Tuesday, May 24, 2011



In honor of Robert Zimmerman’s 70th birthday, Rolling Stone compiled a list of the top 70 songs by the man better known as Bob Dylan.

Stephen T. McCarthy and I decided to follow Rolling Stone’s lead and post our lists of favorite Dylan songs.

Rolling Stone has staff writers who have nothing to do all day but compile lists, so they listed one song for each year of Dylan’s life. Stephen and I decided to show a little discipline and have limited our lists to ten.

Plus, let’s face it-would you even take the time to read a list of seventy songs? I didn’t think so.

Bob Dylan is in a rare class as a lyricist, and picking just ten songs was not an easy task.

This scene, from “No Direction Home,” shows what a mastery Dylan has over words.

While other songwriters are great (Todd Snider, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits, Warren Zevon), Dylan is the Master and they gather at his feet, trying to snatch the pebble from his hand.

And without further ado, here is my list!


(1) Like A Rolling Stone

Rolling Stone listed this first, and it was hard to argue with this choice. With the talents of guitarist Mike Bloomfield and keyboardist Al Kooper, the playing is top notch. Dylan uses lyrics like he is splashing paint on a canvas.

(2) Tangled Up In Blue

I’ve heard that Dylan says this song took him ten years to live and two years to write.

While his marriage was crumbling, Dylan wrote one of the best lyrics of his life, a personal examination of heartache and memories in what would become the opener on Blood on the Tracks.

(3) Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door

Dylan’s sketch of a dying lawman from the Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid soundtrack would become one of his most-covered songs, with hit versions recorded by Eric Clapton and Guns ‘N’ Roses. This song fits his voice perfectly.

(4) You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go

This made my list of best breakup songs last summer. I could not find a Dylan version on You Tube, so here’s a cover by Shawn Colvin.

(5) Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again

This was the song that made me a Dylan fan, way back in junior high school. I’m still not sure what the heck it’s about, but the imagery is fantastic!

(6) Lay Lady Lay

Proof that Dylan can sing when he puts his throat to it. This is a simple, beautiful love song that may just be perfect.

(7) Gotta Serve Somebody

As a teenager, I didn't "get" Dylan's Christian years. Now older and wiser...well older, anyway...I appreciate the gospel stylings and "get" his inspiration. The Grammy was well-deserved.

(8) Beyond Here Lies Nothing

From the latest album, Together Through Life, this song is a beautifully played example of swampy blues rock, with Dylan's rough voice fitting the material like a warn glove. 
(9) Subterranean Homesick Blues

The first rap song. I almost scrapped this in favor of ‘Positively 4th Street’ but considering it has inspired so many others (Elvis Costello’s ‘Pump It Up’to name one) and an entire genre (rap), it belongs here. A song about nothing, or as Stephen T. says, about EVERYTHING.

(10) If Not For You

A lovely country-rock ballad, simple yet pretty much perfect. Since I could not find a Dylan version, here's Bryan Ferry's cover from his Dylanesque album.


There are so many songs that I had to leave off-heck all of Blood On The Tracks has potential, as does Bringing It All Back Home. If you haven't listened to Dylan lately, you owe it to yourself to reacquaint yourself with the master.

And don't forget to wish him a happy birthday.






  1. Yay for Bob Dylan's birthday. One of the local radio stations did 70 Dylan song on Sunday in celebration. Good list of favorite Dylan songs.

  2. Thanks for dropping by, Carrie!

    It's hard to believe that Mr. Zimmerman is seventy...and I'm not going to admit what that makes me!


    Wow! GREAT, GREAT, GREAT that you found and posted that clip of Zimmy playing around with the words on those signs. I never even thought to look for it. That alone makes your blog bit better'n mine!

    Not a song on your list that I don't dig. Two big surprises though:

    Based on our brief discussion last week, I was sure you wouldn't be including "Subterranean Homesick Blues". I already KNEW that it was making my list, but I didn't want to spill the beans. However, it sure sounded like you had already discounted including it on your list.

    Totally surprised to find "Memphis Blues Again" on your list. I don't know why exactly, but I never dreamed you would have included that one. And that's another one we had in common.

    I was really torn between including "Memphis Blues Again" or that *other* song from 'Blonde On Blonde". In the end, I found it just impossible to decide, so I included them BOTH!

    Great list, Bro!

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

  4. I was very tempted to take something from Nashville Skyline since it was the first Dylan album I began listening to with any real intensity, but I just thought the songs lacked some of the depth of others that he had done.

    Glad that I found this little blogfest amidst my vacating and busy times. Too bad more people didn't hear about it in time to join in.

    Tossing It Out

  5. Stephen-

    Kinda funny that we both remembered that discussion of the content of SHB....


    Well this was pretty much a last minute thing, and I'm not certain we'd have had many participants.

    However, if you know of anyone who wants to post a list, get me their info and I'll add them to the participant roster with a link to the post.