bob dylan – the times they are a changin’

Lyrics:

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth saving
Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’
For the loser now will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
The battle outside ragin’
Will soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly aging
Please get outta’ the new one if you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fading
And the first one now will later be last
For the times they are a-changin

The Times They Are a-Changin’” is a song written by Bob Dylan and released as the title track of his 1964 album of the same name. Dylan wrote the song as a deliberate attempt to create an anthem of change for the time, influenced by Irish and Scottish ballads. Released as a 45-rpm single in Britain in 1965, it reached number 9 in the British top ten.[1]

Ever since its release the song has been influential to people’s views on society, with critics noting the general yet universal lyrics as contributing to the song’s lasting message of change. Dylan has occasionally performed it in concert. The song has been covered by many different artists, including Nina Simone, the ByrdsPeter, Paul, and MarySimon & Garfunkel, the Beach BoysJoan BaezPhil CollinsBilly Joel, and Bruce Springsteen. The song was ranked number 59 on Rolling Stone‘s 2004 list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.[2]

Image result for bob dylan - the times they are a changin

Inspiration and composition

Dylan appears to have written the song in September and October 1963. He recorded it as a Witmark publishing demo at that time, a version that was later released on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961–1991. The song was then recorded at the Columbia studios in New York on October 23 and 24;[3] the latter session yielded the version that became the title song of Dylan’s third album.[4] The a in the song title is an archaic intensifying prefix, as in the British songs “A-Hunting We Will Go” and “Here We Come a-Wassailing“, from the 18th and 19th century.

Dylan recalled writing the song as a deliberate attempt to create an anthem of change for the moment. In 1985, he told Cameron Crowe, “This was definitely a song with a purpose. It was influenced of course by the Irish and Scottish ballads …’Come All Ye Bold Highway Men’, ‘Come All Ye Tender Hearted Maidens’. I wanted to write a big song, with short concise verses that piled up on each other in a hypnotic way. The civil rights movement and the folk music movement were pretty close for a while and allied together at that time.”[5]

Dylan biographer Clinton Heylin recounts how Tony Glover stopped by Dylan’s apartment in September 1963, picked up a page of the song Dylan was working on and read a line from it: “Come senators, congressmen, please heed the call.” “Turning to Dylan, Glover said, ‘What is this shit, man?’ Dylan shrugged his shoulders and replied, ‘Well, you know, it seems to be what the people want to hear.'”[6]

The critic Michael Gray called it “the archetypal protest song.” Gray commented, “Dylan’s aim was to ride upon the unvoiced sentiment of a mass public—to give that inchoate sentiment an anthem and give its clamour an outlet. He succeeded, but the language of the song is nevertheless imprecisely and very generally directed.”[4] Gray suggested that the song has been outdated by the very changes that it gleefully predicted and hence was politically out of date almost as soon as it was written. The lyrics reflected his views on social injustices and the government’s unhelpful attitude towards change.

The literary critic Christopher Ricks suggested that the song transcends the political preoccupations of the time in which it was written. Ricks argued that Dylan is still performing the song, and when he sings “Your sons and your daughters / Are beyond your command”, he sings inescapably with the accents not of a son, no longer perhaps primarily a parent, but with the attitude of a grandfather. Ricks concluded, “Once upon a time it may have been a matter of urging square people to accept the fact that their children were, you know, hippies. But the capacious urging could then come to mean that ex-hippie parents had better accept that their children look like becoming yuppies. And then Republicans…”[7]

Critic Andy Gill points out that the song’s lyrics echo lines from the Book of Ecclesiastes, which Pete Seeger adapted to create his anthem “Turn, Turn, Turn!“. The climactic line about the first later being last, likewise, is a direct scriptural reference to Mark 10:31: “But many that are first shall be last, and the last first.”[8]

Less than a month after Dylan recorded the song, President Kennedy was assassinated in DallasTexas, on November 22, 1963. The next night, Dylan opened a concert with “The Times They Are a-Changin'”; he told biographer Anthony Scaduto, “I thought, ‘Wow, how can I open with that song? I’ll get rocks thrown at me.’ But I had to sing it, my whole concert takes off from there. I know I had no understanding of anything. Something had just gone haywire in the country and they were applauding the song. And I couldn’t understand why they were clapping, or why I wrote the song. I couldn’t understand anything. For me, it was just insane.”[9]

