61 Revisited”. The title for that album is significant for two big reasons: 1- Highway 61 in the US begins at the Canada-US border in Minnesota (Dylan was born in Hibbing, Minnesota, btw). So, for Bob Dylan, his musical roots coincide with the start of this highway. As we all know, in writing, as in music, highways often stand as metaphors for personal journeys. So, this album is a personal musical journey, of sorts, for Dylan. 2- Highway 61 runs the full length of the US midwest, from Minnesota, all the way to New Orleans, in the south. As such, the highway runs through all sorts of musically-significant regions such as Chicago, the Mississippi Delta, all the way to The Big Easy. So, Bob Dylan’s musical journey was one that was, also, taking him through the birthplace of The Blues which, as we know, was the foundation of Rock n’ Roll. So, “Highway 61 Revisited” was an album that was more than mere music. It was an album that signalled a paradigm shift in Bob Dylan’s career but, more importantly, in the evolution of modern music, in general. Here’s how that happened.

Prior to the release of “Highway 61 Revisited”, Bob Dylan was still in his Folk-singer phase. He had gained a far measure of notoriety from this genre of music and could have easily continued to produce Folk songs for the rest of his career and been one of the greatest Folks singers of all-time. But, the thing was that Bob Dylan, despite all of his success, was not happy. In fact, after returning home from a European tour, he told those closest to him that he felt like giving up music altogether. But, luckily for all of us, not long after returning home, Dylan began writing again. In a fit of pique, Dylan wrote a twenty-page poem that he decided to attempt to put music to. This poem that, in his own words, he “vomited up”, contained the kernels of musical greatness that would end up forming the core verses of the song, “Like A Rolling Stone”.

When he took this poem into the studio, he gathered a producer who had worked well with him before…..a man named Tom Wilson. Among the session players that Wilson brought in was a young man named Al Kooper. Kooper was just a young lad who was apprenticing under Wilson’s direction and had not assigned role in the production. But, as it turned out, young Kooper ended up playing a pivotable role. As Dylan worked out the song, from amid the scores of pages of material he had written, he advised the session players to improvise, as they saw fit. While everyone was feeling their way through the material, the young Al Kooper made his way to the Hammond keyboard/organ and asked if he could contribute because he felt he had an idea. After much discussion, it was decided that he could sit in, as long as he wasn’t mucking things up. As it turned out, Kooper’s work on the Hammond organ brought “Like A Rolling Stone” to life and changed how Dylan, himself, viewed his own song. Instead of coming at the song from a Folk-based perspective, Dylan instinctively recognized the merits of electrifying his sound. This, as you may know, was the start of the whole, “Dylan Goes Electric” controversy. But, in effect, it was the starting point for modern rock n’ roll and all that has followed since.

Dylan famously performed the song a few days later at the Newport Jazz and Folk Festival. The song was greeted with outrage by fans who accused Dylan of betraying his Folkie roots. Dylan was actually booed off of the stage that day. However, that reaction only served to harden Dylan’s resolve. He knew he was on to something new and different and was determined to see it through. His record label was, also, unsure of this new sound and, what’s more, they did not want him record a song that was over six minutes long because that was commercial suicide. No radio station would play a song that long. At that time, there was an unwritten rule that stated all songs must be three minutes or less, in length. But again, Dylan stuck to his guns and the song was recorded as he intended. As often happens in situations such as this, “Like A Rolling Stone” was heard on the sly by a few DJs who, in turn, played it on the sly at their stations. Before long, a word-of-mouth campaign erupted, with fans demanding access to this new song. Once the demand was established and Dylan’s record label saw that this new way of making music was commercially viable, they released his song as a single. “Like A Rolling Stone” never hit #1 but, it changed everything for everyone, going forward.

There is some confusion as to the actual inspiration for “Like A Rolling Stone” but, one thing that made it stand out from all other songs on air at the time was that it is an angry, revenge-oriented song. The most favoured source of inspiration concerns a young woman named Edie Sedgewick. She was an young actress/model who dated Dylan for awhile but who was best known as being one of Andy Warhol’s next big things for awhile. Sedgewick had appeared on magazine covers and in film and was known as one of the original “IT” Girls. As was Warhol’s tendency, he tired of Sedgewick not long after setting her up for her fifteen minutes of fame and ended up casting her aside. If you listen to the lyrics of “Like A Rolling Stone”, Dylan sings about a character named “Miss Lonely”. She is based on Sedgewick. In the song, Miss Lonely is someone who once had it all and then lost it all. She is now struggling and scared and is forced to reinvent herself if she is to survive. While Dylan writes about her downfall and then, casts a venomous eye at the person responsible for her situation (Warhol), he ends the song by reminding Miss Lonely that she is actually the luckiest person in the world because she now is completely free of the baggage that comes with having a past. As he says, “When you ain’t got nothing, You’ve got nothing to fear.”

