Bob Dylan wins well-deserved Nobel Prize for literature
Dylan's album John Wesley Harding, released in 1967, featured the song 'All Along the Watchtower'. The song went on to become one of America's all-time most covered rock songs. In photo: Dylan performs on June 3, 1984.
Masters of War: This classic 60s folk tune has hypnotic strumming and no guff lyrics. Dylan has run out of patience for politicians who send young people to die in war while they sit safely in mansions:
“I hope that you die, and your death’ll come soon…and I’ll stand over your grave, and make sure that you’re dead.”
Like a Rolling Stone/ Mr Tambourine Man/ Blowin in the Wind: These songs are Dylan’s versions of The Beatles’ Hey Jude and Let It Be; undeniably great and important songs you’d be happy to never hear again. Maybe equally overplayed and iconic. A Dylan list should be sober enough to tip their hat to these songs, without being so sentimental that we listen to them.
Ballad of a Thin Man: This haunting tune with cryptic lyrics is a stand out from Dylan’s first electric album, from 1965, Highway 61 Revisited. The '90s group Counting Crows wrote a popular song “Mr Jones”, who is a mysterious character from this Dylan number. The original album version is fantastic. Here's a later live version.
Hurricane: This tune from the popular 1976 album Desire blew up when Will Smith played Rubin “Hurricane” Carter in the movie inventively called "The Hurricane", about the boxer who would have been heavyweight champion of the world if he hadn’t been wrongfully imprisoned. The song has approximately 10,000 verses, all of them great. There violin solos between verses haunt, and Dylan, like so many songs, changes the phrasing of the lyrics to give this tune a new feel when he plays it live.
It’s All Over Now Baby Blue: This tune touches nerves directly. It’s an emotional one alright. Like many Dylan tunes, the Grateful Dead played it for years. The verses are so good Dylan decided it didn’t even need a chorus.
The Man in Me: You don’t need to know Bob Dylan well to know this song, so long as you're familiar with the bona fide cinematic masterpiece, The Big Lebowski. In the film this tune plays as a bunch of LA slobs bowl, and again as The Dude flies over the city during an acid flashback induced by getting punched in the face as Maude Lebowski’s henchman reclaim her rug.
All Along the Watchtower: Many born after the '60s heard Jimi Hendrix’s cover version before Dylan’s original. The truth is, Dylan’s acoustic version seems pedestrian and insignificant compared to Jimi’s electric masterpiece. After Dylan heard Jimi tear this song apart with his Fender, he gave it to him, reportedly saying something like, “it's his now”. Dylan has taken so much from African American musicians, it’s nice one song went the other way.
The Ballad of Hollis Brown: This tune about a woman so poverty stricken she kills her family is a gut-wrenching 1964 gem. Nina Simone played a fantastic version.
You’re No Good: The first song from Dylan’s first album is a bouncy rollicking number from a time when some anonymous kid was trying to make it. There’s shuffle in the rhythm and a hustle in the attitude. Dylan's youthful exuberance, something he is anything but synonymous with now, is charming and fun.
The Basement Tapes: It’s hard and pointless to single out one tune here, when the entire album is characterised by the sound of good friends getting drunk playing music. The album was recorded in houses around Woodstock, New York, and while some of the rooms may have been literally above ground, in terms of feel or vibe, the title delivers on its promise. Dylan plays with the legendary band, The Band. There’s laughing between tracks and during them. But the tape was rolling to capture a session as magical as it was casual. The sound is unpretentious yet masterful.