Let's Play "Name Your Favorite Bob Dylan Song," Starring No Age, Robyn Hitchcock, DJ Rekha, Greg Dulli, And More

album-highway-61-revisited.jpg
Naturally, this record shows up quite a bit
As our celebration of the 50th anniversary of Bob Dylan's arrival in New York City winds down, we thought we'd reach out to a bunch of musicians with a simple question: What's your favorite Dylan song?

Randy Randall, No Age: "Tonight I'll be staying Here With You" is my favorite Dylan song at the moment. This song comes from his Nashville Skyline record, which is my guilty-pleasure Dylan record. All the songs on this record feel like home to me. My mom had this record on -- as well as tons of Stones, Beatles, and more Dylan -- all the time when I was growing up. "Tonight I'll be staying Here With You" is a comforting song to a restless traveler. On long tours, the lines of this song run through my head all the time.

Baby Dee: I love all the songs on Highway 61 Revisited for what I think is the same reason everybody loves things: That was the first I'd ever heard of Dylan's music. I must have been about 12 years old and my brother had it when he came back from college. It's funny too because you have to picture a 12-year-old me having to "get used to that funny voice of his." How weird is that? Ironic in the extreme. My two favorites were "Desolation Row" and "Ballad of a Thin Man."

At 16, I was a punk rocker, deeply and blindly entrenched in the dogma of '80s hardcore, therefore harboring no interest in any hippie shit whatsoever. At some record shop, I recall finding a cassette of Highway 61 Revisited in a bargain bin, sans case. I recall glancing at the song titles, and was struck hard by the power and mystery of that series of words: "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry." Bought it for like 50 cents, and the whole record promptly kicked my ass, that sloppy mashup of surrealist poetry and "Delta blues" played by white dudes who sounded as if they could barely find their way around their instruments, a beautiful mess not unlike . . . well, punk rock.

Nathan Larson, A Camp: Maybe it's because that couplet drew me to this album, but to my ears "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry" is still a standout track on Highway 61: lurching, majestic, deceptively simple. And vulnerable, unlike the malicious (but still brilliant) "Ballad of a Thin Man." "It Takes a Lot to Laugh" remains one of my favorite Dylan songs, and marks my discovery of a portal into a broader musical world.

DJ Rekha: "Hurricane" exemplifies what Dylan does so well: tell a complete story. Unlike his early, super-folky stuff, the faster pace and rhythm of this track makes it more listenable to me than classics like "Blowing in the Wind" and "Tangled Up in Blue," though I love the lyrics of those songs as well. Rappers could take some storytelling lessons from Mr. Zimmerman.

Keren Ann: My Favorite Dylan song is "Boots of Spanish Leather." One can learn how to live just by listening to this song. The heartbreaking dialog between the one who goes to sea and the one who stays behind is the greatest testimony to true love. I often tried to sit with a guitar and play this song, but no one will ever manage to recreate the emotion that already exists in Dylan's intimate original recording.

Vincent DiFiore, Cake: "Everything Is Broken" turns my despair into delight. On the one hand, you can't depend on anything. On the other hand, it's tremendous to be alive. Whatever it is, it's going to break. Face it, and carry on.

Exene Cervenka: I was eight, and I came home from Catholic school to find the hi-fi playing but nobody home. I was still holding my lunchbox and my book bag. I stared at the stereo. I was frozen by the lyrics, transformed by the sound of his voice. It was a revolution in my head. It was Bob Dylan singing "The Times They Are A-Changin'." This is the song I want to sing now, at 55, because oh, people need to hear it again. Sing it now, a thousand singers -- people need to hear this song now!

Jon King, Gang of Four: "Highway 61 Revisited." The song that, aged 11, put my head right. At that age, I'd only heard the pap that filled radio in those days; at school, the big boys played on the art-room record player this album by Bob, and it was like an earthquake. This smart, cool, voice singing a song about something I didn't understand or decode, but said that the singer was on the side of progress, ideas, creativity, and love, and against the fascists and military-industrialists and creeps and straights and bores. This was where I wanted to be. It was proof that the world had infinite options outside the tedious conformity that was being rammed down everyone's throats.

The words are unimprovable, playful, and witty, riffing on the cruel story from the King James bible of Abraham prepared to murder his most beloved son by a mean, vicious, and jealous Old Testament God, a text that, almost in itself, makes you run screaming into the arms of the nearest atheist.


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6 comments
Rod
Rod

typical lazy republican Harvilla! promoting more groupthink.

bob dylan has never been talented and even HE says his fans are moronic sheep who overrated his "talents'. (dyan wouldn't have been successful without famous Joan Baez as his gf and the NYTimes writing a bogus piece on him).

Name just ONE great chord change by him. You can't.

(I can name a whole bunch by my MY fave acts like the Beatles, Zep, Floyd, etc)

and touching you last month proved that dylan was the worst lyricist in history, even putting dylan's lyrics against whitesnake and quiet riot!

harvilla's rebuttal was just like most republicans: refuse to disprove and change the subject!

let's try a test:

we'll play 20 kids a variety of musics and songs by many acts, unpolluted by hype or myths or groupthink.

i bet Harvilla $100 not oNE SINGLE kid says " I really like cut 3" [any and all dylan cuts]

not one dylan fan will take this challenge cuz dylan is like beer: everyone claims to "love" it so they can fit in. but almost every SECRETLY HATES IT.

MikeM
MikeM

the times they are a changing seems to be the new get a life. here's a bulletin; the times have changed they've changed a few times in the 45 + years it's been out. there are other songs by bob that are equally revelant, chimes of freedom- hard rain - desolation row;( which we may well be heading to)- every grain of sand to name a few. read the lyrics as you would read a classic book read them over and over until the light bulb in your head flashes on. 95% of his lyrics are classical short stories or pure poetry . in visions of johanna and mr tamorine man how he rhymes every last word in a verse through out the whole song is beyond me. want a wonderful vivid romantic poem read the lyrics to moonlight i can actually see what he writes when i read them.or listen and read the lyrics to more than a few songs and see how they change eg simple twist of fate and sheltor from the storm. there are a lot of dylan creations out there that will move your emotions up and down the scale. try some

stephen thomas
stephen thomas

i like most dylan fans change my mind from time to time,i have a soft spot for When The Deal Goes Down,i had that played at my dads funeral,i love highlands but i would put the epic Brownsville Girl top at the moment,i think his voice is tremendous on this track,i will probably come up with a different answer next month!

davedavidson321
davedavidson321

hey dumb ass, all those bands you named (Beatles, zep, floyd) they were all inspired by bob dylan. and who gives a fuck how many chord changes you know. fun fact: Bob dylan got the beatles high for the first time, so you can thank him for pretty much every good beatles song.

Josh B
Josh B

So if kids don't like it, it must not be good. Excellent point

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