Why Bob Dylan Matters
I have always been into poems. They somehow have always said what I wanted to convey much better than my simple words could. I was introduced to Bob Dylan songs in my college years. Much later after poets like Oscar Wilde, Robert Frost, and P B Shelley. But boy, Dylan’s songs lingered on and they will stay with me forever. These literary masterpieces are not just to love, but to live your life by. Even after almost 6 decades, these songs are as apt as they were if not more.
Bob Dylan is often referred to as the voice of the generation, he strongly advocated social and political change in his own legendary satirical way. I, like many of his followers, feel it as my responsibility to share this legacy with as many people as I can so the coming generations can know that “He not busy being born, is busy dying”.
Robert Allen Zimmerman (a.k.a Bob Dylan) had certain unique characteristics that made him different and made him unforgettable to history. Let’s go through some of them:
He said that he ran away from home 17 times and was brought back 16. The Noble Laurette songwriting activist, not receiving the prize publicly speaks for his reputation for protest. Listening to his classical protest songs would make you realize his hate for political violence and social inequality.
- Masters of War (1963)
“You that never done nothin’
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it’s your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly”
- A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall (1963)
“Heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’
Heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin’
Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter
Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall”
When you learn the true meaning of his songs, you will realize that they are timeless. He speaks the truth to succeeding generations and to all generations. This puts him in the same category as Gerard Manley Hopkins, Thomas Hardy, and Philip Larkin.
- The Times They Are A-Changin’ (1964)
“And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’”
This is the most unique and intriguing quality that strikes out to me. Though inspired by many love poets and a lot of folk music, he mentions some gruesome truths about love that many of would learn at times.
- It ain’t me babe (1963)
“You say you’re lookin’ for someone
Who will promise never to part
Someone to close his eyes for you
Someone to close his heart
Someone who will die for you an’ more
But it ain’t me, babe
No, no, no, it ain’t me, babe
It ain’t me you’re lookin’ for, babe”
- Don’t think twice its alright (1963)
“But goodbye is too good a word gal
So I’ll just say “fair-thee-well”
I ain’t saying you treated me unkind
You could have done better, but I don’t mind
And you just sorta wasted my precious time
But don’t think twice it’s all right”
But then why does he matter?
There are some songs so disparate that almost everyone could learn a thing or two from them. Bob Dylan composed many of them. One of such classic jewel from 1965 was Mr. Tambourine Man which tells a story of a man wandering on streets and experiencing life.
- Tambourine Man (1965)
“Hey! Mr. Tambourine man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey! Mr. Tambourine man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come following you
And take me disappearing through the smoke rings of my mind
Down the foggy ruins of time
Far past the frozen leaves
The haunted frightened trees
Out to the windy beach
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow”
For governments and politicians:
His goal was to bring everyone together. He wanted peace and freedom for everyone no matter their race, color or nationality. Bob Dylan took a huge part in moving towards the Civil Rights Movement. He was present on stage when Dr. Martin Luther gave his famous speech “I Have a Dream”.
- Blowin in the Wind (1962)
“Yes, ‘n’ how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, ‘n’ how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.”
Same as for an entrepreneur in their business, for Dylan, creating a song was less a concrete, time-tested process and more of a channeling of feelings. You risk everything trusting just your guts.
- Like a rolling stone (1965)
“But you better take your diamond ring, you better pawn it babe
You used to be so amused
At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used
Go to him he calls you, you can’t refuse
When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose
You’re invisible now, you’ve got no secrets to conceal
How does it feel, ah how does it feel?
To be on your own, with no direction home
Like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone”
I personally feel schools should have his songs included in their syllabi. Its every teacher’s responsibility to encourage teenagers to live by his songs. I really think it could make a major positive impact in their lives and the society in general.
- What good am I (1989)
“What good am I if I know and don’t do
If I see and don’t say if I look right through you
If I turn a deaf ear to the thunderin’ sky
What good am I?”
For the ones with a job:
“What’s money? A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do.” Dylan lived outside the law, yet he was honest. So listening to his songs makes you realize there is much more to life than doing a job and making money.
- It’s alright ma (1969)
“An’ though the rules of the road have been lodged
It’s only people’s games that you got to dodge
And it’s alright, Ma, I can make it
Advertising signs that con you
Into thinking you’re the one
That can do what’s never been done
That can win what’s never been won
Meantime life outside goes on
All around you”
Bob Dylan had a rough relationship with his parents and later wished they would’ve understood him. Parents nowadays are much more accepting and open minded for sure. But they should, of course, see that their child is out of any harm, yet they should let them take risks too.
- The Times They Are A-Changin’ (1964)
“Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.”
Bob Dylan songs are for everyone, for every stage of life and for every decade to come. So after a couple of beers discussing one of his songs with my brother, I asked him “Why do people not relate to his songs as I do?”
And he gave me a satisfying answer that everyone doesn’t have much of a poetic background and people don’t really like the way he sings. “Never mind, I pity them,” I said. They’d never know as he says “Don’t matter how much money you got, there’s only two kinds of people: there’s saved people and there’s lost people”
Woah!! So you read it all !! And you deserve all the words of wisdom by Bob Dylan. So here is a free PDF containing all his songs.
Happy reading. Bob Dylan Songbook