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June 1, 2011

List: 70 Greatest Bob Dylan Songs of All Time

by @thoughtontracks

As Bob Dylan turns 70, I’m beginning to realize that it’s time for me to shit or get off the pot. I’m 25 years old as I put these words to paper. By the time Robert Allen Zimmerman had turned 25, he had penned some of the most powerful verses American popular culture had ever digested. Dylan is treated, though he may despise it, as a modern day Thomas Paine espousing his Common Sense to the willing masses of the mid-1960s.

The ‘Conscience of a Generation’ was a title that Dylan himself could never saddle. Choosing instead to recede into the background of various solo and full-band projects. Regardless which side of Bob we saw, he always had delicious material:

Sentimental Bob offered some of the greatest love songs all time—see “Boots of Spanish Leather” or “Corinna, Corinna.” Poetic Bob was as subversive as any Nobel laureate on “Desolation Row” or “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.” Bob and The Band proved with The Basement Tapes that they could hang with some the best bluesy bar bands in rock & roll history. It all worked because behind all of the various facades lay the same perspective. The same brilliant mind. The same observant, relevant voice.

Brought together, his collection of work is staggering, intimidating. It’s enough to make any aspiring writer’s knees buckle. How does one explain it? If nothing else is certain, there is this: Dylan was able, at various points in his life, to express the intent of his voice and beliefs in a way that is as relatable and coherent as any speaker of the modern English language.

Sorry, I’m not sorry. I don’t think one can exaggerate Dylan’s contribution to the American landscape of thought and social perspective. Call it a muse. Call it divine inspiration. Call it what you like, but the man’s discography is as significant as de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America or any other modern philosophical work.

Like any great artist, Dylan exposes his listeners to truths that they already knew about themselves. Sometimes these are conscious truths. More often, though, they are not. They are deeper truths that hadn’t occurred until that raspy Minnesotan uttered them.

Rather than continue to toss unsatisfactory superlatives on the subject, I’ll let the master do the talking. The following is my list of Dylan’s top 70 songs. I think the bard would agree that every listener comprehends and is affected by his lyrics independently. Therefore, I make no argument for this list’s definitiveness.

Though I am confident in my list as a whole, I must admit, the numbers are essentially meaningless. The songs shuffle in order of importance for me as my moods and life experiences change. The songs provided differing comforts and challenges at different stages of my hearing them. Like a long friendship, the voices change, but the essential character remains the same. Some are silly. Some are beautiful. All are fantastic.

1.)   A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall

2.)   Visions of Johanna

3.)   Like A Rolling Stone

4.)   Desolation Row

5.)   Tangled Up in Blue

6.)   It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue

7.)   Masters of War

8.)   Subterranean Homesick Blues

9.)   Love Minus Zero/No Limit

10.)  Simple Twist of Fate

11.)  Boots of Spanish Leather

12.)  All Along the Watchtower

13.)  Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door

14.)  Forever Young

15.)  When I Paint My Masterpiece

16.)  Highway 61 Revisited

17.)  It’s Alright Ma, I’m only Bleeding

18.) Dark Eyes

19.)  Song to Woody

20.)  Gotta Serve Somebody

21.)  Crash on the Levee

22.)  Hurricane

23.)  Fourth Time Around

24.)  To Ramona

25.)  Maggie’s Farm

26.)  Satisfied Mind

27.)  Just Like a Woman

28.)  The Lonsesome Death of Hattie Carrol

29.)  Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right

30.)  Shelter from the Storm

31.)  Things Have Changed

32.)  Corrina, Corrina

33.)  Oxford Town

34.)  I’ll Keep it With Mine

35.)  Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues

36.)  Meet Me in the Morning

37.)  Ballad of Hollis Brown

38.)  Buckets of Rain

39.)  I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine

40.)  Gates of Eden

41.)  Went to See the Gypsy

42.)  I Threw it All Away

43.)  My Back Pages

44.)  You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere

45.)  Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream

46.)  Goin’ to Acupulco

47.)  Billy 1

48.)  Day of the Locusts

49.)  Chimes of Freedom

50.)  Oh, Sister

51.)  Girl from the North Country

52.)  It Takes a Lot to Laugh It Takes a Train to Cry

53.)  Temporarily Like Achilles

54.)  One of Us Must Know

55.)  If You See Her, Say Hello

56.)  She Belongs to Me

57.)  Rainy Day Women No.’s 12 & 35

58.)  Positively 4th Street

59.)  Slow Train

60.)  The Wicked Messenger

61.)  If Not for You

62.)  The Man in Me

63.)  The Mighty Quinn (Quinn the Eskimo)

64.)  I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)

65.)  Early Mornin’ Rain

66.)  Every Grain of Sand

67.)  Katie’s Been gone

68.)  Lay Lady Lay

69.)  Senor (Tales of Yankee Power)

70.)  Million Dollar Bash

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