Bob Dylan's 30 greatest songs ever, ranked

26 March 2024, 15:41

No Direction Home – 10th anniversary Bob Dylan documentary trailer

By Mayer Nissim

We do the impossible and rank 30 of our very favourite Bob Dylan songs.

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If we thought ranking The Beatles' top songs was a tricky task, that's nothing compared to choosing the best of the best Bob Dylan songs.

The Beatles released a mere couple of hundred songs or so, with a dozen studio albums in their stunning decade. Bob Dylan has released about six hundred over 40 albums in a career that's lasted over six decades.

We've whittled down Bob's intimidating back catalogue to just 30 songs, and so have necessarily left off a few dozen masterpieces.

Despite some omissions that broke our own hearts, we're nevertheless very happy with what we've got left

Read on for the ultimate collection of Bob Dylan's very greatest songs.

  1. Murder Most Foul

    Bob Dylan - Murder Most Foul (Official Audio)

    Whether or not it's technically still his Never Ending Tour, Bob Dylan has been touring non-stop for decades now.

    He has also kept fans happy with a mix of the wondrous Bootleg Series CDs and in the mid-2010s he released three covers albums (the third of which was a TRIPLE album).

    Some feared that an artist best known as a songwriter had just stopped writing, but in 2020 he released Rough and Rowdy Ways, his first album of newly-written material in eight years.

    The collection was trailed by the epic 'Murder Most Foul', clocking in at 16 minutes, 56 seconds to be the longest song in his whole back catalogue.

    Featuring his usual backing band as well as Fiona Apple and Alan Pasqua, the song about the assassination of John F Kennedy – an event that had a massive impact on Dylan – is an unconventional and affecting shopping list of cultural references.

  2. Forever Young

    Bob Dylan - Forever Young (Slow Version - Official Audio)

    In the early 1970s, Bob seemed to be ricocheting around. The fast double header of Self Portrait and New Morning still provokes debate to this day – especially after the revisionist Another Self Portrait bootleg series release in 2013.

    Then came a soundtrack album, a compilation, and some outtakes before one of Dylan's umpteen supposed "returns to form" when he reunited with The Band for the chart-topping Planet Waves in 1974.

    Bob Dylan - Forever Young (From Shadow Kingdom)

    The album's key moments are the two versions of 'Forever Young', the first a slow lament that ends side one, the second a more uptempo take that opens side two.

    Bob had apparently had the song in his back pocket for half a decade and consistently struggled with deciding how to record it.

    Both versions on Planet Waves are excellent, but the pick of the bunch is probably the stripped-back, fragile-voiced version from the then 82-year-old Bob on the 2023 re-recording album Shadow Kingdom.

  3. Hurricane

    Bob Dylan - Hurricane (Official Audio)

    Bob bundled the gang from the Rolling Thunder Revue into the studio for the swirling Desire album in 1976.

    As well as the excellent 'One More Cup of Coffee' and 'Isis', the album is best known for its stomping opener 'Hurricane'.

    Co-written with Jaques Levy, 'Hurricane' is a much less oblique song than pretty much anything else in Bob's back catalogue, telling the story of the imprisonment of boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter for triple murder.

    There's plenty of poetic licence used (Carter wasn't likely to have ever become "champion of the world" for one), but the apparent injustice of the seeming jailing of an innocent African American had Bob in compelling, fiery form.

    Carter was eventually released in 1985 and his convictions set aside, with his story also immortalised in 1999 movie The Hurricane.

  4. Positively 4th Street

    Bob Dylan - Positively 4th Street (Official Audio)

    Much more than just 'Like a Rolling Stone Pt II', though it does obviously take a lead from its predecessor.

    A non-album single wedged between Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde, with its mysterious title 'Positively 4th Street' is a delicious slice of bluesy bitterness ("I wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes / You'd know what a drag it is to see you").

    It's a sneering masterpiece that showed that even while releasing three of the greatest albums of all time in 15 months, Bob Dylan had tunes to spare.

  5. I Want You

    Bob Dylan - I Want You (Official Audio)

    After Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited, Bob Dylan completed his trilogy of mid-1960s masterpieces with the double Blonde on Blonde.

    A sprawling, genre-hopping classic, one of the many standouts was the bouncy 'I Want You', which mixed up pure lust ("I want you so bad") with rhyming wordy stream-of-consciousness ("The cracked bells and washed-out horns/ Blow into my face with scorn").

