Song of the Day #570: ‘The Times They Are A’Changin” – Bob Dylan

First, let me say Happy Valentine’s Day to those of you who celebrate the holiday (my wife and I don’t, because every day is Valentine’s Day in our house, baby!). And more important, happy birthday to my daughter Fiona, who turned four today.

I dedicated a song to her last year so I don’t feel guilty about sticking with the Dylan theme this go-around. And if there was a song about hilarious, adorable, sweet, maddening little girls on The Times They Are A’Changin’, you can bet I’d pick it.

But there isn’t. So I’m going instead with a song that reminds me of my own childhood. Or my own adolescence, anyway.

It was in my sophomore year of high school that I first really discovered Bob Dylan. I knew his hits through my parents’ music collection (on a reel-to-reel player, of all things) but at age 14 I went to Tower Records in Washington, D.C., and bought all of his early albums on vinyl. I soaked them up over the next several months and so began the passion for his work that still burns in me 23 years later.

I particularly remember this song, the title track of The Times They Are A’Changin’, striking a chord with me. I was a big Family Ties fan at the time and I looked up to Michael J. Fox’s Alex Keaton as a personal role model… I fancied myself a Young Republican before I even appreciated what Democrats and Republicans were.

I can’t give all the credit to Bob Dylan — that’s too clean and easy — but I do remember this song piercing my heart and brain like an arrow. And a year later, I had traded Alex Keaton for a peace symbol that I wore on a necklace. Yeah, I was a dork on whichever side of the spectrum I inhabited.

To this day I can’t hear this song without feeling like I’m back in my 10th grade bedroom dropping a needle on a plastic disc and wishing I was part of a movement that could change the world. That’s what a song can do, what this song can do. It woke me up and changed me back then; it warms me in a bath of nostalgia now.

My daughter is four today. One day, closer than I think, when I listen to this song she’ll be a high school sophomore. The world is changing, all right. Every day, all around me.

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 savin’
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
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’.
It’ll 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 agin’.
Please get out of 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 fadin’.
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’.


6 thoughts on “Song of the Day #570: ‘The Times They Are A’Changin” – Bob Dylan

  1. Amy says:

    You managed to perfectly connect it to Fiona’s birthday 🙂

    This is one of my very favorite songs, though I can’t pinpoint when or where I first heard it. I can only imagine the impact it must have had when it was a song needed and embraced by a generation. While I know songs have been written in the years since that are powerful and could have an impact, somehow the times have a changed so much that it’s hard to imagine one song having an impact the way this one once did. We’re too fractured now, listening to satellite and iTunes. Can one song unify many different people? I don’t know.

    I thought about this when I saw a brief about the “We are the World” remake the other day. It’s out there, and I can seek it out if I choose. But I’ve been far from inundated with it. It seems as though “Feed the World” was an inescapable anthem the last time out.

    Meanwhile, I find it very funny to think of you ever fancying yourself a young Republican; rather, I think you (like Keaton) just liked to fancy yourself the smartest guy in your household ;P

  2. Dana says:

    My memory of this song comes from a 6th grade gifted class. The teacher had played us the song, and then we analyzed the lyrics. It may have been the first time I ever thought about a song of our time (okay a little before my time) as being transformative and historic akin to classical music or great works of art I was struck by the notion that, in all likelihood, 100 or even 400 years from now, students would be listening and studying this song the way we now study Mozart or Beethovan.

    I suspect that a song like this and an artist like Dylan who can find himself in the history books only comes along a few times in any century. It’s hard to know or imagine what that song or artist will be for the 21st century, but it’s hard to imagine anything I have heard in the past 10 years or more fits the bill. I wonder, however, if those listening to this SOTD at the time knew how truly “historic” and therefore timeless it was..

  3. Amy says:

    Since I’m hoping to find interesting or great covers of each of these Dylan songs you feature, I was thrilled to find one that strikes me as being absolutely perfect – Tracy Chapman singing “The Times They Are A’Changin.” What could be better? Enjoy:

  4. Clay says:

    You have a problem with Dylan’s voice??

    I believe that performance is from the Dylan 30th Anniversary celebration, a great concert indeed.

  5. Amy says:

    I don’t have a problem with Dylan’s voice. Far from it. I’m just intrigued by all the many artists – from the most to the least well known, who are compelled to perform his songs. Who, for that matter, likely became singer/songwriters in the first place, at least in part, because they were inspired by him.

  6. peg says:

    I’m just catching up to your blog and I think this was a perfect one to celebrate Fiona’s birthday! So glad you got started on Dylan with our reel to reel!

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