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75-year-old Bob Dylan has just been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, lauded for his lyrical prowess and artistic expression that brought poetry and music together with powerful and moving results. For over five decades, he has masterfully crafted tales heavy with political messages like class struggle and discrimination, as well as raw and often heart-wrenching love stories through his music. Here are just a few of his songs that we love, for your listening pleasure.
Like a Rolling Stone (1965)
“How does it feel,
To be without a home,
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?”
On the surface, this song almost sounds happy with the musicians slamming out its major chords with little difficulty. But one look at the lyrics and you’ll see that it’s really a cry of frustration. This song is for anyone who’s had a bad day and just wants to let it all out. Catchy and impossible not to sing along to.
The Times They Are A-Changin’ (1963)
“You better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’”
This song makes one feel almost sick with nostalgia for a state of familiarity and safety that’s falling away from us faster than we can cope with. Bob croons about anticipating an uncertain and scary future, a feeling that’s so relatable, perhaps now more than ever with the whirlwind of change that 2016 has brought about from Brexit to the US presidential race.
Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright (1962)
“Still I wish there was somethin’ you would do or say
To try and make me change my mind and stay
We never did too much talkin’ anyway
So don’t think twice, it’s all right”
Bittersweet and unsentimental, Bob bids a lover goodbye and doesn’t look back. We’ve all felt snubbed in the game of love before, not resentful but a little annoyed that we invested time in someone who turned out unworthy of it. That feeling is captured perfectly in this song. It also reminds us that life will go on and hearts will mend, as long as you don’t think too much.
Tangled Up in Blue (1975)
“Then she opened up a book of poems
And handed it to me
Written by an Italian poet
From the thirteenth century
And every one of them words rang true
And glowed like burnin’ coal
Pourin’ off of every page
Like it was written in my soul from me to you
Tangled up in blue”
This ballad is a love story. Boy meets girl (who is married, by the way), girl slips away. Boy proceeds to brood. Then the narrative shifts to and suddenly we’re hearing the story from Bob’s perspective. He meets the same girl and they hit it off. But as the song reaches a climax, things sour and the girl slips away yet again. Sprinkled with details that don’t fall perfectly into place, the listener has to fill in the gaps between each honest and intimate snippet that Bob offers using the backdrop of the 70s as context to make sense of his references.
To Fall In Love with You (1986)
“The day is dark, our time is right
day in the night deep in the night
I can’t yet be back I heard my- surprise
I see it in your lips I knew it in your eyes
Well I feel your love and I feel no shame
I can’t unleash your horde I call your name
What you’re to me what can I do?
To fall in love to fall in love
To fall in love with you”
This song was never officially finished, but this recording gives us insight into Bob’s untempered musical genius. Muffled lyrics create a muted poignance and pain, and the effect is somehow soothing to the soul. It feels desperate and longful, eager to be heard, but bides its time with a unique melody that patiently nurses our interest and gains our trust.