The Byrds’ version

“The Times They Are a-Changin'”
Byrds The Times They Are a-Changin' EP.jpg

2011 re-release picture sleeve 45-rpm vinyl
Song by The Byrds
from the album Turn! Turn! Turn!
ReleasedDecember 6, 1965
RecordedSeptember 1, 1965
StudioColumbia StudiosHollywood, California
GenreFolk rock
Length2:18 (album version)
1:54 (original version)
LabelColumbia
Songwriter(s)Bob Dylan
Producer(s)Terry Melcher

“The Times They Are a-Changin'” was one of two Dylan covers that the Byrds included on their second album, Turn! Turn! Turn!, with “Lay Down Your Weary Tune” being the other.[10] Like other Dylan compositions that the band had covered, such as “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “All I Really Want to Do“, the song was intended to be the A-side of a single. It was sung by bandleader Jim McGuinn and prominently features his signature twelve-string Rickenbacker guitar. The song was often played at concerts surrounding its release.[11]

I remember the Beatles were in the studio for one of them (version of ‘The Times They Are a-Changin’). That kinda put a lot of pressure on us.

— Roger McGuinn [12]

The recording sessions have been noted for the surprise appearances made by George Harrison and Paul McCartney in the control booth, which according to Byrd members prevented them from completing the session and the track effectively.[12][13] Columbia Records originally pressed thousands of cover sleeves for the intended single, but the Byrds’ manager, Jim Dickson, asked for the release to be dropped because of the group’s dissatisfaction, most vocally expressed by David Crosby; Dickson originally thought the song would have made a strong single. In a 2004 interview, Chris Hillman stated his dislike for the song, suggesting that “we shouldn’t have bothered with that song”.[12][14] Another version of the song, recorded in June, is a bonus track on the 1996 reissue. “Turn! Turn! Turn!” ended up becoming the band’s third single, reaching number 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and number 26 on the UK Singles Chart.[15][16]

The Byrds performed the song on the U.S. television program Hullabaloo, but it failed to make a long-term impact.[17]CBS England issued “The Times They Are a-Changin” as the lead track of an EP, along with “Set You Free This Time“, written by Gene Clark, which was moderately successful.[18] In addition to its appearance on the Byrds’ second album, “The Times They Are a-Changin” is included on several Byrds compilations, including The Byrds’ Greatest Hits Volume IIThe Very Best of The ByrdsThe ByrdsThe Essential ByrdsThere Is a Season, and The Byrds Play Dylan.[19]

Other cover versions

ArtistAlbumYear
Peter Paul & MaryIn Concert1964
Simon and GarfunkelWednesday Morning, 3 A.M.1964
The Beach BoysBeach Boys’ Party!1965
OdettaOdetta Sings Dylan1965
The SeekersA World of Our Own1965
Boudewijn de GrootBoudewijn de Groot1966
Bob LindThe Elusive Bob Lind[20]1966
Flatt & ScruggsNashville Airplane1968
CherWith Love, Cher1968
Burl IvesThe Times They Are a-Changin’1968
The HolliesHollies Sing Dylan1969
Nina SimoneTo Love Somebody1969
Josephine BakerRecorded Live at Carnegie Hall1973
James Taylor & Carly SimonNo Nukes Benefit Concert1978
Vice SquadNo Cause for Concern1981
Billy JoelKOHЦEPT1987
Tracy ChapmanThe 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration1992
Barbara Dickson & Gerry RaffertyDon’t Think Twice It’s All Right1992
Richie HavensCuts to the Chase1994
Golden KidsČasy se mění1994
Phil CollinsDance into the Light1996
Judy CollinsBoth Sides Now1998
Manfred Mann’s Earth BandBest of Manfred Mann’s Earth Band 2 1972–20002000
Blackmore’s NightFires At Midnight2001
Me First and the Gimme GimmesTurn Japanese2001
Joan BaezThis Land Is Your Land: Songs of Freedom2002
Will HogeThe America EP2004
Keb’ MoPeace… Back by Popular Demand2004
Billy JoelMy Lives2005
Les FradkinIf Memory Serves You Well2006
A Whisper in the NoiseLady in the Water2006
Bryan FerryDylanesque2007
Mason JenningsI’m Not There2007
The ParlotonesVideoControlledRobot2008
Damien LeithCatch the Wind: Songs of a Generation2008
Bruce SpringsteenThe Kennedy Center[21]2008
Chuck RaganRevival Road2008
Herbie Hancock with vocals by Lisa HanniganThe Imagine Project2010
D.O.A.Talk – Action = 02010
Flogging MollyChimes of Freedom: Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International2012
Frank Turner and Billy BraggLive from Wembley Friday 13th April 2012 (DVD)2012
Medeski Scofield Martin & WoodJuice2014
Jess & MattSongs from the Village2018

