Keys To The Rain: The Definitive Bob Dylan Encyclopedia

An encyclopedic sourcebook on one of the 20th century's most important artists, "Keys to the Rain" completely chronicles Bob Dylan's recorded work. Author Oliver Trager discusses of all of his officia

"Blowin' in the Wind" (Bob Dylan)
aka "Blowing in the Wind"

• Bob Dylan, single (1963); The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (1963); Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits (1967); Before the Flood (1974); Bob Dylan at Budokan (1979); Biograph (1985); The Bootleg Series, Volume 5: Live 1975—The Rolling Thunder Revue (2002)
• Various Artists (performed by Bob Dylan), Evening Concerts at Newport, Volume 1/'63 (1964); The Concert for Bangladesh (1971); God Bless America (2001)
• Bob Dylan/Various Artists (performed by Stevie Wonder), Bob Dylan: The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration (1993)
• Various Artists (performed by the New World Singers), Broadside Ballads, Volume 1 (1962); The Best of Broadside 1962–1988 (2000)
• Peter, Paul & Mary, In the Wind (1963); In Concert (1964); Ten Years Together (1970); Holiday Celebration (1988); Around the Campfire (1998)
• Bobby Darin, Golden Folk Hits (1963); As Long as I'm Singing: The Bobby Darin Collection (1995)
• Stan Getz, Reflections (1963)
• Chad Mitchell, Blowin' in the Wind (1963); Chad Mitchell Trio Collection (1997)
• Ray Bryant, Live at Basin Street (1964)
• Sam Cooke, Sam Cooke at the Copa (1964); Man Who Invented Soul (1968)
• Glen Campbell, Astounding 12-String Guitar (1964)
• Marianne Faithfull, Come My Way (1965); Music for the Millions (1985)
• Dick Dale, Live at Ciro's (1965)
• Trini Lopez, Folk Album (1965)
• Walter Jackson, Welcome Home (1965)
• Dannie Richmond, In Jazz for the Culture Set (1965)
• The Silkie, You've Got to Hide Your Love Away (1965)
• Pete Seeger, Little Boxes & Other Broadsides (1965)
• King Curtis, Live at Smalls Paradise (1966)
• New Christy Minstrels, New Kick (1966); Very Best of the New Christy Minstrels (1996)
• Lou Donaldson, Blowing in the Wind (1966)
• Earl Scruggs, Changin' Times (1969)
• Joan Baez, From Every Stage (1976); European Tour (1981); Rare, Live & Classic (1993); The Essential Joan Baez: From the Heart—Live (2001)
• Stevie Wonder, Anthology (1977); Greatest Hits, Volume 1 (1979)
• The Hollies, Other Side of the Hollies (1978); Long Cool Woman (1979)
• Ray Conniff, Always in My Heart (1978)
• Chet Atkins, Solid Gold Guitar (1982)
• Leontyne Price, God Bless America (1982)
• Golden Throats, Golden Throats: The Great Celebrity Sing Off (1988)
• Kingston Trio, Tom Dooley (1989)
• Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Songs from America's Heartland (1991)
• The Searchers, 30th Anniversary Collection (1992)
• Richard Dworsky, Back to the Garden (1992)
• Tyson Moses Jr., I Made Up My Mind (1992)
• Lorie Line, Beyond a Dream (1992)
• Apple, Neither Victims nor Executioners (1994)
• Judy Collins, Live at Newport (1994); Both Sides Now (1998)
• Gospel Hummingbirds, Taking Flight (1995)
• Johnny Rivers, Rocks the Folks (1996)
• Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, 1964–1969, Plus (1996)
• Elvis Presley, Platinum (A Life in Music) (1997); Touch of Platinum (1998)
• The Brothers Four, Greenfields and Other Gold (1997)
• Steve Alaimo, Anthology (1997)
• Edwin Hawkins, Very Best of the Edwin Hawkins Singers (1998)
• Ted Hawkins, Love You Most of All (1998)
• Duane Eddy, Duane Does Dylan (1998)
• Various Artists (performed by Low), Duluth Does Dylan (2001)
• Todd Rubenstein, The String Quartet Tribute to Bob Dylan (2003)
• Various Artists (performed by the Abyssinians), Blowin' in the Wind: A Reggae Tribute to Bob Dylan (2003)

