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Five for Friday: Bob Dylan's Most Poetic, Relevant Songs

In light of Bob Dylan being honored with the Nobel Prize for literature (and aside from whether he'll accept it), we explore five of his most poetic and thought-provoking songs – works that remain especially relevant today. For this week's edition of Five For Friday, here are five Dylan tunes that serve as indisputable evidence as to why the Bard deserves such a major accolade.

"My Back Pages"
Appearing on the 1964 album Another Side of Bob Dylan, "My Back Pages" includes the ever-intriguing line "But I was so much older then/I'm younger than that now." Many fans and scholars believe the admission marks Dylan's departure from his former idealized political beliefs, a transition similar to what's unfolded in his public life for the past few decades. Several years after Dylan released the song, the Byrds offered their own version on Younger Than Yesterday, the album's title a clear nod to the thought-provoking lyric.

"The Times They Are A-Changin'"
A prime example of Dylan's unparalleled ingenuity and originally delivered five more than decades ago, the song still teems with relevance. The times are and always will be "a-changin'," and the affective lyrics will forever instill the same sense of community they did then. "Come gather ‘round people, wherever you roam," Dylan sings as he invites people from all walks of life to put differences aside. "Don't criticize what you can't understand," he cautions as part of a message to stand as a united front in the face of political turmoil.

"It's All Over Now, Baby Blue"
A song heavily influenced by symbolist poetry, as evidenced by the mystique of what Baby Blue represents. Rightfully serving as the closing track to 1965's Bringing It All Back Home, it brings closure to both the album and transitional period of time in Dylan's life. The tracks paints a vivid picture through words of what it looks like to start over or, as Dylan say, succinctly, "Strike another match, go start anew," which, no matter the outcome of the presidential race, is what the country will do in November.

"Visions of Johanna"
Often praised for its allusive and implicit language, "Visions of Johanna" remains one of Dylan's most lyrically intense tracks and an effort that encourages reflection amidst our increasingly noisy surroundings. The intricately woven storyline reflects a similar style imbued in Beat poetry. Considering this epic appeared on Blonde on Blonde in 1996, and just three years after Dylan and acclaimed Beat poet Allen Ginsberg first met, it seems entirely possible the Beats influenced a song that also draws from the conscious-exploding work of French poet and fellow rebel Arthur Rimbaud.

"Forever Young"
Written as a lullaby for his eldest son, two versions of the heartfelt "Forever Young" grace the 1974 album Planet Waves. Dylan offers both a slow and delicate version as well as a more rousing option. On the surface, the simple line "May you stay forever young" illustrates a parent's wish for their child to not grow up too fast. On a deeper level, it speaks to maintaining a childlike wonderment even as harsh reality creeps in with age – a sentiment everyone would seemingly love to remember.

October 21, 2016

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