Surely one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, Bob Dylan is arguably the greatest American rock artist of all time. His long career has been consistently innovative, rewarding, and unique. His socially conscious lyrics represent the voice of his generation, and he continues today as one of the most important musicians in the world.
Written and compiled By: Eric
Last Updated: 2017-07-18
BOB DYLAN OVERVIEW:
Dylan started his career as a folk singer in the early sixties. Heavily influenced by Woody Guthrie, Dylan became famous for his left-wing politics, rebellious image, and poetic lyrical style. After recording a trio of great folk albums, Dylan was ready to turn the popular music world upside down when he chose to introduce rock music to his folk audiences. The result was a historic run of shows in 1965, during which Dylan would open his shows with a solo folk set, before bringing out "The Hawks" (later to become The Band). With his full-on electric band, Dylan performed loud, abrasive, intense rock music, giving crowds something they had never expected. The response of the folk crowd was mixed, but Dylan's stature as a rock icon was solidified. He released a series of rock albums that produced some of the most popular songs of all time. Starting with Bringing It All Back Home in 1965, the influence of his historic mid-sixties prime can not be overstated. In less than a year's time, he produced his two most important records; Blonde on Blonde and Highway 61 Revisited. Dylan continued full throttle, even after his near fatal motorcycle accident in 1966. Towards the end of the decade, he began exploring different styles, including his country album Nashville Skyline and the oddball experimentation of his ill-received 1970 release, Self Portrait.
In 1975, when it may have seemed that Dylan was running out of artistic ambition, he produced another one his greatest albums. The singer-songwriter was at his angriest when he recorded Blood on the Tracks, which in turn produced some of his harshest lyrics to date. The following decade was a period of experimentation, starting with his trilogy of gospel albums, which were recorded during Dylan's brief time as a born-again Christian. After several failed rock experiments, he finally got back in touch with his folk roots during the first half of the nineties. Finally ready to plug back in for a full rock album, he recorded yet another masterpiece with Time Out Of Mind in 1997. Dylan was again back at the top of the music industry, and the album was honored by numerous Grammies and other accolades. His studio album, Love and Theft, was released in 2001. Following that acclaimed recording, Dylan continued his never ending touring cycle.
BOB DYLAN STUDIO ALBUMS (ranked in order of greatness):
1. Highway 61 Revisited
Dylan's most famous record remains one of the most significant statements in all rock music. From the anathematic 'Like A Rolling Stone', to the apocalyptic 'Desolation Row, this album is truly one of the greatest of all time.
2. Blood on the Tracks
Some dark times in Dylan's life made for one of his greatest lyrical statements. This album captures Dylan at his angriest. Lashing out at everything that is wrong with the world, the results are phenomenal.
3. Blonde on Blonde
Still the longest studio recording of his career, this album contains many of Dylan's most famous songs, and it covers numerous styles of music. It's hard to find any weak moments in this 14 song set.
4. Bringing It All Back Home
Half rock, half folk, this is the transitional album that showed just where Dylan was planning to go with his music. It contains some of Dylan's most beloved classics, such as 'Mr. Tambourine Man'.
5. The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan
The best from Dylan's early folk period, this album is a daring political statement that served as a rallying cry for the anti-war movement of the sixties.
6. Time Out Of Mind
This album marks Dylan's return to greatness after two decades of experimentation and inconsistency. This album is atmospheric, sad, and very emotional. It is surely Dylan's most personal record since Blood on the Tracks.
7. The Times They Are A-Changin'
His last pure folk album, this recording foresees the massive social changes of the mid-sixties, and sets the stage for the revolutionary rock recordings of Dylan's most important period.
8. John Wesley Harding
Dylan finally tried to sing musically and put out an emotional, subtle record, most famous for the protest rant of 'All Along the Watchtower'.
9. Oh Mercy
After Dylan spent a decade struggling to make a decent album, he finally found his footing for this fantastic, cynical epic.
This bitter, angry, often politically charged masterpiece is most famous for the song 'Hurricane', which was crucial in bringing public attention to the travesty of the Ruben Carter accusation. Other great songs include 'Isis' and 'One More Cup of Coffee'.
11. Planet Waves
Dylan's lone studio release with The Band contains many classics. This is perhaps the most underrated album of his career. It includes two versions of 'Forever Young', one of the finest songs of his career.
12. Another Side of Bob Dylan
This album is oddly comedic and relaxed, especially when compared to Dylan's other folk releases. As the title clearly states, Dylan tried something new, and it was very successful.
