As the veteran singer releases his latest album, here's a guide to get yourself aquatinted with the legendary lyricist.
You know Bob Dylan. The universally-acclaimed 60s folk-rocker, the croaky-voiced New York Beat Poet. He hung out with the Beatles a lot, played the harmonica. All the English students in Uni used to love him; proper music for proper adult people with jobs and books and mortgages.
Wait, you don’t know him? Well don’t worry, because here’s our blagger’s guide to Robert Zimmerman (that’s his real name, BTW).
House of the Risin' Sun – from 'Bob Dylan' (1961)
This place is as good as any to start. 'House of the Risin' Sun' – or as it's also known, 'Risin' Sun Blues' – is an age-old and authorless track about life gone wrong in New Orleans. You will have heard the tune before, as another version by The Animals went massive in 1964, however Dylan's version is a statement of intent. This is where you dip your toe first. If you can like this, you can like anything.
Blowin' In The Wind - from 'The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan' (1963)
Dylan starting to get stuck in your head? Think you could have a go at doing a cover without sounding like Kermit the Frog? Well you can try, but learning this, you'll soon realise you're incapable of singing any Dylan song without that throaty warble coming through. Remember though: there's nothing wrong with being 'that lad with the guitar' if you're good at it, but don't whip this out at any parties unless you've got it nailed down.
The Times They Are A-Changin' – from 'The Times They Are A-Changin' (1964)
Remember that really, really good bit of Watchmen? Where the screen shows the slow-mo rise and fall of all the different Watchmen and it all looks very tasteful and doesn't look like the film will drag on and on and on and on and on for about 3 more hours. Well, that song you were tapping your foot to was 'The Times They Are A-Changin'. Listen to it, absorb it, and get mad at the world. Dylan's really good at making you feel mad at the world.
Like A Rolling Stone – from 'Highway 61 Revisited' (1965)
This is the definitive Dylan track. The classic. The Rolling Stone Magazine Official Best Song Ever, as agreed upon by the secret council of writers, artists and journalists who all say what's great and what isn't. It'd be tempting to call 'Like A Rolling Stone' overrated, but to be honest, it's really not. It's really good. This is the one you're expected to know and expected to love, so know it and love it.
Don't Think Twice, It's Alright – from 'The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan' (1963)
Right, you've got this far and blagged it this well, but there's going to come a time when you need Bob Dylan. There's going to come a time when all the posturing will fall aside, and you'll legitimately need Mr Zimmerman's words when you can't think of your own anymore. That's where 'Don't Think Twice, It's Alright' comes in. The fact of the matter is, Bob Dylan – on an album track in 1963 – captured and described the heartbreaking passiveness of a limp break-up better than any human being has ever managed. It won't make you cry; crying's cheap. But it will make a lot of sense, and in the maelstrom of a break-up, sometimes that'll be all you need. He really is very good, you know.
Image Credit: Everett Collection
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