This week Rolling Stone will release a special edition commemorating 40 years of Bob Dylan interviews. All of them are as diverse of the body of work he has produced over the last 50 years. The issue will also include a list of the 100 Best Dylan songs. If you made a list of what you believe to be 10 of Dylan's greatest songs, what would they be? Are they all from his first decade? Most lists, I suspect would include those years. Since RS is doing this and didn't invite any of us...or maybe they did and I just don't know about it....I thought it would fun to get your take on this. Include videos, photos, explanations...or just a list...like usual. It would be even better to tally them up and see how it compares with Rolling Stone's list.
Okay so, here's mine:
1) "Like A Rolling Stone" Still the ultimate rock poem bent on re-shaping phrasing, imagery and metaphors in the same way Elvis re-invented country and R&B music when he discovered his pelvis on "That's Alright Mama." Not just Dylan's best studio moment, but one of the four or five most historic creative waves in the pop music studio over the last 50 years. Listen to it today and it still seems futuristic and it's prophecies are still being fulfilled as the boomers of the last century remain lost in a wilderness with 'no direction home.'
2) "Blowing in the Wind" It's easy to discount this song because of it's over familiarity, but in context, it is a stunning and timeless breakthrough for American songwriting and performance. At the young age of 21, with his head full of Woody Guthrie and just his voice, harmonica and guitar, he broke down social, musical and lyrical barriers that forever altered songwriting. There was more to come, but this song would last through all of the eras and transitions the artist would move his way through. It transcended even its own era and re-defined the significance of protest music and folk songs, from a self-righteous, often preachy form, to a universal reflection on the human condition and all of those elusive questions we still ask ourselves.
3) "Mr Tambourine Man" Opening new doors, this song ignited the folk-rock movement and began the stretch of lyric prowess that would peak on Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde. Where did those words come from? It seemed as though he ignited a new poetry that would leave even the best of the modern writers of his day envious.
4) "Every Grain of Sand" Coming at the tail end of the Slow Train period, the closing song on the third in a trilogy, Shot of Love(Slow Train Comin' and Saved preceded it), the song basically smoked all over the apocalyptic, Pentecostal fevered songs of the previous years. It was King David, the Psalmist, meets William Blake. After two years of feeling his gospel roots, he finally found the timeless universality he had found in his folk and rock adventured and he captured it in this beautiful song.
5) "Tangled Up In Blue" Perhaps the most successful of the Blood on the Tracks sessions, the song was the result of Dylan trying to write the way he paints. It worked and became both literary and cinematic all through his unique medium of song. The same energy that went into "Like A Rolling Stone," was present like a rare case of lightening striking twice.
6) "It's Not Dark Yet" Every artist who keeps up with their own legacy must begin to face mortality. Dylan faces it with a surrender, but an unwillingness to release his own inner creative fire. It's a beautiful atmospheric and ambient recording.
7) "Desolation Row" Clearly drawing from T.S. Elliot's Wasteland through the literary influence of Ginsberg, this song, as much as any did more to demonstrate how poetry can rock and rock can be literate during its 11 minute journey into the heart of American culture and western civilizations' icons, the song stands all former writing conventions on their head and creates a new template that is still being fathomed today. I can't help but wonder what The Beat poets must've been feeling when they heard this rock and roll reinvention of literature and the classics.
8) "Tempest/Roll On John" On his newest release, Dylan demonstrates he's lost none of the lyrical imagination and soul that helped him to become our most intuitive rock-poet. Including the title track "Tempest" with "Roll On John," seems intentionally bound together by the chronological subtext and theme of iconic loss, while the artist reaches out for the redemption that has always brought his songs together. In this case, "Tempest," is a dream like journey through the epic fate, one of history's great nautical tragedies at the dawn of the 20th century, the Titanic. As it foreshadowed the end of the Gilded Age, it also signaled of the failure of a caste like status-oriented social system that still lingers today There is a kindness and wistfulness to the song, a sense of nostalgic loss that isn't present in earlier epic songs like "Desolation Row." It's the weariness of a man aging in his times who is well aware of the inevitability of the fate of all humanity. To then, link this song to the equally weary and tragic, "Roll On John," for John Lennon creates the tragic bookend of untimely death and mortality where our cultures reaches to assure our youth, glory and immortality. Why did it end up being a song about the ex-Beatle, an artist of comparable influence and a friend of Dylan's? The Titanic was registered in Liverpool because the parent company, The White Star Line, was founded and based in Liverpool. Even more poignantly, the musicians commissioned to perform on the ill-fated ship were all from Liverpool. Today there is a plaque mounted in their memory in Liverpool. So, somehow, be intentional or unintentional(does it really matter?) the last two songs on Dylan's newest album illuminates the connection between two fallen icons at the beginning and the end of the 20th Century. As a poet, Dylan's vision is a part of his legacy that continues in the same way it did with "The Ballad of Hollis Brown," and "Hurricane," during earlier eras.
