Musicheads Essential Album: Bob Dylan, 'The Times They Are A-Changin''

Bob Dylan 'Times They Are A-Changin'' album cover.
Detail of album art: Bob Dylan, 'The Times They Are A-Changin'.' (Columbia)

Perhaps the defining album of the '50s and '60s folk revival, The Times They Are A-Changin' exemplifies the Woody-Guthrie-inspired persona folkies mourned when Bob Dylan went electric. It's a Musicheads Essential Album.

Only eight months after Dylan astonished listeners with his sophomore album The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, The Times They Are A-Changin' was released on January 13, 1964. The stirring title song immediately took its place alongside "Blowin' in the Wind" as an anthem defining the zeitgeist of the social change sweeping through the decade.

That song opened the album, followed by the harrowing "Ballad of Hollis Brown" and the epic anti-war song "With God On Our Side." On side B, "Only a Pawn in Their Game" mourned Medgar Evers and "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" drew on ancient folksong form to tell the devastating tale of a Black woman beaten to death by a white man in 1963. By the time the song was released, Billy Zantzinger was almost through with the six-month sentence accurately described in Dylan's song.

As on Freewheelin', Dylan brought wistful ballads to the record as well: "Boots of Spanish Leather" is one of his great love songs. It's followed on the record by the stirring "When the Ship Comes In," an uptempo bright note on an album that generally strikes a somber mood.

It wouldn't be long before Dylan showed Another Side of his talent, setting the social commentary aside for farther shores of artistic expression. He'd more than made his mark, though, with The Times The Are A-Changin': one of the greatest and most important protest albums in music history.

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