We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
The name Bob Dylan would hardly have been a familiar one to anyone outside the Greenwich Village scene before 1963, even with the earlier release of a very first album containing blues and folk covers and a couple short, original compositions.The appearance less than a year later of “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan,” an album of astonishing originality and creativity, would firmly establish Dylan as one of the foremost songwriters of his time at a mere 22 years old.
Though his sound and style would continually change over the years, “Freewheelin’” contains many of the themes Dylan would later revisit: the social conscience and angry protest of “Blowin’ In The Wind” and “Masters of War;” absurdity and sly humor on “Talkin’ World War III Blues” and “Bob Dylan’s Dream;” the surrealist imagery and apocalyptic prophesying on “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall;” expressions of love and affection in “Girl From The North Country;” and the ever-present theme of the need to change and move on, rather than linger in past relationships and experiences, on “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.”
The structure of the songs is largely constructed from a folk foundation, the musical form that dominated the coffee houses and cafes of Greenwich Village and which Dylan had listened to assiduously since his arrival in the city and before.In particular, the influence of Woody Guthrie – Dylan’s undisputed icon – shines through, as Dylan virtually channels Guthrie’s spirit on “Talkin’ World War III Blues.”Dylan, who may have traveled to New York in large part to seek out the dying Guthrie, was also inspired by
the sheer volume of original compositions Guthrie had churned out.At a time when most folk performers played traditional songs or the work of others, Dylan set out to emulate his role model by crafting original songs and performing them himself.
Another two years would pass before Dylan famously moved beyond his folk beginnings by “going electric,” but at the time of the release of “Freewheelin” Dylan was already being hailed as a folk hero and eloquent voice of social protest.While the following album would only add to this reputation, the majority of Dylan’s music even at this time was still largely personal in scope and consciously avoidant of social critique.Even a song such as “Blowin’ In The Wind,” which has been adopted by numerous left-leaning groups as an appropriate anthem, merely poses questions, rather than prescribing solutions.“How many years can a mountain exist,” Dylan sings, “until it is washed to the sea?”The socially-tinged questions are juxtaposed with such expressions of infinite time, implying that Dylan perhaps saw these problems as permanent and inevitable, if unfortunate, products of human experience.
At the same time, the lyrics of the songs, rather than their musical structure, were already taking the folk music formula and standing it on its head.“A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” the song which led Allen Ginsberg to declare that “the torch had been passed” from one generation of poets to the next, takes the lyrical question-and-answer structure of the Scottish ballad “Lord Randal” and fills it with line after line of surrealistic yet vivid imagery, perhaps inspired by the reading of French symbolist Arthur Rimbaud.The signs of progression away from the folk scene were already in plain view, yet many of Dylan’s breathless supporters could not see the writing on the wall, and failed to do so again even when Dylan made the statement explicit the following year with “Restless Farewell,” the last song on “The Times They Are A-Changin’.”That Dylan created some of the greatest so-called “protest” songs ever written is more a testament to his immense songwriting talent, which has wrestled with a vast number of themes and topics over the past 40 years, than a reflection of any particular political leaning or agenda.Songs with a political or protest slant would sporadically reappear in later years (“Hurricane,” for example, or“Neighborhood Bully”), but viewed within a broader context the “protest phase” was actually even briefer than Dylan’s later Christian evangelical period, which gave rise to three full albums.
Taken as a whole, “Freewheelin’” is a groundbreaking artistic creation that shows Dylan coming to grips with the vast potential of his fertile and creative mind.The songs that resulted are hardly the first tentative steps of a beginner, but rather timeless creations that have lost little or none of their power almost a half-century later, even as Dylan continues to introduce them to new audiences in his live performances.