9) "Shelter from the Storm" Another gem from perhaps his most consistent album, 1974's Blood on the Tracks. The song continues the thread of metaphorical weaved in with a stirring melody all accomplished with minimal instrumentation.....hauntingly similar to the "Blowing in the Wind,"of the Freewheeling sessions.
10) "Song to Woody" His first original folk song for his hero. The song stands like a stream in folk music history. The student sings to his teacher. From muse to muse, the two men never really knew each other and Guthrie would never realize the full impact of his influence Dylan helped channel. But, this simple, graceful song became a love letter that demonstrated what makes folk music great, the passing on of a legacy.
I like early Dylan best:
1 A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall
2 Like a Rolling Stone
3 Gates of Eden
4 Masters of War
5 Don't Think Twice, It's All Right
6 Mr Tambourine Man
7 Blowin' in the Wind
8 Tangled Up in Blue
9 Restless Farewell
10 Shelter from the Storm
Honorable mention: It's all Over Now, Baby Blue; Please Crawl Out Your Window: Positively Fourth Street; Lay Lady Lay; It Takes a Lot to Laugh and a Train to Cry; Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands; Idiot Wind; Dignity; Highway 61 Revisited
Hi Frank, I suspect you're in the majority here. My list is in no way studied or objective. It's really more on personal experience and preference, which, when it comes down to it, most list are...even the hallowed pages of Rolling Stone rises and falls on this. That being said, I like your list. I did notice two from Blood on the Tracks. I'm hoping for more votes..i know variations on the best of Dylan have been done before on ND, but it needs updating every so often as more people join us and Dylan continues to progress with time and soul.
I submit these ten songs, some of the finest American music ever recorded.
- I shall be released
- You aint going'no where
- Crash on the levee
-Yea heavy & a bottle of bread
-Nothing was delivered
-Too much of nothing
-Open the door Homer
-Going to Acupulco
-Odds & ends
you make an excellent statement here...The Basement Tapes really need to be taken as a whole! I agree the finest and the foundation of what we call Americana today! Thanks!
I'm just plum crazy about those West Saugerties recordings.
Recently acquired 'a tree with roots'. Oh, wow !
lol- basically the entire basement tapes!- as good a choice as any!
Nice french. Nice.
I'd need a long hard think to decide my Top 10 , but i'd say my personal favourite is Blind Willie McTell , it's certainly the one i play most.
These days i tend to listen to the later stuff , Oh Mercy onwards, a lot more , maybe just because i've heard the early stuff so many thousands of times. BOTT is my 2nd Top Album Of All Time though, just behind Astral Weeks.
So, best ? to hard to say.
My 10 favourites , Blind Willie Mc Tell and nine from Blood On The Tracks that aren't Lily Rosemary and the Jack Of Hearts.
My Dylan Top 10 would probably change every day, except that "Like A Rolling Stone" would always be there, of course. Another constant would be "Things Have Changed." I doubt the early protest anthems would crack the list, but "Handy Dandy" might. And something from the Basement Tapes. Let's see, what else? "Blind Willie McTell." "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues." "Mississippi." "High Water (for Charley Patton)." Something from Desire, my favorite Bob album. Oh, and how about "Brownsville Girl."
Rolling Stone magazine still sucks, but here's my list:
1. Masters of War
2. Blind Willie McTell
3. Up to Me
4. Talkin' World War III Blues
5. Positively 4th Street
6. Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts
7. Lay Down Your Weary Tune
8. High Water (For Charley Patton)
9. I Shall Be Free
10. With God on Our Side
Ten greatest? Ten favourites? Sorry, impossible. How about I try to name 10 I don't like that much?
Well, there's Disease of Conceit and I'm struggling with Roll On John but ...
um ... no can't do that either. Stumped.
Some of my personal favorites. I wish I could give a rational explanation, but I can't. Mostly I'm old so I know the early stuff better and I picked some because I like to play them. The order is not a ranking.
My Back Pages
Don't Think Twice
Boots of Spanish Leather
Girl From the North Country
Blowin' In the Wind
You Ain't Going Nowhere
I Shall Be Released