“Like A Rolling Stone” was unlike any song at the time of its’ release. The length of the song, the complexity of the story being told and the emotionally charged lyrics were all revolutionary. Bands such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys all took their cues from “Like A Rolling Stone” and began believing that they, too, had the creative license to explore more complex material. And, we all know the fruit that this decision bore. Because of this one song, music became longer, more lyrically creative and it became electric. The introduction of Dylan’s harmonica, along with Kooper’s Hammond organ work, helped to give “Like A Rolling Stone” a “wall of sound” feel that inspired much of the rest of the music that appeared in the 1960s; especially, from Phil Spector and from Motown. It is a bit of cliche to have put “Like A Rolling Stone” in position #1 on this list…..much of which stems from Rolling Stone Magazine’s own list…….but, truth be told, “Like A Rolling Stone” is as important a song in modern music history as it gets. From where I stand, placing it at #8 is in no way an indication that I feel it is lacking in any way, shape or form. It is not. “Like A Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan is magnificent. We wouldn’t have seen music evolve as it did without this song.

So, without further delay, let’s get down to the listening of this great song. The video is from the actual Newport Jazz/Folk Festival. What a gutsy performance! You can hear the boos at the beginning and can sense the restlessness of the crowd. But, Dylan goes ahead anyway and, in doing so, makes History! What you are witnessing is nothing less that the moment that music, as we know it today, began. Here is “Like A Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Like A Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan, can be found 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.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Songs #32: No More Auction Block For Me by Odetta (+) Blowin’ in the Wind by Bob Dylan (+) A Change is Gonna Come by Sam Cooke.

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.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Songs #32: No More Auction Block For Me by Odetta (+) Blowin’ In The Wind by Bob Dylan (+) A Change Is Gonna Come by Sam Cooke.

In 1833, the British House of Commons, along with the House of Lords, passed the Abolition of Slavery Act. This piece of legislation legally prohibited anyone in the Uk or their colonies from owning slaves and/or from being engaged in the trading of slaves anywhere in the world. The legal phrase, “anywhere in the world” included the colony that would eventually become Canada. In practical terms, what that meant was that slave owners would be compensated by The Crown for the loss of “their work force” and the freed slaves would be allowed to own small plots of land in regulated areas and begin the process of starting a life for themselves on their own terms.

The news that Canada was a land where freedom lay, was a very enticing message to those people of colour who still suffered under the yoke of oppression in the United States. The Emancipation Proclamation would not come into effect in America for almost thirty more years. In those intervening years, many people of colour began to organize. In the past, they might wish to escape from the plantation they found themselves on but, in practical reality, they had nowhere safe to run to because slavery was legal everywhere in North America. But, when the British abolished slavery and Canada became a safe haven, suddenly American slaves had somewhere to go. It was during the time between 1833 and 1863 that the Underground Railway sprang into action; helping runaway slaves acquire safe passage through the US and across the Canadian border. *(We talked about this in the post dedicated to the song, “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”, which you can read here).

Needless to say, the process of escaping a life of bondage, travelling under threat of death if captured and then, once you arrived safely in Canada, starting a brand new life in a strange land with absolutely nothing but the clothes on your back and the community of others in the same situation as you, must have been incredibly difficult. There is no sugar-coating what went on. It was the toughest of times for all who sought freedom. One of the ways that those escaping slavery buoyed their courage was through song. In particular, once in Canada, there came to be a spiritual written (of unknown origin/authorship) called, “No More Auction Block For Me”. If you are unaware, one of the very first experiences for newly arrived slaves in America was to be put up, naked, on an auction block and bid for by slave traders and plantation masters. It was a terrifying and humiliating experience, whereby real humans were treated no better than livestock. In any event, one aspect of life in Canada was that no person of colour would ever have to experience being on an auction block again. This was important for those who were adults and who had made the perilous trek to Canada but, it meant even more as these adults looked at their small children and dreamed of a better, safer future for them.

