It has been almost 50 years since Bob Dylan's "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan" was released in May 1963, when Dylan was 22 years old. Since then, some of his tracks have become renowned as part of America's history in folk music and civil rights.
The album begins with "Blowin' In the Wind." Dylan keeps his acoustic guitar work simple and his harmonica solos austere, as to not take away from his profound lyrics.
Lines such as "How many times must the cannonballs fly before they're forever banned?" and "How many years can some people exist before they're allowed to be free?" show Dylan's political conscience and encouragement for equality during the civil rights movement.
Dylan showed further support of civil rights when he joined Joan Baez and performed at the March on Washington later that summer. Musicians and speakers, such as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., were able to convince politicians in Washington, D.C., to support an act that outlawed discrimination.
It was later learned that Dylan had adapted the melody of a spiritual titled "No More Auction Block" for "Blowin' In the Wind." He explained that he wanted his work to have the same feeling as the spiritual, which originated in Canada.
Another tune off the album that has left listeners stunned is "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall." Dylan again keeps his guitar riff unsophisticated and repeats verses using the same ostinato.
Dylan starts the song with the questions, "Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son? Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?" He continues each verse with the character describing bleak and desolate scenes, and builds on each canto, ending with the line, "A hard rain's a-gonna fall."
Dylan's lyrics in this poem are mysterious and yet somehow straightforward. He uses excellent imagery skills, showing the listener his gloomy depictions of dilapidated nature and broken children, and uses oxymora to show examples of human neglect and lost souls. His powerful turn of phrase can give an audience chills.
Some reporters believed the song to be an interpretation of the aftermath of nuclear fallout. Dylan denied this in an interview with Studs Terkel in 1963, saying that the hard rain marked an end, but that the song wasn't commentary on nuclear warfare.
One of the more popular compositions on this record is "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right." Dylan wrote the song about Suze Rotolo, the girl that he is walking with on the cover of the album and his girlfriend at the time, and his feelings when she told him that she was considering moving to Italy.
"Look out your window and I'll be gone. You're the reason I'm trav'lin' on." This is how Dylan says his farewell. The song isn't bitter nor angry, but rather a statement of moving on. He sums it up in the refrain, "Don't think twice. It's all right."
Dylan adapted the melody for this song from Paul Clayton's "Who's Gonna Buy You Ribbons (When I'm Gone)." This song features some pleasant harmonica work, as well as more impressive finger-picking with his guitar to contrast with his slower singing.
"The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan" was one of 50 recordings chosen by the Library of Congress to be part of the National Recording Registry in 2002. A year later, the album was ranked at No. 97 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
The finest quality recording of "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan" is the original analog sound, which can only be heard by playing the vinyl album on a record player. The recording has been adapted to almost every form of audio media, and those who are not fans of Dylan's raspy voice can find many Dylan covers to download and enjoy his compositions.
Although records are now outdated, Dylan's lyrics remain timeless. As a songwriting legend and a poetic genius, Dylan has aided in shaping an era of artistry, and his music carries on from one generation to the next.
Erin Sydney Welsh is a sophomore at Clarence High School.