Monday, May 23, 2011

Blowin' In The Wind

Ed Hilliker turned me on to Dylan. He had the album The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan with him on the school bus and said I should listen to it. The opening cut is Blowin' In The Wind, made popular by Peter, Paul and Mary. I was not an immediate fan. At the time I was getting hepped on the Rolling Stones, the Beatles and other rockers of the time. My first 45 was All Day and All of the Night by The Kinks.

At that point Dylan was a folk singer, and part of the coffee house scene. In his autobiography Chronicle, Dylan details the attraction to folk music. It was issues music, but also had blues and gospel influences. He dug into its depths and found the soil rich with fertile material which his imagination could work with to produce many a good crop of future songs.

One of Dylan's heroes at the time was Woody Guthrie, a folk troubadour whom Dylan idolized. Dylan claims to have originally trekked to New York to see Guthrie when he learned that Guthrie was in Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital in Brooklyn, dying of Huntington's disease. Though Dylan had supposedly been writing songs throughout his childhood, his first recorded original song was Song to Woody, which comes right after Freight Train Blues on Dylan's first album, Bob Dylan, 1962.

So Dylan had caught something from Woody, and Blowin' In The Wind is one of many truly great songs from Freewheelin', his second album. It's elegant simplicity is like a sleight of hand card trick. There is so much here to mull on. The tune, too, gets into you like the harmonic wave of time passing through you. At its heart the song is about injustice, but it's written in a manner that is non-incendiary. It's as if a wise man from the mountain came down and spoke to us, striving to help us see that something is wrong, the world is broken. Who will hear?

That Dylan could craft such a strong song when he was just over twenty was no doubt impressive to some, and that he could carry through with a whole album of such force was especially impressive. To this day he continues to sing Masters of War and one of the most powerful songs of the century (in my opinion) A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall.

This week is Dylan Fest in Duluth. Tonight's Guthrie-Dylan Dinner Concert is sold out or I'd invite you to join us. It's a benefit for the Armory & Arts Music Center with four course Italian dinner, wine and the music of Woody Guthrie & Bob Dylan performed by Bill Bastien & Laurie Bastien.


Blowin' In The Wind

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
Yes, ’n’ how many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, ’n’ how many times must the cannonballs fly
Before they’re forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

How many years can a mountain exist
Before it’s washed to the sea?
Yes, ’n’ how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, ’n’ how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn’t see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, ’n’ how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, ’n’ how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

Copyright © 1962 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1990 by Special Rider Music

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