Almost a century later, we arrive at a time in US history when tens of thousands of people were marching and protesting for changes in the law that, in time, became The Civil Rights Act. But, before that happened, there were many marches and sit-ins, bus boycotts and demonstrations aimed at integrating schools, restaurants, etc. and, in the tradition of those searching for freedom, spirituals played a prominent role. One of those Gospel-tinged songs that was resurrected for this moment in time was “No More Auction Block For Me” which, along with “We Shall Overcome”, became the de-facto anthems of the Civil Rights Movement. One of the people who became the face of this aspect of the Civil Rights Movement was a lady named Odetta Holmes or, simply, just Odetta. Odetta had been singing ever since she was a child. She received formal musical training with the hope that one day she would be able to perform on an operatic stage as one of the world’s great opera singers. But, as often happens, destiny called in the form of The Civil Rights Movement. Odetta was, not only a trained singer but, also, a determined social activist and, as such, she readily volunteered to lead marchers and audiences in song. The song she became known for singing was a revival of “No More Auction Block For Me”. She sang this song at marches all over the American south and, most prominently, she sang at the famous, “March on Washington” when Dr. Martin Luther King gave his famous “I Have A Dream” speech.

Obviously, Odetta’s contribution to the cause of Civil Rights is important but, what does it have to do with Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” and Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come”? Well, simply put, before you finish reading this post, you need to listen to Odetta sing, “No More Auction Block For Me”. When you do, you will notice something that sounds familiar. That “something” is the melody to “Blowin’ in the Wind”. As it turns out, the melodies in both songs are virtually identical. What this signifies is that Bob Dylan nicked the melody of “No More Auction Block For Me” almost completely when it came time for him to write the lyrics for “Blowin’ in the Wind”. He admitted as much in a documentary that Martin Scorsese filmed about his life. He stated that, with the melody complete, the adding of words was a relatively simple process which he was able to complete in one day. So, as much as many people view “Blowin’ in the Wind” as an anti-war protest song, for Dylan, it was a song that was influenced by slavery and the Civil Rights movement. And, furthermore, he didn’t even promote the song very much himself. What caused “Blown’ in the Wind” to become as well known and popular a song as it did was when the Folk trio, Peter, Paul and Mary covered it, taking it all the way to #1 on the charts. With the heavy lifting done by Peter, Paul and Mary, as far as popularizing the song goes, Bob Dylan took advantage by debuting his take on the song at his famous appearance at the Newport Folk Festival. It was after that performance that “Blowin’ in the Wind” reverted back to being a Bob Dylan song.

Because “Blowin’ in the Wind” was rooted in the traditions of “Negro Spirituals“, it was recognized as such by those within the Civil Rights movement, as well as, by those singers of colour who were still experiencing racism while plying their trade on stage, as being a song that captured the spirit of their struggle. Prominent singers such as Mavis Staples were blown away by the words to “Blowin’ in the Wind” and, initially, refused to believe that a young, white boy in his early twenties could possess such wisdom. Another singer who was astounded and impressed, at the same time, was Sam Cooke. By the time “Blowin’ in the Wind” was reaching the top of the charts, Sam Cooke was enjoying success with white audiences with songs such as “You Send Me”, “Summertime”, “I’ll Come Running Back To You”, “Cupid” and many more. It is appropriate to call Sam Cooke a music star of some renown. So, when he heard, “Blowin’ in the Wind”, he grew angry at himself for not producing songs of that calibre that spoke to the condition that he and his family and friends experienced on a daily basis. It wasn’t long after hearing “Blowin’ in the Wind” for the first time that he was driving to a concert in Louisiana and showed up at a hotel where he had made a reservation. Upon walking into the lobby, he was informed that his reservation was no longer valid and that he, his family and his crew would all have to leave. Needless to say, Cooke became enraged and raised his voice in violent opposition. He and his party did manage to find other accommodations but, when they showed up at their next hotel, the police were waiting and he was arrested. Sam Cooke decided, then and there, that his days of writing sweet ballads for white audiences were through. Upon his release from jail, he sat down straight away and penned the seminal classic song, “A Change is Gonna Come”. This song spoke to the myriad injustices and slights that he, as a person of colour, had to endure on a daily basis. It, also, stated his hope and belief that one day, through continued pressure and purposeful action that things might change for the better.

The song, “A Change Is Gonna Come” was only ever performed live one time. The musical arrangement involved lush string accompaniment and, as such, Sam Cooke could not afford to reproduce the song live because it was cost prohibitive. However, for an appearance on Late Night with Johnny Carson, money was made available for a string section to play along with Cooke as he sang and, as such, it was the only time this important song was ever played live. Not long after that show, Sam Cooke was killed in Los Angeles in, what was described as, a dispute about drugs. Cooke’s family insisted that he was attempting to keep someone from using some drugs and then, an argument ensued and he was stabbed, bleeding out in a seedy motel in the City of Angels.