13. Love And Theft
This upbeat, bluesy record shows that Dylan is still capable of writing great rock songs today.
14. Street Legal
Sadly forgotten, this album was the last before Dylan's downfall in the eighties. There are a few fantastic songs such as 'Senor', and the entire album is remarkably consistent.
15. Good As I Been To You
Rediscovering his roots as a folk singer, Dylan plays through standards from his past.
16. New Morning
Inconsistent, but still great, this album finds Dylan exploring some new styles with varied success.
Following the artistic drought of his Christian phase, Dylan was still struggling when he wrote this. A few middling tracks slow it down, but 'Jokerman', among other good songs, make it all worthwhile.
18. World Gone Wrong
The follow up to Good as I Been to You once again finds Dylan playing folk standards.
19. Bob Dylan
The debut record shows the ambitious young songwriter getting started, but fails to live up to his later masterpieces.
20. Slow Train Coming
The first of Dylan's Christian trilogy, this album offers up a few great songs in the midst of Dylan's religious explorations.
OTHER BOB DYLAN STUDIO ALBUMS:
Nashville Skyline (1969)
Self Portrait (1970)
Shot of Love (1981)
Empire Burlesque (1985)
Knocked Out Loaded (1986)
Down In the Groove (1988)
Under The Red Sky (1990)
Modern Times (2006)
Shadows in the Night (2015)
Fallen Angels (2016)
Rough and Rowdy Ways (2020)
OTHER ALBUMS OF INTEREST:
Before The Flood - (1974)
Excellent live recording of Dylan with The Band shows how well they worked together in concert.
Biograph - (1985)
If you're looking for a compilation of Dylan's best work, this is probably the best "Hits" set on the market.
Dylan & the Dead - (1988)
A unique combination for Bob Dylan and The Grateful Dead makes for a good rock concert.
Hard Rain - (1976)
This live recording shows that Dylan could still rock live in the mid-seventies.
Live 1964: Concert at Philharmonic Hall - (2004)
At only 23 years old, Dylan put on this wonderful folk concert, with a special appearance from Joan Baez.
Live 1966: The "Royal Albert Hall" Concert - (1998)
One of the most important rock concerts of all time, Dylan performed a rock set in front of his largely folk audience. Boos and jeers are heard as Dylan plays at his loudest and best. The famous "Judas" shout signifies the end of an era and the beginning of a new one.
Live 1975: The Rolling Thunder Revue - (2002)
This excellent live recording contains the best rendition of 'Hurricane', as Dylan sings with passion and anger about the evils of racism in modern society.
MTV Unplugged - (1995)
Dylan's mid-nineties comeback made for a tremendous performance on MTV Unplugged. Dylan is in top form on this recording.
Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid - (1970)
This film soundtrack is more famous than the movie itself, thanks to the Dylan classic, 'Knockin' on Heaven's Door'.
The Basement Tapes - (1975)
These lost recordings of Dylan with The Band may be somewhat inconsistent, but there are a few great songs.
The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3 - (1991)
These previously unreleased recordings finally were released in the nineties, and there are a lot of great songs to make them worthwhile.
Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 & 3 - (1988, 1990)
Combining the masterful talents of Dylan, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, George Harrison, and Jeff Lynne, this supergroup demands attention from anyone interested in these musicians.
THE 10 GREATEST BOB DYLAN SONGS:
1. Like A Rolling Stone
2. Mr. Tambourine Man
3. Blowin' In The Wind
4. The Times They Are A-Changin'
5. Tangled Up In Blue
6. Knockin' On Heaven's Door
7. Subterranean Homesick Blues
8. Positively 4th Street
9. Desolation Row
10. Just Like A Woman
• See Entire Top 100 Bob Dylan Songs List
BOB DYLAN SONGS COVERED BY OTHER ARTISTS:
Dylan first became known to most of the public through Peter, Paul, &
Mary's version of "Blowin' In The Wind", which quickly became a major
hit and a civil rights anthem. Soon, Dylan was one of the most
often-recorded songwriters in the world, generating hits for numerous
rock, pop, folk, and country artists. After his 1966 motorcycle crash,
Dylan recorded a series of demos of his new songs with The Band. Those
recordings--which became known as "The Basement Tapes"--were given to
a variety of artists, resulting in more hit versions of Dylan
compositions. The Byrds, Manfred Mann, Richie Havens, Fairport
Convention, and Dylan's former girlfriend Joan Baez all built their
reputations in part on their recordings of multiple Dylan songs.