  6. Make You Feel My Love

    Bob Dylan - Make You Feel My Love (Official Audio)

    Bob Dylan has never really gone away, and the faithful have always remained exactly that.

    With that said, there were certainly moments in the 1970s (and 1980s, and early 1990s) when it felt that among the wider public his position as a still-working songwriter was beginning to dim.

    Then came Time Out of Mind in 1997, an album that put him very much right back at the top.

    Amazing, songs, slick productions, and nestled on the second half was this bona fide modern standard.

    As if to underline its immediate standard status, a cover of the song was released before Bob's own version, with Billy Joel's take, slightly retitled as 'To Make You Feel My Love' from his own Greatest Hits Volume III being released as a single a month earlier than Time Out of Mind.

    The stately, simple ballad has since been covered by everyone from Adele and Garth Brooks to Michael Bolton, Boy George, Kelly Clarkson and Bryan Ferry.

  7. If Not for You

    Bob Dylan - If Not for You (Official Audio)

    After the unwarranted mauling of Self-Portrait ("What is this s**t?" Rolling Stone opened its review), came the better-received New Morning just four months later. That whole Dylan era was re-evaluated with the incredible The Bootleg Series Vol. 10: Another Self Portrait (1969–1971) in 2013.

    But even before that long-overdue moment, New Morning's 'If Not For You' had emerged as a classic Dylan number. One of his love songs to Sara, it was recorded multiple times over, including a take with his future Traveling Wilburys bandmate George Harrison in 1970, just months after The Beatles broke up.

    That version was eventually released in 1991 on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 (Rare & Unreleased), while Harrison recorded his own cover for All Things Must Pass the same year but it's the charming, country-inspired New Morning take that is still best-loved.

  8. Visions of Johanna

    Bob Dylan - Visions of Johanna (Official Audio)

    Blonde on Blonde has a sprinkling of bona fide epics. Three of its tracks clock in at over seven minutes, and just three tracks in there's 'Visions of Johanna', rightly hailed as one of the greatest songs by anyone full stop.

    There have been articles, essays and probably books written about its enigmatic lyrics, apparently written by Dylan at the Chelsea Hotel, where he was staying with his then-pregnant wife Sara.

    Beyond the lyrics, Dylan is said to have personally talked the band through 14 takes to get across how he wanted it to sound, before they polished it off with a few more. It was absolutely worth the effort.

  9. Lay Lady Lay

    Bob Dylan - Lay, Lady, Lay (Official Audio)

    Even in his earliest folky days, there was always a country influence on Bob Dylan's music, and that element of his sound increased till it dominated by 1969's Nashville Skyline album.

    'Lay Lady Lay' was written for the movie Midnight Cowboy but just missed the deadline, and apparently Bob wanted to duet the sexy, romantic number ("Lay, lady, lay/ Lay across my big brass bed") with Barbra Streisand.

    Featuring that album's affected country croon the song became Dylan's fourth (and last!) top ten hit in the US when it reached number 7 on the Hot 100,

  10. Blind Willie McTell

    Bob Dylan - Blind Willie McTell (Studio Outtake - 1983 - Official Audio)

    Born William Samuel McTier, Blind Willie McTell was an incredibly influential blues and ragtime singer and guitarist who died in 1959, shortly before the emergence of Bob Dylan as an artist.

    "And I know no one can sing the blues like Blind Willie McTell," sings Dylan in his tribute, recorded in 1983 but left on the shelf until The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 (Rare & Unreleased) in 1991.

    With a melody based on the standard 'St. James Infirmary Blues', the track is produced by Dire Straits' Mark Knopfler, who also plays acoustic guitar on the track.

    Inspired by a later version of The Band playing the song live, Dylan belatedly added the song to his own set, putting even more shine on arguably the best of his Bob Dylan songs of the entire 1980s.

  11. My Back Pages

    Bob Dylan - My Back Pages (Official Audio)

    "I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now."

    When it comes to his lyrics, Dylan is often hailed for the oblique poetry of epics like 'Visions of Johanna' and 'Desolation Row', but he's also got a great skill for slipping deft one-liners in there, too.

    (Over?)interpreted as a rejection of his recent "protest singer" past, 'My Back Pages' is the most instantly accessible moment from the aptly named Another Side of Bob Dylan, which was less big P political than its immediate predecessors and much more than just a bridge between those records and the run beginning with Bringing It All Back Home.

    Dylan's version is a gorgeous stripped-back-to-nothing acoustic banger that has him in full-throated early Dylan nasal wail, while The Byrds' wonderful version is jangly folk-rock perfection.

