For the first time today, I felt as we were truly beginning to open the door into the decade that became the 1960s. Today’s album was the debut performance of folk-rock legend and songwriter Bob Dylan. Although his fame and success ultimately were built upon the quality and quantity of original songs, this initial release was primarily traditional songs and covers, with only two original compositions.
The album started somewhat uneventfully, with all of the songs very simple with a single acoustic guitar and harmonica. It turns out that almost every song was recorded on a single take, just as you can envision hearing this young man in your local bar or coffee shop playing as an accompaniment to the conversations of the day. The first song that really caught my ear was “In My Time of Dyin’”, a traditional blues-rock song that was robustly reshaped in 1974 by Led Zeppelin. “Man of Constant Sorrow”, another traditional piece, hit home with the lyrics speaking of a man who hails from Colorado with many ups and downs in life. The other most recognizable track to most would be his version of “House of the Risin’ Sun”, which of course would be much more widely remembered by the version recorded in 1964 by the Animals. I think the most appealing song on the album, not surprisingly, is one of the two Dylan originals, “Song to Woody”, which was young Dylan’s ode to the legendary Woody Guthrie. A beautiful melody, this song best captures the coming change in young and restless America as we began to look at our artists as more than just entertainment, but also voices of our aspiration for change.
With my list including Rolling Stone’s Top 100 Greatest Album of All Time, you can rest assured that there will be plenty more of Bob Dylan to come on this journey. As a songwriter and performer, his impact is immeasurable, as will be seen in the music of many others to follow.