Dylan performing in 1962 (from Guitar.com)

Dylan Revisited

Looking back at my favorite Bob Dylan songs

Dylan typing up lyrics (from https://fuckyehbobdylan.tumblr.com/post/159823520950/by-ted-russell)

75. “Pay in Blood” from ‘Tempest’ (2012)

The last good, new Dylan album. The punchy music and biting lyrics are a reminder of why Dylan is the best.

74. “Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)” from ‘Street Legal’ (1978)

A punchy chorus and a folk-y story go hand in hand.

73. “Bound to Lose, Bound to Win” from ‘The Bootleg Series, Vol 9: The Witmark Demos: 1962–1964' (2010)

The beginnings of a song, a damn fine melodic one at that. My first deep dive in Dylan bootlegs. Sometimes these half-songs really have no deeper meaning; sometimes they are just catchy as hell.

72. “Drifter’s Escape” from ‘John Wesley Harding’ (1968)

The stories Dylan tells in his stories are not just protest anthems, but mystic folklore that highlights something strange about the American experience.

71. “Positively 4th Street” a B-side from the single ‘Like a Buick 6' (1965)

A running theme within Dylan’s music is mystery. Who or where Dylan is talking about in this song remains unknown, helping the listener put themselves in Dylan’s place. Whoever Dylan is reflecting about, he is not reflecting happy memories.

70. “Where Teardrops Falls” from ‘Oh Mercy’ (1989)

69. “Gypsy Lou” from ‘The Bootleg Series, Vol 9: The Witmark Demos: 1962–1964’ (2010)

68. “I Shall Be Free” from ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’ (1963)

Another theme in Dylan’s music is the tradition of folk music. This song is based on a LeadBelly song “We Shall Be Free”. This song closes the album released in the folk revival movement of the 1960s and represents artists taking melodies and lyrics and, usually, re-working them to fit the modern age.

67. “Sara” from ‘Desire’ (1976)

A love song to his then wife, Sara, which Dylan recorded while she was present at the session.

66. “All Along the Watchtower” from ‘John Wesley Harding’ (1968)

Though I heard the Jimi Hendrix version first, the song is an example of my musical taste always lead me to Bob Dylan.

65. “Neighborhood Bully” from ‘Infidels’ (1983)

64. “Long Pilgrim” from ‘World Gone Wrong’ (1993)

In the early 1990s, Dylan moved away from full on bands and complex arrangements. He went back to simple folk music. World Gone Wrong was the second album of the 1990s that featured Dylan, folk tunes, a guitar and the occasional harmonica — the things that made him famous.

63. “Little Maggie” from ‘Good as I Been to You’ (1992)

The first (and more enjoyable) return to folk music for Dylan. There are a ton of sweet tunes on this album — an underrated album — and “Little Maggie” is the tips of this iceberg.

62. “Man of Constant Sorrow” from ‘Bob Dylan’ (1962)

Dylan’s take on a folk music staple from the early 1900s.

61. “Like a Rolling Stone” from ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ (1965)

60. “Walkin’ Down the Line” from ‘The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961–1991’ (1991)

59. “All over You” from ‘The Bootleg Series, Vol 9: The Witmark Demos: 1962–1964’ (2010)

Though Dylan is known for his longer, epic songs, sprinkled in his music repertoire are fun, light and catchy songs about love, friendship and everything in-between.

58. “Nettie Moore” from ‘Modern Times’ (2006)

57. “Man in the Long Black Coat” from ‘Oh Mercy’ (1989)

A popular folk song story is the “demon lover” — songs like “House Carpenter” — where a woman is whisked away from her mortal lover and falls in love with a demon. Dylan took that story and turned it upside down. This slick, moody and quiet song gives a deeper perspective of the demon and not the mortal lover. It is a haunting and fascinating look at love.

56. “Main Title Theme (Billy)” from ‘Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid’ (1973)

A soundtrack for the movie Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid where most people jam out to Knockin’ on Heavens Door. But the main title is some of the most contemplative and beautiful music I’ve heard.

55. “Changing of the Guards” from from ‘Street Legal’ (1978)

54. “Mixed-Up Confusion” from ‘Biograph’ (1968)

53. “Blowin’ in the Wind” from ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’ (1963)

This is a staple among many Dylan fans and fans of the folk revival of the 1960s. The song’s lyrics are a series of rhetorical questions; the genius stems from the song being relevant throughout the years since its release. Though, the mystery that surrounds many Dylan songs even relate to the popular ones.

