Bob Dylan is 70

Feel as though I should come up with a list of my Top 10 Dylan songs done by Dylan himself. This is harder than it might seem because, often, someone else’s version tops his, in my mind.


A couple books (that I have not read) have come out about Bob Dylan recently, Sean Wilentz’s “Bob Dylan in America,” and “Bob Dylan by Greil Marcus, Writings 1968-2010” by Greil Marcus. Dylan will turn 70 today, which also, I read in Jon Friedman’s Media Web column for MarketWatch.com, marks “the 50th anniversary of his arrival in New York City’s Greenwich Village folk scene. He was a star when John F. Kennedy was our president.”

I’ve been writing a bit about him already this year, from a reinterpretation of his lyrics to cover versions of his songs.

But I feel as though I should come up with a list of my Top 10 Dylan songs done by Dylan himself. This is harder than it might seem because, often, someone else’s version tops his, in my mind. I actually like his “Blowin’ in the Wind”, but it’ll always be a Peter, Paul and Mary song; ditto the Byrds’ “Mr. Tambourine Man,” Willie Nelson doing “What Was It You Wanted”, even Joan Baez’s “Simple Twist of Fate”, and any number of others.

Links to the best videos I could find:
10. The Groom’s Still Waiting At The Altar – obviously from Bob’s overtly Christian period, I think I liked it as much because of its relative rarity – it was a non-album B-side of a single before it showed up in collections and the CD version of Shot of Love – as for that fascinating “church as bride” imagery. Not a great recording, I know.
9. Subterranean Homesick Blues – and I might like this more for the classic flashcard video than the song itself.
8. Hurricane – Bob was political from his early days, but this return to that issue, specifically addressing the trumped-up murder charges against Ruben ‘Hurricane’ Carter moved me.
7. Ballad Of A Thin Man – I’ll be honest: when I first heard Yer Blues on the Beatles’ white album, I had NO idea about the reference to “Dylan’s Mr. Jones”. Finally hearing it gave me a greater appreciation.
6. Summer Days – as I have noted, the Love and Theft album came out on September 11, 2001, but though I’d pre-ordered and purchased it, I didn’t listen to it until several days later. And when I did, it gave me such joy. No song more than this one.
5. Stuck Inside A Mobile With A Memphis Blues Again – I was initially attracted to the sheer length of the title, as well as the song’s merits. Couldn’t find a decent version online; this is the 2:22 intro from the movie about Dylan, “I Am Not There”
4. Highway 61 Revisited – if only for the dialogue between God and Abraham, it’d be worth it. This is a cartoon video someone put together.
3. Like A Rolling Stone – it’s anthemic. Love the Al Kooper organ.
2. I Want You – the very first Dylan song I ever owned, not from a Dylan album or single but from a Columbia compilation album The Best of ’66.
1. Rainy Day Women No. 12 & 35 – from that Salvation Army intro to “everybody must get stoned”. Can’t resist.
***
The entire Highway 61 Revisited album.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

8 thoughts on “Bob Dylan is 70”

  1. Ah, my own list posted today only shares 2 songs! I have never been a giant afficionado of Dylan covers over the man’s own songs, although I admit many are frequently brilliant. But something uncategorizable is often lost when the songs are “prettied up” for a more smooth voice/sound, I think… maybe it’s just me!

  2. My first Dylan album was New Morning (1970). Then I have some of his most expressively Christian ones (Slow Train Coming, Saved, Shot of Love). Those were on LP, I’ve later had them transferred to CD. A CD collection or two. Then the more recent Modern Times and Together Through Life. I love Modern Times, I think it’s brilliant. And I love the fact that an artist I liked back in my mid teens is still active and producing new things that I like.

  3. I am not his fan, but I read a write up on him this week. Some one tell him to eat a bit more? I like Elton John. LOL

  4. Early Dylan is what I know best. Remember the HUGE controversy when he moved from acoustic to electric guitar? My lord, you would have thought he was caught barbecuing babies. Know nothing about his more current music but I give him a salute for staying power. Now if he’d just lose the Snidely Whiplash moustache.

  5. I’ve never been a fan of Bob. Even back in his glory days, I really didn’t care for his voice.

  6. If anybody is interested… I’m sure you are, Roger… the other day Democracy Now! pulled out some very rare recordings from the WBAI archives of Mr. Dylan from when he was a youngster first making a name for himself. I believe they claimed to have the very first radio recording of Dylan performing:

    http://www.democracynow.org/2011/5/24/the_legendary_bob_dylan_turns_70

    Or:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/democracy-now/hear-rare-interviews-and-_b_866492.html

    Here’s a quick quiz question. We all know that Bob Zimmerman adopted the stage name Bob Dylan. But as a teenager in the 1950s (!) he played piano in a band that soon went on to national fame and hit records without him. What was the stage name he used with this band, probably his original (forgettable) stage name? (Hint: the band’s leader was named Bob Velline.)

  7. Dan – I did not know that. So I figured Bobby V would have a piano player named Bobby Z. Nope, Elston Gunn, according to the sources I read.

  8. Close! He spelled his name Elston Gunnn with three ens. This is according to oft repeated interviews by Bobby Vee (stage name of Bob Velline) as with this one, his reply to the second question:

    http://www.bobbyvee.net/interv.html

    As far as I know Mr. Gunnn has never confirmed this story, but in his autobiography he has plenty of praise for Bobby Vee. And no one has ever called him out on the claim that he toured with Conway Twitty.

    Just as an aside, I first learned about this from a one page story in one of those free comic books they give away on “Free Comic Book Day.” I still have it. See? Comic books are worth reading.

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