On July 9th 1962, Bob Dylan walked into a studio and recorded the song that would make him a star. A few weeks earlier, in the spring of his first full year in New York, he was onstage at Gerde’s Folk City in Greenwich Village, talking about a song he claims to have written in just 10 minutes: “Blowin’ In The Wind.”
He famously said: “This here ain’t no protest song or anything like that, ’cause I don’t write no protest songs.” That was how Bob Dylan introduced one of the most eloquent protest songs ever written when he first performed it publicly.
Dylan’s recording of “Blowin’ In The Wind” would first be released nearly a full year later, on his breakthrough album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. This was not the version of the song that most people would first hear, however. That honour went to the cover version by Peter, Paul and Mary—a version that not only became a smash hit on the pop charts, but also transformed what Dylan would later call “just another song” into the unofficial anthem of the civil rights movement.
“Blowin’ In The Wind” bore little or no resemblance to the highly topical, highly literal protest songs of the day, but that may have been precisely what made it so effective as a protest song. A lyric like “How many roads must a man walk down, before you call him a man?” lends itself perfectly to those seeking racial justice, just as “How many seas must a white dove sail, before she sleeps in the sand?” does to those seeking peace. The moving, vaguely spiritual, clearly dissatisfied, yet ultimately ambiguous nature of “Blowin’ In the Wind” made it the quintessential protest song of the 1960s—”A song that the times seemed to call forth,” in the words of critic Greil Marcus.
It also represented a significant breakthrough for Bob Dylan as a songwriter. From “Blowin’ In The Wind” onward, Dylan’s songs would reflect a far more personal and poetic approach to self-expression—an approach that would lead him away from songs like “The Times They Are a-Changin'” and toward songs like “Like A Rolling Stone.” And Dylan’s development as a songwriter would, in turn, have a similar effect on The Beatles, whose own move from “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” to “A Day In The Life” can be traced directly to their exposure to The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan in the spring of 1964.
Bob Dylan was born Robert Allen Zimmerman on May 24th 1941, in Duluth, Minnesota, and raised in Hibbing, Minnesota, on the Mesabi Iron Range west of Lake Superior. His paternal grandparents were from modern day Ukraine, in what was previously the Russian Empire. His maternal grandparents were Lithuanian Jews.
Zimmerman (Dylan) played in several local bands during high school, and in 1959 played keyboard in two concerts with Bobby Vee. He moved to Minneapolis in September 1959 and enrolled at the University of Minnesota, where his early focus on rock and roll gave way to an interest in American folk music. He changed his name to Bob Dylan to acknowledge he had been influenced by the poetry of Dylan Thomas
He dropped out of college at the end of his freshman year, and moved to New York in January 1961, hoping to meet his inspiration, Woody Guthrie. Guthrie, at that stage, was in a psychiatric hspital with Huntington’s Disease, but Dylan mett with him regardless. He claimed this as a major inspiration in his life.
His first album sold only 5,000 copies, and Columbia considered dropping him. However, they decided to persist with him, and the rest, as they say, is history.This Day In History
Yes but while it may be the best, he doesn’t consider it a protest song.
Proof that beauty and musical complexity are two different animals.
One of so many wonderful songs he’s written.
Craig, we play a cover of this song, and while being simple in nature regarding the chord structure, the lyrics are chalk full of meaning that, while written many years ago, fits anytime when a country is at war….Nice blog!
This is one of my all time favorite tunes. I still dig out recordings of Dylan to enjoy over and over.
C, again you capture a bit of the past that still is very current. Nice job.
so in our 8th grade graduation ceremony our class sang this song …. how much has public education changed in the usa since then? I am 57 now.
It always looks nice reading your posts.
Fantastic song, one of the first I learnt on my old trumpet. I love the Peter, Paul and Mary version.
I did a “Blowin’ In The Wind” post, too, except I also included a couple of versions that I like better than Dylan’s.
Please feel free to add a link.
It was in my Music on Mondays series for last week: http://russelrayphotos2.com/2012/07/09/music-on-mondays-the-answer-is-blowin-in-the-wind/
I knew most of this, but loved reading about Dylan again – the Baez documentary on TV reveals Dylan as a self-centered, self-aggrandizing slob, but what the heck – talent is never a personality contest. It might not have been “protest” but it was so “in tune” (sorry!) with the feelings of an entire generation. “Times They Are A’Changing'” is my favorite!