While Dylan's songs have appeared less frequently on the pop charts
since the end of the 1960s, there have been thousands of reworkings of
his songs, and he occasionally writes a song for or with another
artist. "(To) Make You Feel My Love", originally given to Billy Joel,
has become something of a modern standard, while some fans were taken
aback by Dylan's collaboration with Michael Bolton on "Steel Bars".
Here are the 50 Greatest Versions of Bob Dylan Songs, ranked by their
popularity (in the US and the UK), influence, and impact on Dylan's
career. (This list excludes Dylan's own recordings, of course.)
1. Blowin' In The Wind - Peter, Paul & Mary 2. Mr. Tambourine Man - The Byrds 3. All Along The Watchtower - Jimi Hendrix Experience 4. The Mighty Quinn (Quinn The Eskimo) - Manfred Mann 5. It Ain't Me Babe - The Turtles 6. Blowin' In The Wind - Stevie Wonder 7. Knockin' On Heaven's Door - Guns N' Roses 8. Make You Feel My Love - Adele 9. I Shall Be Released - The Band / Jeff Buckley 10. This Wheel's On Fire - Julie Driscoll with Brian Auger & The Trinity 11. Don't Think Twice, It's All Right - Peter, Paul & Mary 12. It Ain't Me Babe - Johnny Cash 13. My Back Pages - The Byrds 14. All I Really Want To Do - Cher 15. To Make You Feel My Love - Garth Brooks 16. Don't Think Twice - Wonder Who? (The Four Seasons) 17. All I Really Want To Do - The Byrds 18. If Not For You - Olivia Newton-John 19. You Ain't Going Nowhere - The Byrds 20. Emotionally Yours - The O'Jays 21. Steel Bars - Michael Bolton 22. She Belongs To Me - Rick Nelson 23. To Make You Feel My Love - Billy Joel 24. If Not For You - George Harrison 25. Knockin' On Heaven's Door - Eric Clapton 26. If You Gotta Go, Go Now - Manfred Mann 27. Absolutely Sweet Maree - Jason & The Scorchers 28. It's All Over Now, Baby Blue - Them 29. Wanted Man - Johnny Cash 30. Just Like A Woman - Richie Havens 31. Farewell Angelina - Joan Baez 32. I'll Be Your Baby Tonight - Robert Palmer / Rita Coolidge 33. Si Tu Dois Partir (If You Gotta Go, Go Now) - Fairport Convention 34. Chimes Of Freedom - Bruce Springsteen 35. Just Like A Woman - Manfred Mann 36. Chimes Of Freedom - The Byrds 37. Highway 61 Revisited - Johnny Winter 38. Percy's Song - Fairport Convention 39. Tomorrow Is A Long Time - Elvis Presley 40. Subterranean Homesick Blues - Red Hot Chili Peppers 41. Watching the River Flow - Joe Cocker / Leon Russell 42. Forever Young - Johnny Cash 43. The Times They Are a-Changin' - Blackmore's Night 44. It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry - The Black Crowes 45. Gotta Serve Somebody - Mavis Staples 46. Tomorrow Is a Long Time - Rod Stewart / Nick Drake / Judy Collins 47. Masters of War - Staple Singers 48. Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues - Gordon Lightfoot / Linda Ronstadt 49. Girl from the North Country - Rosanne Cash / Neil Young 50. Maggie's Farm - Richie Havens
PLACEMENT ON DDD LISTS (as of 03/2021):
Greatest Rock Lyricists - #1 Greatest Folk Rock Artists - #1 Greatest Rock Artists - #3 Greatest Folk Music Artists - #3 Greatest Influential Rock Artists - #5 Greatest Rock Songwriters - #6 Greatest Rock Artists of the 1960s - #6 Greatest Rock Artists of the 1970s - #36 Greatest Live Rock Artists - #44 Greatest Rock Songs - 7 entries
• Like A Rolling Stone - #10
• Mr. Tambourine Man - #53
• Blowin' In The Wind - #190
• The Times They Are A'Changin' - #315
• Tangled Up in Blue - #401
• Knockin' on Heaven's Door - #431
• Subterranean Homesick Blues - #483 Greatest Rock Albums - 5 entries
• Highway 61 Revisited - #7
• Blonde On Blonde - #16
• Bringing It All Back Home - #40
• Blood On the Tracks - #67
• Freewheelin' Bob Dylan - #106 Greatest Folk Rock Songs - 7 entries
• Like a Rolling Stone - #2
• Subterranean Homesick Blues - #7
• Positively 4th Street - #10
• Just Like a Woman - #18
• I Want You - #35
• Tangled Up In Blue - #43
• Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 - #47