Later history

In January 1984, a young Steve Jobs recited the second verse of “The Times They Are a-Changin'” in his opening of the 1984 Apple shareholders meeting, where he famously unveiled the Macintosh computer for the first time.[22]

In 1994, “The Times They Are a-Changin'” was licensed for use in American TV advertisements for the auditing and accountancy firm Coopers & Lybrand, as performed by Richie Havens. It was sung by a children’s choir in an advertisement for Canada‘s Bank of Montreal in 1996.[23] In 2005, it was used in a television advertisement for the insurance company Kaiser Permanente.[24]

The “Dylan Covers Database”[25] listed 436 recordings, including bootlegs, of this song as of October 19, 2009, including 85 versions of it by “Bob Walkenhorst“, recorded live between March 2004 and September 2009, at “Molly’s Irish Pub” in Kansas City. According to the same database, the song has been recorded in at least 14 other languages (Catalán, Czech, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Polish, Serbian, Spanish, and Swedish).

John Mellencamp made a home-video recording of the song on a web-cam on September 2, 2008, and posted it on his website the next day as a statement about the possible change the 2008 presidential election could bring to the United States.

In 2008, episode eight (“Roe”) of the last season of Boston Legal featured blues musician Keb’ Mo’‘s cover of the song.

In 2009, the filmmaker Michael Moore sang the third verse of the song live on The Jay Leno Show after being told that he had to “earn” a clip from his film Capitalism: A Love Story to be shown.[26]

The 2009 film Watchmen, a neo noir superhero film directed by Zack Snyder used “The Times They Are a-Changing” as the background music to the opening titles.

On December 10, 2010, Dylan’s hand-written lyrics of the song were sold at auction at Sotheby’s, in New York, for $422,500. They were purchased by a hedge fundmanager.[27]

The song is included in “The 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll”, a permanent exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.[28][29]

Billy Bragg covered the song but altered the lyrics to make it a protest song dealing with the issues of 2017. Bragg sang lyrics such as “Accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone/ For the climate is obviously changing,” and “But the man in the White House says no one’s to blame/ For the times, they are a-changing back.”[30]

Jennifer Hudson performed the song to close out the March for Our Lives in Washington DC, on March 24, 2018. The lyrics are well suited to a movement (against gun violence) led by the teenage survivors of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. Hudson was backed by a gospel choir.

Notes

  1. Jump up^ “Bob Dylan | Artist”

    The Official Charts Company. Retrieved July 30, 2012.

  2. Jump up^ “The Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”

    . Rock List Music. Retrieved December 16, 2010.

  3. Jump up^ Bjorner, Olof (2004-10-08). “The Times They Are a-Changin’ Sessions”

    . Bjorner.com. Retrieved 2009-01-10.

