The Definitive Era's of Bob Dylan (Part 1)


If you were like me, when you first listened to Columbia Records 2000 compilation The Essential Bob Dylan it was hard to believe all the songs were from the same man. The singer who howled his best Woody Guthrie impression on his early classics sounded barely related to the country crooner on "Lay Lady Lay". Neither of them, however, seemed to be connected to the growling preacher on "Everything is Broken" and "Things Have Changed". This apparent disconnection that my teenage ears heard on what amounts to Bob's greatest hits disc was my first hint that when you listen to Bob Dylan, you truly get a whole life. I'd bet that even older fans, who are lucky enough to have followed Bob step by step, were still taken by surprise to hear his crooning on 1969's Nashville Skyline, his spiritual declarations ten years later on Slow Train Coming, and his new "old" voice on 1989's Oh Mercy. Interesting that all of those albums are exactly 10 years apart, but anyways, the point is that these changes did come abruptly. Presently, with the benefit of being able to look back at a whole life (that isn't done yet, Bob's bell still rings), I think it's an interesting exercise to try and parse out the "eras" of Bob Dylan's music and life. Written in honor of Bob's song "Man in the Long Black Coat", here's my best shot. . .later I plan on creating playlists that define each era. For now, I'll just throw in one song.

The man who wanted to be Woody Guthrie 
"Talkin' New York"
"Song to Woody"
"The Times They Are A-Changin'"

The man who was a folk music protest singer
"The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll"
"Oxford Town"
"Masters of War"

The man who loved rock and roll but only had an acoustic guitar
"My Back Pages"
"It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)"
"Love Minus Zero/No Limit"

The rock and roll man in the alligator boots and polka dot shirt
"Maggie's Farm"
"Ballad of a Thin Man"
"Visions of Joanna"

The family man in the quiet country 
"Down Along the Cove"
"New Morning"
"Forever Young"

The man who lost, and bared it all
"Dirge"
"Simple Twist of Fate"
"Where Are You Tonight? (Journey Through Dark Heat)"

The man after the heart of Jesus
"Saved"
"Gotta Serve Somebody"
"Every Grain of Sand"

The wise man who turns cynical 
"Groom's Still Waiting at the Altar"
"Jokerman"
"I and I"

The man lost in the haze 
"Tight Connection to My Heart"
"Brownsville Girl"
"Silvio"

The middle aged man who sees new beginnings
"Most of the Time"
"Shooting Star"
"Not Dark Yet"

The old bluesman who acts as a teacher
"Summer Days"
"Ain't Talkin'"
"Early Roman Kings"

More to follow. . . 


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