  12. A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall

    Bob Dylan - A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall (Official Audio)

    On of Bob Dylan's first masterpieces, 'A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall' is very much in the folkier, acoustic part of his canon, but is no less powerful and ferocious for it.

    Often interpreted as a nod to a possible near-future darkened by black rain caused by nuclear fallout ("Where black is the colour, where none is the number"), the song pre-dated the Cuban Missile Crisis by a month, and its apocalyptic concerns were apparently broader than that.

    Bob Dylan "Hard Rain" LIVE performance [Full Song] 1975 | Netflix

    It was recorded in just one take on December 6, 1962, and along with the rest of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan set him on his way to being hailed as the spokesman of a generation, a label he tired of and tried to shrug off almost immediately.

    'Hard Rain' remained part of Dylan's live repertoire though, with him often completely revamping the song to fit his then-current fashions, with the mid-1970s Rolling Thunder Revue version a particular favourite.

  13. All Along the Watchtower

    Bob Dylan - All Along the Watchtower (Official Audio)

    Wherever you sit on the debate about whether Bob Dylan is a better songwriter than he is a performer and especially a singer (our view? he's excellent at both), it's simply a fact that his original 'All Along the Watchtower' has been totally overshadowed by Jimi Hendrix's monster cover.

    Hendrix's version is electric in every single way, and Bob has often used that arrangement when performing live, including at his special Rock and Roll Hall of Fame concert in 1995.

    Bob Dylan - "All Along the Watchtower" | Concert for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

    'Watchtower's parent album John Wesley Harding actually marked Bob's return to a more stripped back, acoustic sound after his own first electric phase, oddly enough, given how its the electric version that has lingered.

    And even/especially if you forget all about Jimi, Bob's version is a very special thing indeed.

    A snappy two and a half minutes of guitar and harmonica, with Dylan's voice still in excellent form, with just enough croak to carry the emotion.

  14. It's All Over Now, Baby Blue

    Bob Dylan - It's All Over Now, Baby Blue (Official Audio)

    'It's All Over Now, Baby Blue' is yet another Bob Dylan song as known for its excellent and important covers as the original.

    As well as a straight cover by Joan Baez, there was the rush of the proto-garage version by Van Morrison's Them on their second album Them Again.

    The Byrds actually recorded a couple of abandoned takes in 1965 for consideration as a possible second single, but their country-rock version on Ballad of Easy Rider album has more than stood the test of time.

    Again though, none of these covers take anything away from Bob's own beautiful, heartbreaking original, with its title taking a nod from Gene Vincent's 'Baby Blue'.

  15. Shelter from the Storm

    Bob Dylan - Shelter from the Storm (Official Audio)

    Bob Dylan has had more supposed "returns to form" than anyone can really count. The truth is despite some dips he's always been capable of putting out a classic song or, Bob being Bob occasionally recording it and just not bothering to release that.

    With that understood, it's still hard not to see 1975's Blood on the Tracks as one of the most stunning "comeback" albums in history – and that's despite the likes of Nick Kent and Jon Landau being less impressed at the time.

    A break-up album informed by the split from his first wife Sara Blood on the Tracks is probably Dylan's best album since Blonde on Blonde, nearly ten years earlier. It's remained one of his greatest full stops.

    Coming near the end of the record, the musically simple but lyrically dense whirlpool 'Shelter from the Storm' is up there as one of its standout moments.

  16. It Ain't Me Babe

    Bob Dylan - It Ain't Me Babe (Official Audio)

    'It Ain't Me Babe is an unconventional break-up song believed to be about his then-ex and major artistic influence Suze Rotolo – she who is on the cover of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan gripping on to the man himself.

    It outlines all the things a girl might want from her man ("never weak but always strong"... "Someone who will die for you and more") but when it comes down to it, well, no no no, it ain't him, babe.

    Closing an album that neatly sidesteps his "spokesman of a generation" tag and just before his total rejection of it, it also seems to serve as a shaking off of the expectations of his fans and the wider culture.

  17. Masters of War

    Bob Dylan - Masters of War (Official Audio)

    Bob Dylan has tackled hate and injustice head-on several times as a songwriter, but never with as much sheer fury as in 'Master of War' from the Freewheelin' album.

    Yes, it's one man and his acoustic guitar, and sure he's (ahem) "borrowed" the melody wholesale from the old folk standard 'Nottamun Town' and the 1950s arrangement of that song by Jean Ritchie, but it's Dylan's words and fiery delivery that make 'Master of War' the classic that it is.

