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!
MY PICKS FOR 10 GREATEST BOB DYLAN SONGS
(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.
(2) STEPHEN T. McCARTHY'S STUFFS
(3) TOSSING IT OUT