BY: Traci Taylor
Greatest hits albums are normally compiled with an artist’s well known tracks from their career. Sometimes those tracks are considered overrated or mainstream from a music critic’s point of view. When it comes to the sounds of Bob Dylan, those terms just do not exist.
On March 8, 1966 Dylan first recorded the track, “Just Like a Woman.” A year later in that same month the track appeared on Dylan’s first greatest hits album.
Dylan’s “Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits” album was released March 27, 1967. It featured 10 of his quality tracks including “Just Like a Woman.” It still remains Dylan’s best-selling album in the United States having been certified platinum five times.
The very essence of Dylan is not his vocal ability, but his way with words. He impacted the generation he was established in, and continues to influence the current generation of music lovers.
No other musician has given better advice than Dylan on “Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35,” when he informs, “Everybody must get stoned.”
The next couple of tracks on side one are evidence of how well Dylan could tell a story. Dylan was a true political activist trying to be heard through song. “The Times They Are A-Changing” is a direct call to the people of the sixties to open their eyes to what was occurring around them. Dylan had a message to send, and he sung it well.
“Like a Rolling Stone” is the last track on side one and the most influential of Dylan’s music career. In 1966 during an interview with Playboy magazine Dylan said he was ready to quit the music business.
He said, “But ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ changed it all. I mean it was something that I myself could dig. It’s very tiring having other people tell you how much they dig you if you yourself don’t dig you.”
It is difficult to imagine music history without the tunes of Dylan. He has influenced both past and current musicians. His word play ability continues on side two of the album.
“Subterranean Homesick Blues” is the ultimate example of word play. The track starts off right into the flow that makes the fingers snap and foot tap along. The lyrics of the song are particularly relevant to the current generation of college students.
With the current job market it is easy to relate to the line, “Twenty years of schoolin’ and they put on the day shift.” The struggles of the youth have not changed in much context since Dylan started to sing about them in the sixties.
The well known track “Hey Mr. Tambourine Man,” was also recorded by The Byrds the same year Dylan released it in 1965.
There has been speculation of what the catchy tune of “Positively 4th Street” was written about. No concrete evidence exists as to whom Dylan was referring to when he sang, “You got a lotta nerve to say you are my friend. When I was down, you just stood there grinning.” Many critics have theories, but no exact conclusion.
The last track on the record is “Just Like a Woman.” It is known that the song was seemingly improvised by Dylan during recording sessions in the studio. Dylan was criticized for being misogynistic in the song for the lyrics and title.
One music critic, Paul Williams, had actually defended against this accusation by claiming “there’s never a moment in the song, despite the little digs and the confessions of pain, when you can’t hear the love in his voice.” All in all the actuality of the meaning is left up to interpretation of both the character of Dylan and the lyrics.
To inspire and relate to his audience is the entire concept of Dylan’s music. His concert venues today are filled with a range of generations. The relevance of his words over the years shows the promise for the future of music. It’s a rare talent to have a greatest hits album that can send a message, but Dylan accomplishes it.