    Dylan hits out at the military-industrial complex that underpins the global war machine ("You that build the big guns"). He assures them that their money can't save them from eternal damnation ("All the money you made will never buy back your soul").

    By the end, you've got Bob not just wishing the warmongers dead ("And I hope that you die / And your death will come soon") but pledging to chase down the casket to be sure that they're gone.

  18. Desolation Row

    Bob Dylan - Desolation Row (Official Audio)

    Not just one of Bob Dylan's longest songs, but one of the longest songs in popular music to this day, the epic 'Desolation Row' clocks in at 11 minutes and 21 seconds.

    As to what it's about... well, even beginning to unpick that would take more words than we've got in this whole list.

    It's a sequence of seemingly unconnected vignettes pieced together in a way that defies narrative.

    It opens with a lynching ("They're selling postcards of the hanging"), before taking in references to the bible (Cain and Abel), the movies (Bette Davis), literature from Shakespeare (Ophelia) to Hugo (the Hunchback of Notre Dame), nursery rhymes (Cinderella) and much more besides.

    Framed as a rambling not-quite-free verse, it's a song that returns what you put into it, and we're still taking more and more from it every time we listen.

  19. Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands

    Bob Dylan - Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands (Official Audio)

    Another rambling Bob Dylan epic, 'Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands' clocks in just shy of 11 and a half minutes, like a 20th century beat retelling of the He verses of Solomon's Song of Songs.

    As for who's the subject of the song, Dylan himself confirmed that it was for his then-wife Sara, whom he had married three months before the song was recorded, with the title being a nod to her first married name Sara Lownds.

    The only problem was he said it in a song on Desire's 'Sara' ("Stayin’ up for days in the Chelsea Hotel, Writin’ 'Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands' for you"), and as we already know from the same album's 'Hurricane', Bob isn't always the world's most reliable narrator.

    Joan Baez is said to have thought the song was about her. She had played a song called 'Lowlands' since the 1950s (you can hear it on the 1959 album Folksingers 'Round Harvard Square), and later went on to cover 'Sad Eyed Lady...' on her own Double Dylan covers album Any Day Now from 1968.

    Regardless of who it's about, the song was a stunning full stop on a Bob Dylan era, taking up an entire side of vinyl as the final song on Blonde on Blonde.

  20. Mr Tambourine Man

    Mr. Tambourine Man (Live at the Newport Folk Festival. 1964)

    As with 'My Back Pages', there are many out there that will opt for The Byrds' more instantly-accessible version of 'Mr Tambourine Man'.

    Their snappy folk rock classic clocked in at less than two and a half minutes and was a chart-topping hit, but Dylan's five-and-a-half minute original is surely every bit its equal, and with its four full verses of pure poetry compared to the Byrds' use of just one, it arguably maintains the cutting edge.

    The opening side of the second "acoustic" side of Bringing It All Back Home, it drags Dylan back somewhat to the sound of his previous albums, while still pushing things forward into a psychedelic landscape, both musically and lyrically ("Though you might hear laughing, spinning, swinging madly across the sun").

    Is it about drugs? Meh. Possibly. Maybe not. Maybe partly. (Dylan has said not.) But it's also about so much more than that, and working out what that is is very much part of the fun.

  21. Maggie’s Farm

    Bob Dylan - Maggie's Farm (Official Audio)

    The apotheosis of the whole Dylan Goes Electric controversy was surely the "Judas" shout before 'Like A Rolling Stone' at London's Royal Albert Hall Free Trade Hall in Manchester, but for us the key moment came a little while earlier.

    Dylan had been hailed as a hero after his 1963 performance at the Newport Folk Festival, and again with reservations about his pharmacological state after 1964's set.

    On July 24, 1965 he played a trio of acoustic songs at a workshop show in Newport, but made a massive decision to play a fully electric set the following night.

    Five days after the release of the 'Like A Rolling Stone' single and wedged between trad folkies Cousin Emmy and the Sea Island singers, Dylan plugged in with his backing band.

    Bob Dylan - Maggie's Farm (Live At Newport Folk Festival - 1965) - 4K Restoration

    Having only rehearsed the night before, the group featured Mike Bloomfield on lead guitar, as well as his Paul Butterfield Blues Band bandmates bassist Jerome Arnold and drummer Sam Lay, as well as Al Kooper on organ and Barry Goldberg on piano.

