The Times They Are a-Changin’ is the third studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan. The album was origanaly released in 1964. While there is no certain identifier for pressing date on my copy, I happen to know that my copy is a re-release from the very early eighties.
Produced by Tom Wilson, it is the singer-songwriter’s first collection to feature only original compositions. The album consists mostly of stark, sparsely arranged ballads concerning issues such as racism, poverty, and social change. The title track is one of Dylan’s most famous; many feel that it captures the spirit of social and political upheaval that characterized the 1960s. So yes, this could easily be considered a political album, but more accurately, it is not just a political album, but almost a prophetic statement from an acute awareness of what was going on. Both ironically and tragically at the same time, it is just as per-tenant to today in 2017. The content of this LP sounds like the very things we read and hear about today! It is, as they say, history repeating itself because as Dylan sings the idea in “With God On Our Side”, The Times They Are a-Changin and “Pawn In Their Game”, we did not learn from history, so we repeat it.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Times_They_Are_a-Changin%27_(album) On October 26, 1963, three days after recording the final song for The Times They Are a-Changin’, Dylan held a concert at New York’s Carnegie Hall.
A month later, on November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Dylan’s friend, Bob Fass, was sitting with Dylan in Carla Rotolo’s apartment the day of the shooting. According to Fass, Dylan was deeply affected by it and said: “What it means is that they are trying to tell you ‘Don’t even hope to change things’.” Dylan later claimed that Kennedy’s death did not directly inspire any of his songs, but in a manuscript written shortly after the assassination, he wrote: “it is useless to recall the day once more.” In another, he repeatedly wrote: “there is no right or left there is only up and down.”
Three weeks to the day after Kennedy’s assassination, the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee gave Dylan their annual Tom Paine award for his contribution to the civil rights movement. Dylan gave an acceptance speech at the awards ceremony held at Hotel Americana in New York.
As I mentioned, my copy of this LP is a re-issue from the early 80s I believe. I’m not sure if it was remixed as well, but the vocals and harmonica seem to be very forward, almost hot.
The LP starts strong with the title track, “The Times They Are a-Changin'” and keeps strength in different ways throughout the LP. “The Times They Are a-Changin” is my favorite track on this album.
1. “The Times They Are a-Changin'” – One of Dylan’s most famous songs.
Dylan wrote the song as a deliberate attempt to create an anthem of change for the time, influenced by Irish and Scottish ballads.
Ever since its release the song has been influential to people’s views on society, with critics noting the general yet universal lyrics as contributing to the song’s lasting message of change. Dylan has occasionally performed it in concert. The song has been covered by many different artists, including Nina Simone, the Byrds, Peter, Paul, and Mary, Simon & Garfunkel, the Beach Boys, Joan Baez, Phil Collins, Billy Joel, and Bruce Springsteen.
A self-conscious protest song, it is often viewed as a reflection of the generation gap and of the political divide marking American culture in the 1960s. Dylan, however, disputed this interpretation in 1964, saying “Those were the only words I could find to separate aliveness from deadness. It had nothing to do with age.” A year later, Dylan would say: “I can’t really say that adults don’t understand young people any more than you can say big fishes don’t understand little fishes. I didn’t mean “The Times They Are a-Changin'” as a statement … It’s a feeling.”
2. “Ballad of Hollis Brown”– This song was originally recorded for Dylan’s previous album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. That version was rejected and the song was eventually re-recorded for The Times They Are a-Changin’. The song tells the story of a South Dakota farmer who, overwhelmed by the desperation of poverty, kills his wife, children and then himself. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ballad_of_Hollis_Brown
3. “With God on Our Side” – The lyrics address the tendency of nations, tribes, or societies to believe that God will invariably side with them and oppose those with whom they disagree and rightfully questions the morality of wars fought and atrocities committed by their country.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/With_God_on_Our_Side: Dylan mentions several historical events, including the slaughter of Native Americans in the nineteenth century, the Spanish–American War, the American Civil War, World Wars I and II, the Holocaust, the Cold War and the betrayal of Jesus Christ by Judas Iscariot; the song made no explicit reference to the Vietnam War until live renditions in the 1980s, when an additional verse ran thus:
In the nineteen-sixties came the Vietnam War
Can somebody tell me what we’re fightin’ for?
So many young men died
So many mothers cried
Now I ask the question
Was God on our side?”
4. “One Too Many Mornings” – The chords and vocal melody are in some places very similar to the song “The Times They Are A-Changin'”.
5. “North Country Blues” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Times_They_Are_a-Changin%27_(album) North Country Blues tells the story of a mining company’s decision to outsource its operations to countries where labor costs are cheaper than in the U.S.A. (“It’s much cheaper down in the South American towns/Where the miners work almost for nothing”.) The song marks the first time Dylan wrote a narrative from the point of view of a woman: the ex-wife of a miner whose work has disappeared. This song has been described by many critics as Dylan’s portrait of his hometown. More info here:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Country_Blues