Early in the 1960s, Bob Dylan broke open the national conscience. A folksy bard, he pushed against simplistic rock and roll with poignant, incisive lyrics. Two back to back hits, “Blowin’ in the Wind” (1963) and “The Times They Are A-Changing'” (1964) stirred the raw feelings of fear and anger existing due to the threats of nuclear war and social upheaval. The Cuban missile crisis of 1962 and the civil rights movement specifically illustrate the level of tumult associated with technological advancement and the interwoven oppression within the US social structure of the day.
From “Blowin’ in the Wind”
How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, ‘n’ how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they’re forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind
From “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’.
Despite the hope inherent in “The Times They are A-Changin'” the melancholy of cannon balls firing is unwavering. The human condition remains unchanged from 1963. Policies and law, institutions, the names of the players and the nature of threats and offered solutions are all different than the 1960s, but the threat of war (and now the extreme but real annihilation of the planet), as well as, the oppression of the marginalised is yet with us. So, Bob, what’s new?