52. “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine” from ‘John Wesley Harding’ (1968)

51. “Political World” from ‘Oh Mercy’ (1989)

50. “Jokerman” from ‘Infidels’ (1983)

49. “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” from ‘Bringing It All Back Home’ (1965)

48. “All I Really Want to Do” from ‘Another Side of Bob Dylan’ (1964)

Often over-looked are pleas for friendship or of loneliness. Audiences respond to songs about love and hate because, usually, those are songs where the passion really resonates. But, songs like this, helped by Dylan’s incredible ability to choose the perfect word, are much more meaningful. His plea for someone to notice him or acknowledge him is quite painful, yet powerful.

47. “With God on Our Side” from ‘The Times They a-Changing’ (1964)

46. “Blind Willie McTell” from ‘The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961–1991’ (1991)

Dylan singing about a blues artist from the early 1900s, where he sings, “No one can sing the blues like Blind Willie McTell”. It makes one curious about who is McTell and is his music that powerful. (Yes, yes it is.)

45. “Baby, I’m Mood In the Mood for You” from ‘The Bootleg Series, Vol 9: The Witmark Demos: 1962–1964’ (2010)

44. “Step It up and Go” from ‘Good as I Been to You’ (1992)

One of the more livelier tunes from Dylan is a cover of a standard blues tune from the 1930s. This song features some of Dylan’s best guitar strumming.

43. “Simple Twist of Fate” from ‘Blood on the Tracks’ (1975)

42. “Only a Pawn in Their Game” from ‘The Times They a-Changing’ (1964)

Dylan’s song about the assassination of Civil Rights leader Medger Evers. Powerful with an confusion and anger that Dylan beautifully captures. Here he is performing the song during the March on Washington:

41. “It Ain’t Me Babe” from ‘Another Side of Bob Dylan’ (1964)

Probably as blunt as Dylan can get and that bluntness is its power. A track that has been covered many times over, but Dylan’s version remains its most genuine.

40. “I and I” from ‘Infidels’ (1983)

39. “Everything Is Broken” from ‘Oh Mercy’ (1989)

A song about life falling apart. Nothing too deep but its effective.

38. “Whatcha Gonna Do?” from ‘The Bootleg Series, Vol 9: The Witmark Demos: 1962–1964’ (2010)

37. “To Be Alone With You” from ‘Nashville Skyline’ (1969)

A sweet tune and one where Dylan’s voice (and music) begins to shift.

36. “Honey, Just Allow Me One More Chance” from ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’ (1963)

35. “If You See Her, Say Hello” from ‘Blood on the Tracks’ (1975)

34. “Thunder on the Mountain” from ‘Modern Times’ (2006)

A song that conjures up the melodies and vibe of rock-a-billy. It is a fun song that features a shoutout to Alicia Keys. What more do you want from Bob Dylan!?

33. “Mr. Tambourine Man” from ‘Bringing It All Back Home’ (1965)

32. “Ring Them Bells” from ‘Oh Mercy’ (1989)

This album was coming off of Dylan’s dive into religious albums. Spirituals and religious themes run all over folk music — usually fitted in a way to fit the message of the day. By 1989, Dylan was more introspective and writing about human connections that songs with strong protesting lyrics. Coupled with a gorgeous piano, “Ring Them Bells” is the shinning light from an underrated album.

31. “John Wesley Harding” from ‘John Wesley Harding’ (1968)

A western tale about an outlaw — whose actual name was John Wesley Hardin.

30. “Tombstone Blues” from ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ (1965)

While there are plenty examples of Dylan’s lyrics packing tons of emotional weight, he has delved into the world of the surreal. Sometimes the words are meaningless — or so they seem. Do we give them meaning when searching for meaning? Or should we just sing along and enjoy?

29. “Canadee-I-O” from ‘Good as I Been to You’ (1992)

28. “Mozambique” from ‘Desire’ (1976)

According to legend, this song was written to see how many times Dylan could rhyme “ique”.

27. “Girl from the North Country” from ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’ (1963)

No one captures the pain, sadness and loneliness of lost love like Bob Dylan.

26. “The Times They Are A-Changing” from ‘The Times They a-Changing’ (1964)

25. “Gates of Eden” from ‘Bringing It All Back Home’ (1965)

The epic of poetry of Bob Dylan in full force, as well as his surreal writing powers in full effect. Dylan has described the song as a “love song”. Looking for what is being loved and by whom will have one listening on repeat.

24. “Subterranean Homesick Blues” from ‘Bringing It All Back Home’ (1965)

One of the few songs that started getting myself to look at Dylan more closely. Its iconic video, incredible vocal performance and Dylan’s genius at constructing sentences are all on display. Always remember: “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows”.