Most often, when I go to write the story of whatever song is next on the countdown list, I end up writing the story of that song, alone. But, at other times, connections exist between songs that require them all to be discussed, which is what happened today. “Blowin’ in the Wind” would never have been written if not for a century-old Negro spiritual called, “No More Auction Block For Me” which, in turn, would never have been written if not for the British parliament passing a law that made Canada a free zone for slaves. The award-winning, “A Change is Gonna Come” would never have been written without a young black man named Sam Cooke hearing the words of a white boy that touched his heart in a way that gave his voice a new direction. In the end, we are all the better for the efforts of all three.

So, without further delay, here is Odetta, with her version of “No Auction Block For Me”, Bob Dylan AND Peter, Paul and Mary with “Blowin’ in the Wind”, as well as, the late, great Sam Cooke, with “A Change is Gonna Come”. Enjoy them all.

The link to the video for the song, “No More Auction Block For Me” as sung by Odetta, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Odetta, can be found here.

The link to the video for “Blowin’ in the Wind” by Bob Dylan, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Bob Dylan, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “Blowin’ in the Wind”, as sung by Peter, Paul and Mary, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Peter, Paul and Mary, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Sam Cooke, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP, for playing the most important and influential music of all-time. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #53: Mr. Tambourine Man by Bob Dylan (+) Covered by The Byrds.

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 #53: Mr. Tambourine Man by Bob Dylan (+) Covered by The Byrds.

Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me,

I’m not sleepy and there’s no place that I’m going to.

Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me,

In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come following you.”

It is difficult to simply speak those lines that open the song, “Mr. Tambourine Man” by Bob Dylan. If you are anything like me, you fall into a pattern of sing/speak, whereby you say those words in a cadence similar to what Dylan used in the original song. The meaning behind the song remains somewhat mysterious. Many people were convinced that Dylan was referring to drugs and their effects and that “Mr. Tambourine Man” was either a dealer or the drug, itself. But, no greater an authority that Bob Dylan, himself, denied that this was true. He stated that “Mr. Tambourine Man” is really a form of muse that all true artists require in order to remain creative and to move forward with their work. But, Dylan was a regular marijuana user at the time so, not many people take him at his word.

Like many of Dylan’s songs from the 1960s, it is difficult to convey how groundbreaking they actually were. By this time, Dylan was seeking to stretch his musical wings and become more that simply a Folk singer. His foray into the world of Rock n’ Roll included writing songs that were longer, more mysterious when it came to the content of his lyrics and that definitely read equally well as poetry. One of the signs that Bob Dylan’s music was built for a broader audience could be seen in how other artists reached out to cover his work. The first great cover of a Dylan song being, “All Along the WatchTower” by Jimi Hendrix. The next great and important cover was of this song, “Mr. Tambourine Man” by The Byrds. Ironically enough, both versions of “Mr. Tambourine Man”…..Dylan’s acoustic track, along with The Byrds, electric version, were inducted into the Song Category at The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, along with both artists, as well.

The Byrds’ version is an important milestone in music history because of the fact that it was recorded using electric guitars; specifically, Roger McGuinn’s twelve-string Rickenbacker guitar. The effect of using electric guitars was to give the song a jangly sound. This jangly sound helped define The Byrds and ushered in a new musical genre called, “Folk Rock”. When the band was rehearsing the song before recording it, they invited Bob Dylan to come over and listen to it in the studio. His reaction was one of delight. It is said that when the song was finished, he clapped his hands and proclaimed that this new version was one that people could dance to and, as such, he gave The Byrds his seal of approval. With their harmonies, their jangle-rock sound and their Beatles/Stones haircuts, many people viewed The Byrds as being the next big thing as the 1960s drew to a close. Unfortunately, the band broke up soon thereafter due to internal tensions and creative differences. But, in their wake, they have left behind a superlative remake of a beautiful song…..just as they did with “Turn, Turn, Turn”, as well.

Ironically enough, even though The Byrds self-destructed, Bob Dylan remains active even too this day. And, sixty years later, “Mr. Tambourine Man” still sounds fresh and relevant and unlike almost anything that passes for music today. If you listen carefully to the lyrics and the way in which Dylan sings them, you will see the foundation of Hip Hop beginning to take shape. A great many of his songs were built on a foundation of rhyming and of rhythm. This musical structure is very apparent in “Mr. Tambourine Man”……..

Take me on a trip upon your magic, swirling ship

My senses have been stripped.

My hands can’t feel to grip.

My toes too numb to step.

Waiting only for my boot heels to be wandering.”

So, without further delay, here is the master, Bob Dylan, and his apprentices, The Byrds, with their own uniquely powerful and important versions of this great song, “Mr. Tambourine Man”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Mr. Tambourine Man” by Bob Dylan, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Bob Dylan, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “Mr. Tambourine Man” by The Byrds, can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Byrds, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #79: The Times They Are A-Changing by Bob Dylan.

