A Clear Head in Troubling Times: Why We Need to Listen to Bob Dylan

The purpose of music, in general, is to entertain us, but songs often mean more than that. Artists have pushed the limits and redefined music’s role in our culture. Case in point: Bob Dylan broke the mold with his lyrical genius, as his songs became a source of both inspiration and enlightenment for audiophiles around the world.

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Dylan’s roots in music began in high school when he joined a band and would cover songs by rock and roll icons like Little Richard and Elvis. In fact, Variety shares that the former’s role in Dylan’s life was so profound that he called him his “shining star and guiding light” when he was a young boy. After a quick stint in college, Dylan entered the New York music scene and released his debut folk self-titled album. Though it was met with little success, it paved the way for the artist that we know and love today.

Just a year later, he released his next album, entitled The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, which was filled with protest songs about civil rights and nuclear warfare. From there, Dylan continued to release poetic, powerful, and political songs throughout his entire career. And he won countless awards along the way, in the Grammy Awards and even the Oscars. In fact, an entertainment trivia post by Gala Bingo notes how he’s even won the Nobel Prize for Literature for his lyricism, and though he’s never enjoyed a number one hit on the Billboard Chart, his lasting influence on American music and culture — built throughout six decades of music and artistry — is no small feat. So, let’s take a closer look at how Bob Dylan’s artistry can provide so much hope and inspiration for us during these troubling times.

Because He Stands Up for the Underdogs

On a single sheet of lined paper, Dylan wrote the lyrics to his poignant protest song The Times They Are a-Changin’. Released during the height of the civil rights movement, he called for a change in the country with lyrics like, “Come gather ’round people wherever you roam. And admit that the waters around you have grown.” On the track Hurricane, he proclaims the innocence of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter — a black man who was wrongfully convicted of murder due to racial profiling. Dylan reminds us that those who are privileged have the power to speak up for the victims of injustice.

Because He Reminds Us to Open Our Eyes

Dylan came from a small town, which isn’t necessarily the place where progressive ideas are shared. But when he moved to New York City, he met Suze Rotolo, a daughter of union organizers, who invited him to sing at political rallies. From there, Dylan had his political awakening and found inspiration from the many movements happening during this time. From The Times They Are a-Changin album to the Desire LP, Dylan invites us to see the world from a different and more philosophical perspective.

Because He Reminds You to Honor Yourself With Rest

After crashing his motorcycle, Dylan took a 19-month break from music. While he did indeed use that time to recover, he also saw the opportunity to escape the pressure of the music industry. More often than not, we pressure ourselves to overwork or stay busy even to the point of harming ourselves. But we can learn from Dylan that we must look after our mind, body, and soul, and honor ourselves with the rest we deserve. And once he got back into the studio, he released one of his most reflective albums ever in John Wesley Harding.

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