23. “Spanish Harlem Incident” from ‘Another Side of Bob Dylan’ (1964)

22. “Tangled up in Blue” from ‘Blood on the Tracks’ (1975)

21. “John Brown” from ‘The Bootleg Series, Vol 9: The Witmark Demos: 1962–1964’ (2010)

This song should be higher. If I was listing songs on importance, it would make the top 5. When I was really looking for songs to really dive into, I saw “John Brown” and immediately thought the song was about the infamous radical American who tried to start a race war in the 1850s. It’s not.

20. “What Good Am I?” from ‘Oh Mercy’ (1989)

19. “The Man in Me” from ‘New Morning’ (1970)

18. “Diamond Joe” from ‘Good as I Been to You’ (1992)

17. “Desolation Row” from ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ (1965)

Ambitious, long and filled with imagery and lyrics most artists envy about, “Desolation Row” is Dylan flexing his skills. Lyrics are meant to be relatable and tell a story (or describe a feeling), where the listener can connect with the artist. Dylan does that 100x over. He paints imagery without much effort — or so it seems.

16. “Forever Young” from ‘Planet Waves’ (1974)

15. “Ain’t Gonna Grieve” from ‘The Bootleg Series, Vol 9: The Witmark Demos: 1962–1964’ (2010)

Another great example of a short and catchy tune with the spiritual influences that makes this among one of my favorite Dylan tracks.

14. “Ye Shall Be Changed” from ‘The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961–1991’ (1991)

This has never been performed live nor has it received a release on a studio album. I have no idea why; it is one of the best composed Dylan tracks. The music is grand and catchy, while the lyrics are easy reflective and meaningful.

13. “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” from ‘Bringing It All Back Home’ (1965)

12. “Bob Dylan’s Dream” from ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’ (1963)

11. “Mississippi” from ‘The Bootleg Series Vol. 8: Tell Tale Signs: Rare and Unreleased 1989–2006’ (2008)

A powerful love story that has whoever Dylan is writing about looking back on his life. Coupled with his raspy voice (which works for the song) and his simple guitar strumming, the “Mississippi” version on this bootleg album is the version to hear.

10. “House Carpenter” from ‘The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961–1991’ (1991)

Remember “Man in the Long Black Coat”? Here is the song it is based off of — the classic tune many folk artists have sung about.

09. “I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)” from ‘Another Side of Bob Dylan’ (1964)

A song about Dylan wondering why a woman left him. The laughs throughout the song give a sense that this is not something he is all too concerned about, but the lyrics may tell a different story.

08. “Maggie’s Farm” from ‘Bringing It All Back Home’ (1965)

A big fuck you to the folk revival movement, where Dylan had made his bread and butter. He wanted to branch out and try new sounds and write different sounds. The song is at the epicenter of one of the most controversial musical shows in history: Dylan going electric.

07. “The Death of Emmett Till” from ‘The Bootleg Series, Vol 9: The Witmark Demos: 1962–1964’ (2010)

One of the songs from English class that helped me see Dylan in a new light.

06. “Let Me Die In My Footsteps” from ‘The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961–1991’ (1991)

I am shocked this was never given a full release. The song is one of Dylan’s strongest poetic songs. Its call for the narrator to be a martyr for the commond good still packs an emotional punch.

05. “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” from ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’ (1963)

A classic.

04. “Oxford Town” from ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’ (1963)

I wish this song was longer, but its power is in its words and shortness.

03. “Hurricane” from ‘Desire’ (1976)

Dylan returned to his protesting days with a song about the imprisonment of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. Its a song that details the ugly racism of society, and Dylan does not shy away from any subject matter. The song brought on controversy, but shows the powerful medium of music. Carter was released after serving 20 years

02. “When the Ship Comes In” from ‘The Times They a-Changing’ (1964)

My favorite vocal performance by Dylan, as well as a gorgeous guitar melody.

01. “Shelter from the Storm” from ‘Blood on the Tracks’ (1975)

This song is Dylan’s most powerful song. But it is also the song where I did a 180 on Dylan and his music. In a high school English class, we sat and listened to the song and broke down the lyrics line-by-line. It was an eye-opening experience that first really gave me the notion that music was more than just… well… the music. It can offer stories, messages and something much deeper than I would have liked to admit.



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Alex Bauer

Just a guy who likes telling great stories, however and whenever I can. Click the Twitter icon to follow or e-mail me at ambauer93@gmail.com