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.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #334: Subterranean Homesick Blues by Bob Dylan.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, 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. 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.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #334: Subterranean Homesick Blues by Bob Dylan.

“You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”……Abso-flippin’-lutely!

“Subterranean Homesick Blues” by Bob Dylan is a fantastic song in many respects. It was released in 1965. At that moment in US history, the Times were definitely a-changing. There was a growing sense of unease among many; especially, young people, about having blind faith in government officials, big business, etc., to act as stewards for democracy and the American way of life. Young people began to become “radicalized”; looking for new ways of living with each other, new ways of seeing the world (increasingly, through mind-altering chemicals) and, more than anything else, questioning the right of “the establishment” to exist as they presently did. It was a time of protest and challenges to authority that was captured perfectly by Bob Dylan in “Subterranean Homesick Blues”.

“Johnny’s in the basement,

mixing up the medicine,

I’m on the pavement,

thinking about the government.”

It was, also, a time where Bob Dylan was challenging convention

. “Subterranean Homesick Blues” was released on an album called, “Bringing It All Back Home”. What was revolutionary about this album for Dylan (who was already a well known folk/protest singer) was that the entirety of Side #1 of the album were songs backed by an electric rock band. Dylan “going electric” was met with a swift backlash from within the Folk Community. But, Dylan was nothing, if not a forward thinker. He realized that Music, as a idea, was a nebulous, ever-changing, living and breathing entity and, as such, submitting to the arbitrary dictates of society went against the very foundation of musical expression, itself. So, he introduced electric guitars to his inventory of musical skills and, by doing so, invited others to do the same. Thus, “Subterranean Homesick Blues” is noteworthy, not just for the content of its lyrics but, also, for the way it broadened the scope of what was musically acceptable in the US at that time.

The song title, itself, comes from a story by Beat poet and author, Jack Kerouac called, “The Subterraneans”. At the time, Dylan was influenced by the Beat Poets such as Kerouac, Allan Ginseberg and so on. The Beat Poets often wrote in short sentences and phrases, using a stream-of consciousness-style of expression. As a writer wannabee, I love the lyrics in this song. Dylan is not just writing mere words here. He has constructed the lyrics and, in particular, the rhyming scheme in an, almost, Shakespearean manner. If you can recall from your High school English classes, William Shakespeare often wrote in a style called “Iambic Pentameter”. Without going into great detail, iambic pentameter is a way of structuring the words contained in verses of a song or poem, lines of dialogue in Drama, etc., in such a way that it results in a certain cadence coming forth when spoken aloud. If you listen carefully to the lyrics to this song, you will quickly detect the sing-songy rhythm. However, the rhyming scheme does not follow the traditional A-A, B-B or A-B, A-B style of rhyming that we are used to. Instead, Dylan has structured his song so that, sometimes, the rhymes come close together, sometimes, they are separated by several lines, sometimes they are at the end of a line, sometimes they occur in the middle but, always, always, always…. they come together to unify the verse and/or thought that he is expressing at the moment. This is an extraordinary feat of writing; with the end result being, an entire song comprised of very short phrases and sentences that weave in and out of each other, like a formal tapestry. Because of the shortness of the lines and the cadence that results, “Subterranean Homesick Blues” is often hailed as being the very first Hip-Hop song! If you take a moment and look at any popular, classic Hip-Hop song, you will note a lot of similarities in writing style between it and what Dylan did. Bob Dylan may be a skinny white dude with a nasal voice but, truth be told, he may just have been the original rapper!

The final thing I wish to say about “Subterranean Homesick Blues” is that the video that accompanied the song is famous, too. Back in 1965, there were no such things as music videos. The Beatles and Elvis were just starting to experiment with the making of movie musicals but, neither produced stand-alone videos to support their songs. The video for “Subterranean Homesick Blues” is one of the very first pure music videos ever! It was made as part of a movie being shot about Dylan’s concert tour. In the background of the video, Beat Poet Allan GInsberg can be seen hanging around.

There is so much to say about the importance of Bob Dylan to Modern Music. I feel that this post is barely scratching the surface. But, if it helps inspire you to check out more of his work then, it will have been a worthwhile endeavour. For now, I will leave you with one of the first Hip Hop songs ever, one of the first music videos ever and one of the first songs of Bob Dylan’s “electric period”, “Subterranean Homesick Blues”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Subterranean Homesick Blues” by Bob Dylan, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Bob Dylan, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP, for continually supporting the best that music has to offer. A link to their wonderful website can be found here.