It's hard to name a song that was more vital to Dylan's career than "Blowin' in the Wind." Thanks in large part to this one song, it is now virtually axiomatic that Dylan changed the face of popular music. To put it plainly, "Blowin' in the Wind" put Bob Dylan and America's youth culture on the map with a statement that easily stands at the pinnacle of the modern protest song.

With a simple melody and subtle, questioning lyrics, "Blowin' in the Wind" struck chords deep within both the civil rights and nascent antiwar movements of the early 1960s, giving widespread voice to sentiments that until then had rarely before been explicitly articulated in popular music. Even now, more than forty years since the song's composition and after millions of renditions by innumerable singers around the world, the queries Dylan raises in it don't appear as if they are going to be answered anytime soon. Each verse includes three rhetorical questions that cut to the marrow of injustice and ends with a Taoist koan presenting the clarity of the only true answer. Perhaps they can never be answered properly—and therein lies their brilliance and the secret of the song's effectiveness.

Dylan's first comments on the song were found in the Freewheelin' liner notes. "The first way to answer these questions in the song," he suggests, "is by asking them. But lots of people have to first find the wind."

In the October–November 1962 issue of Sing Out!, he went a few steps further: "There ain't too much I can say about this song except that the answer is blowing in the wind. It ain't in no book or movie or TV show or discussion group. Man, it's in the wind -- and it's blowing in the wind. Too many of these hip people are telling me where the answer is, but oh, I won't believe that. I still say it's in the wind and just like a restless piece of paper, it's got to come down some time ... I still say that some of the biggest criminals are those that turn their heads away when they see wrong and know it's wrong. I'm only 21 years old and I know that there's been too many wars ... You people over 21 should know better ... 'cause after all, you're older and smarter."

Even with Dylan's trademark stamp, this song for the ages could have been spoken by the ancient sages -- it seems to have been around at least that long. The song caught some early flak from the political left for asking but not answering questions, but Dylan was more troubled by the accusation, eventually refuted, that he hadn't even written the song.

"Blowin' in the Wind" was not only a popular success, but Dylan's first major commercial success as well. By the time Dylan's own version of the song was released, it had already been a major hit for Peter, Paul & Mary.

The melodic roots of "Blowin' in the Wind" can be found in another song Dylan was performing at the time he wrote it, a traditional plaint from the slavery era entitled "No More Auction Block," which was recorded by, among others, Paul Robeson and Odetta, the latter from whom Dylan most likely learned it. A Dylan performance of this piece can be heard on The Bootleg Series, Volumes 1–3.

"Blowin' in the Wind" has been a constant in Dylan's set lists throughout his career, though arrangements have varied tremendously. The song was probably incubating in Dylan's mind before he first performed it at a Monday-night hootenanny at Gerde's Folk City in April 1962, in a debut notable for the newly penned lyrics, which were taped to the mic, the ink evidently still drying. In the early and mid-1960s, it appeared as an earnest crowd-pleasing solo acoustic performance. When he returned to the stage in 1974 with the Band, "Blowin' in the Wind" was reinvented as an electrified howl. Two years later, on the Rolling Thunder Revue, he was performing clipped acoustic duets of the song with Joan Baez. In the 1980s it was presented as either a majestic electric display or as an acoustic whisper. By the late 1990s and early aughts, Dylan had shed "Blowin' in the Wind" of all its folky contours and transformed it into a weary elegy short of self-righteousness—a sort of bluegrass song that might work in either a sacred-harp church choir, sporting a new three-part harmony chorus, or even in a barroom as a drunken lament, with guitars a-chimin'.

MORE "Keys To The Rain":
"Like a Rolling Stone"
"Maggie's Farm"
"Mr. Tambourine Man"