    They opened with 'Maggie's Farm' played at blistering pace and volume with stunning rock 'n' roll guitar and harmonics throughout and it was a moment that changed music forever. Half the folkies loved it, half hated it. People booed. They walked off in shock and disgust.

    After a three-song set, he walked off, though he was cajoled into returning for a couple of acoustic numbers, though he didn't come back to Newport again till 2002.

    Even in its less frantic form, the on-record version of 'Maggie's Farm' which had been laid down in the studio only ten days earlier for Bringing It All Back Home and apparently perfected in just one take is a stomping electric blues rock classic

  22. Love Sick

    Bob Dylan - Love Sick (Official Audio)

    Time Out Of Mind is the album credited with bringing Bob Dylan very much back in the frame as a "current' recording artist on its release in 1997.

    Complaints have emerged over the years, often over the atmospheric production of Daniel Lanois, but there are moments on the album where the sound absolutely matches the incredible quality of songwriting.

    One such moment is the opening track 'Love Sick', a gloriously bleak heartbreak anthem ("I'm sick of love /I wish I'd never met you") that lets you know from the off that you're in for something special with this album.

  23. This Wheel's On Fire

    Bob Dylan, The Band - This Wheel's On Fire (Official Audio)

    Bob Dylan finished recording Blonde on Blonde, the last part of his peerless, cutting-edge trilogy of mid-60s albums on March 10, 1966, and the album was released on June 20.

    Just over a month later on July 29, Dylan crashed his motorbike near his home in Woodstock, New York, causing him to take some time out to recover and, maybe more crucially, a moment's rest to take stock.

    Truthfully, he barely paused, but everything did change nonetheless. And before he recorded the return-to-acoustic John Wesley Harding, he holed up with his pals The Band first in Woodstock and later in the basement of Big Pink

    This Wheel's On Fire (Remixed 2018)

    Heavily bootlegged, a selection of the songs (controversially with some overdubbing, and even more controversially augmented by some contemporaneous but not really "basement" Band recordings without Dylan) were eventually released in 1975 as The Basement Tapes.

    The total recordings were released as the acclaimed The Bootleg Series Vol. 11: The Basement Tapes Complete in 2014, but many of the greatest songs on here were already well known by then, especially the original Basement Tapes' closing classic 'The Wheel's On Fire', written by Dylan and Rob Danko together.

    Theme from Absolutely Fabulous

    The Band released their own version of Music from Big Pink as early as 1968, and has been memorably covered by the likes of Julie Driscoll, The Byrds, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Julie Driscoll (again) and Adrian Edmondson for Absolutely Fabulous.

    But it's Dylan's gorgeously trundling version from the Basement Tapes we keep going back to.

  24. Girl From The North Country

    Girl From The North Country

    The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan is often hailed for its most political songs like 'Blowin' in the Wind' and 'A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall', but it's also home to one of his most beautifully uncomplicated love songs, too.

    'Girl From The North Country' was apparently written when Bob was in England in 1962.

    Over in the UK he hung out with our own local folkies, taking a particular shine to Martin Carthy who had introduced him to our own rich folk tradition, including his own arrangement of 'Scarborough Fair', a song that would later be made more famous by Simon & Garfunkel.

    Bob Dylan with Johnny Cash - Girl from the North Country (Official Audio)

    He borrowed that arrangement and even a snatch of words for his own 'Girl From The North Country', which is believed to have been inspired by his then-ex Suze Rotolo before their reconciliation.

    Whoever it's about, it's a gorgeous, gentle arrangement that shows how romantic and loving Bob could be as a songwriter.

    In 1969 he revisited the song as a duet with Johnny Cash for his Nashville Skyline album, and while the first version probably has the edge, it's this song that has Dylan's most convincing outing of his short-lived country croon.

  25. Knockin' on Heaven's Door

    Bob Dylan - Knockin' on Heaven's Door (Official HD Video)

    Taken from the 1973 soundtrack to Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid and featuring The Byrds' Roger McGuinn on guitar, 'Knockin' on Heaven's Door' is a beautiful, simple song that perfectly fits the movie but also works and survives completely outside of that context.

    Dylan's voice has just the right amount of crack and crackle to carry the emotion of it all, with the backing vocals from Carol Hunter, Donna Wiess and Brenda Patterson making it soar.

    It's been covered umpteen times, with Guns N' Roses returning to the song several times over. A live take was on the B-side of 'Welcome to the Jungle', before they took it in the studio for the Days of Thunder soundtrack and their own Use Your Illusion II.

