Come Senators, Congressmen, please heed the call. Don’t block at the doorway, don’t block up the hall. For he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled. For the times they are a changin’. These words still ring true today. Back in the 1960’s, when Bob Dylan first wrote them and people like Peter, Paul and Mary made them an anthem for the times, they were all about the rights of the disenfranchised, especially African-Americans. This past month was the 50th anniversary of many sit-ins around the country. Yet, while we have made major changes, we still are contending with bigotry and a have/ have not world.
Dylan is and was the loudest song writing voice. I think it is evidenced by so many who have sung his songs from all walks of life. Peter, Paul and Mary were on a long list who sang his songs. The greatest image I have of the trio is on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial along with Martin Luther King during his “I Have a Dream” speech singing Dylan’s most famous song “Blowin’ in the Wind.”
How many times must a man look up, before he can see the sky? Yes, an’ how many ears must one man have, before he can hear people cry? Yes, an’ how many deaths will it take until he knows, that too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind. The answer is blowin’ in the wind
Typing these words gives me goose bumps. Born Robert Allen Zimmerman on May 24, 1941, Dylan struck a chord with so many. Even Jimi Hendrix, arguably the greatest guitarist who ever lived, sang “All Along the Watchtower” perhaps my favorite Hendrix’ and cover of a Dylan song. Here is a small sample of lyrics between a joker and a thief:
Businessmen, they drink my wine. Plowmen dig my earth. None of them along the line, know what any of it is worth. No reason to get excited. The thief, he kindly spoke. There are many here among us, who feel that life is but a joke. But you and I, we’ve been through that. And this is not our fate. So let us not talk falsely now. The hour is getting late.
Perhaps my favorite Dylan song is more of a story about love, life and loss – “Tangled Up in Blue.” It may be one of his longer songs, but the story is so compelling, you listen intently all the way through. Plus, it has some of his best catch lines such as “along the avenues.” Here is another sample:
And when finally the bottom fell out, I became withdrawn.The only thing I knew how to do, was to keep on keepin’ on like a bird that flew. Tangled up in blue.
Peter, Paul and Mary had another hit with this next Dylan song “Don’t Think Twice, it’s alright” about a lost love.
I ain’t sayin’ you treated me unkind. You could have done better, but I don’t mind. You just kinda wasted my precious time. But don’t think twice, it’s alright.
Dylan’s song list is seemingly endless. On one website, it had 700 songs and that is probably not all of them. Songs like “Tambourine Man” that The Byrds made famous with their twelve string guitar version. Other great songs include “It Ain’t Me Babe”, “Lay Lady Lay”, “Shelter from the Storm”, “Just Like a Woman”, “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”, and “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall.” Drawing a line on the songs I wanted to highlight was quite difficult.
One classic I had to include is “You’ve Gotta a Lot of Nerve”, which has one of the greatest put down lines ever written:
I wish, for just one time, you could stand inside my shoes. Then you’d know what a drag it is to see you.
Since this could go on forever, let me close with a final favorite ‘Like a Rolling Stone.” It shows anyone can fall on hard times. And, people who do are just like everyone else.
You used to laugh about everybody that was hangin’ out. Now, you don’t talk so loud, now, you don’t seem so proud. About havin’ to be scrounging around for your next meal. How does it feel, how does it feel? To be without a home. With no direction home. Like a complete unknown. Just like a rolling stone?
I felt to end Dylan’s tribute with this song is appropriate for the times. With the down economy, there have been people who never dreamed they could become homeless who now are. Some of these folks noted they used to tell people to get a job. Now, they are in need. The times they are a changin’, but unless we help each other climb a ladder and maintain their dignity while doing so, we still have a ways to go. Unless we help give people opportunity and not kick them when they are down, the times seem the same. Maybe, we need some of the new talent to sings his anthems as many of his songs resonate today. Maybe he could a pen a few new ones.
We would truly be a lesser place without his music and especially his powerful lyrics. Bob Dylan influenced a world of musicians and listeners. Thanks Mr. Zimmerman for your contributions.