  4. Jump up to:a b Gray (2006). The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia. p. 662.
  5. Jump up^ Crowe, Cameron (1985). Liner notes. Biograph.
  6. Jump up^ Heylin. Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades Revisited. p. 126.
  7. Jump up^ Ricks (2003). Dylan’s Visions of Sin. pp. 260–271.
  8. Jump up^ Gill (1999). My Back Pages, pp. 42–43.
  9. Jump up^ Scaduto 2001, p. 160
  10. Jump up^ Fricke, David (1996). Turn! Turn! Turn! (1996 CD liner notes).
  11. Jump up^ Rogan, Johnny (1998). The Byrds: Timeless Flight Revisited (2nd ed.). Rogan House. p. 155. ISBN 0-9529540-1-X.
  12. Jump up to:a b c “The Byrds speak on Turn! Turn! Turn!”

    . Byrds Lyrics Page. Retrieved 2012-10-14.

  13. Jump up^ Rogan, Johnny (1998). The Byrds: Timeless Flight Revisited (2nd ed.). Rogan House. pp. 178–179. ISBN 0-9529540-1-X.
  14. Jump up^ “Turn! Turn! Turn!”

    . ByrdWatcher: A Field Guide to the Byrds of Los Angeles. Retrieved 2009-12-07.

  15. Jump up^ Whitburn, Joel (2008). Top Pop Singles 1955–2006. Record Research. p. 130. ISBN 0-89820-172-1.
  16. Jump up^ Brown, Tony (2000). The Complete Book of the British Charts. Omnibus Press. p. 130. ISBN 0-7119-7670-8.
  17. Jump up^ Rogan, Johnny (1998). The Byrds: Timeless Flight Revisited (2nd ed.). Rogan House. p. 201. ISBN 0-9529540-1-X.
  18. Jump up^ Rogan, Johnny (1998). The Byrds: Timeless Flight Revisited (2nd ed.). Rogan House. p. 230/246. ISBN 0-9529540-1-X.
  19. Jump up^ “The Times They Are a-Changin’ Album Appearances”

    Allmusic. Retrieved 2017-04-23.

  20. Jump up^ “Bob Lind – The Elusive Bob Lind”

    Discogs.

  21. Jump up^ Bob Dylan Honored at Kennedy Center

    . MTV.com. Accessed 2008-06-24.

  22. Jump up^ “Folklore.org: The Times They Are A-Changin'”

    www.folklore.org.

  23. Jump up^ Gray. The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia. p. 152.
  24. Jump up^ Ad Pulp (2005-08-25). “Bob Dylan Shills for the Kaiser, and Opposition Mounts”

    . Kaiserthrive.org. Retrieved 2010-12-15.

  25. Jump up^ “Dylan Covers Database”

    baseportal.com.

  26. Jump up^ “Jay Leno Show Got Worse”

    . videogum.com. 2009-09-16. Retrieved 2010-12-15.

  27. Jump up^ Kazakina, Kata (2010-12-10). “Dylan’s ‘Times They Are a-Changin” Fetches $422,500″

    . Bloomberg.com. Retrieved 2010-12-15.

  28. Jump up^ Henke, James. “500 Songs That Shaped Rock”

     (pdf). Infoplease. Retrieved October 12, 2016.

  29. Jump up^ “Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll: The Times They Are A-Changin'”

    . Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. May 24, 2016. Retrieved October 12, 2016.

  30. Jump up^ Reed, Ryan (January 25, 2017). “Hear Billy Bragg Reimagine Bob Dylan Anthem as Trump Protest”

    Rolling Stone. Retrieved January 26, 2017.

References

  • Bjorner, Olof (2002). Olof’s Files: A Bob Dylan Performance Guide (Bob Dylan all alone on a shelf). Hardinge Simpole. ISBN 1-84382-024-2.
  • Gill, Andy (1999). Classic Bob Dylan: My Back Pages. Carlton. ISBN 1-85868-599-0.
  • Gray, Michael (2006). The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia. Continuum International. ISBN 0-8264-6933-7.
  • Heylin, Clinton (2003). Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades Revisited. Perennial Currents. ISBN 0-06-052569-X.
  • Ricks, Christopher (2003). Dylan’s Visions of Sin. Penguin/Viking. ISBN 0-670-80133-X.
  • Scaduto, Anthony (2001). Bob Dylan. Helter Skelter, reprint of 1972 edition. ISBN 1-900924-23-4.

 

 

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