  26. Subterranean Homesick Blues

    Bob Dylan - Subterranean Homesick Blues (Official HD Video)

    We've already spoken about statements of intent, and they don't get any heavier than side one track one of Bringing It All Back Home.

    Before 'Like A Rolling Stone' and the game-changing performance at Newport and the controversial 1965-66 world tour ("JUDAS!"), the way was paved with the electric crossover of the first half of that album.

    Kicking it all off was this folk-country-rock-blues-scat-proto-hip-hop beat stomper. It was less nakedly "political" than Bob's early work but was stuffed with allusions to the burgeoning countercultural scene he was soon to be at the centre of.

    Not just a lyrically and musically influential piece, its DA Pennebaker-directed music video was a similarly groundbreaking bit of work, with Bob not even pretending to mime the track.

  27. The Times They Are a-Changin'

    Bob Dylan - The Times They Are A-Changin' (Official Audio)

    We've frequently spoken about how irked Bob Dylan was by his pigeonholing as a "protest singer", a "political folk musician" and yes, yes "spokesman of a generation", but it's easy to see how young people at such a turbulent time in social and cultural history were so drawn to a songwriter and performer like Bob Dylan.

    After his more generic folkiest beginnings, he moved towards protest music with Freewheelin' before embracing it totally with The Times They Are a-Changin', his first album made up completely of self-penned songs, most of which tackled social and political themes.

    The title track was the plainest example. Yes, Bob soon grew tired of the labels, but almost seemed to invite them with this song with this calls to arm ("Come gather 'round people/ Wherever you roam") that seemed to invoke the Sermon on the Mount ("For the loser now/ Will be later to win").

    None of this would matter a jot if the music was as equally punchy, powerful and – despite Dylan's Marmite nasal whine (again, we love it) – completely tuneful, too.

  28. Tangled Up in Blue

    Bob Dylan - Tangled Up In Blue (Official HD Video)

    The opening song of Blood on the Tracks feels like a storming statement of intent. It's been claimed that the song was inspired by Joni Mitchell's then-recent masterpiece Blue, as well as Bob's recent touring with The Band and his split from his wife Sara.

    The lyrics are a suitably tangled-up swirl of past, present and future. Of meeting, breaking up and reuniting. They went through countless rewrites, with various versions eventually appearing on he Bootleg Series Vol. 14: More Blood, More Tracks.

    And you can give Bob's lesser-seen brother David Zimmerman some credit for the catchy, commercial sound of the song and the whole album, as he pushed Dylan in that direction and was even an uncredited producer on the track.

  29. Blowin' in the Wind

    Blowing In The Wind (Live On TV, March 1963)

    After the often forgotten 'Mixed-Up Confusion', Bob Dylan released 'Blowin' in the Wind', the folk protest song that would summarise his earliest successes, before he eventually shrugged off the "spokesman of a generation" label that came to vex him so.

    The melody was cadged from old spiritual 'No More Auction Block/We Shall Overcome' but Dylan's truly poetic lyrics ("Yes, and how many years must a mountain exist / Before it is washed to the sea?") made the song very much his own.

  30. Like a Rolling Stone

    Bob Dylan - Like a Rolling Stone (Official Audio)

    In writing this list, we've mentioned this song time and again already, and there's a very good reason for it.

    'Like A Rolling Stone' is one of the most important songs in the history of rock and roll and one of the very best.

    It's the ultimate fusion of folk, rock, pop, blues and lyrics-as-poetry. It was before a performance of this song in Manchester that Dylan so effortlessly shrugged off the Judas naysayers ("I don't believe you... you're a liar! Play it f**king loud).

    Like a Rolling Stone (Live at Free Trade Hall, Manchester, UK - May 17, 1966)

    It's Bob at his most edgy, confrontational best, with the words apparently culled from a whopping ten or twenty pages of rambling verse splurged onto the page.

    Its references and allusions have had Dylanologists busy for decades, but for all the wondrous density of the lyrics, the combination of those mystical and mysterious words with the in-your-face power of its sound makes 'Like A Rolling Stone' such a masterpiece.

    Performers on the recording included Chicago bluesman Mike Bloomfield and the youthful Al Kooper, whose last-minute move to Hammond organ raised eyebrows with producer Tom Wilson but had Bob raving.

    You can hear the magic coming together on The Bootleg Series Vol. 12: The Cutting Edge 1965–1966, which collects 20 tracks clocking in at 65 minutes and 21 seconds, featuring all the takes. Or just put on the finished version and play it freakin' loud.