Song of the Day #3,328: ‘The TImes They Are A’Changin” – Billy Joel vs. Bob Dylan

Four months after kicking off Montauk Madness (with a Billy Joel song, appropriately), we have arrived at the Final Four. Lots of close calls and blowouts, laughers and hair-pullers, and a lot of entertaining debate culminate in three more votes to decide — well, I’m not sure what we’re deciding. The consensus best artist according to readers of this blog as chosen from a group of 64 bands and soloists I rather haphazardly pulled together?

My initial intention for this series of blogs was just to run through the brackets myself and use the format to conclusively come up with my own favorite artist. I quickly realized that such an approach would be incredibly boring for my readers, who would certainly want a chance to chime in with their own votes.

I can reveal that my solo Final Four did include Bob Dylan, but not Billy Joel. Instead, I had Paul Simon and Bob Dylan facing off in this round. I’ll reveal the other half of my personal Final Four tomorrow.

Joel made it here by defeating Michael Penn, Frank Sinatra, Van Morrison and Paul Simon. The unexpected (by me) win over Simon was actually pretty convincing, with Joel picking up 77% of the vote.

Dylan took out a diverse group of artists on his way to the Final Four: Miranda Lambert, Eminem, R.E.M. and finally Counting Crows, with 84% support.

So who gets my vote?

I had a harder time choosing between Billy Joel and Paul Simon than I do Billy Joel and Bob Dylan. Not only is Dylan one of my personal favorites, he has more than 55 years of transformative history on his side. I can see dismissing an artist’s groundbreaking career if you simply don’t care for the music, but if you’re a fan it’s hard to ignore.

Joel has had a wonderful career of his own, of course, but he hasn’t had near the impact of Dylan: not on music, politics, pop culture, literature, you name it. Dylan was the opening act for Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, for God’s sake!

So Mr. Zimmerman gets my vote here.

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’

7 thoughts on “Song of the Day #3,328: ‘The TImes They Are A’Changin” – Billy Joel vs. Bob Dylan

  1. Dana says:

    Just as your vote for Dylan is not unexpected, I doubt you will be too surprised at my vote for Joel. I will not try to argue that Dylan had the greater impact on music or society as a whole, but, if that were the criteria, this contest would clearly come down to Dylan vs. The Beatles- and that may well still happen.

    For me, personally, however, Joel was the first musician who made an impact on my life. While his last few albums trailed off from the greatest of his work, and he stopped recording rock/pop music decades ago, he remains one of my favorites.

    • Peter says:

      I like the idea of “Gonzo blogging” without claims of objectivity😎 The mystery of music doesn’t light up in rankings but in sustainable impacts to one’s ears and soul. Of course rankings based on self-defined criteria are fun. Thus: I really like Joel, but my choice here is Dylan.

  2. Peg says:

    Billy Joel for me

  3. The Cool Guy (Daniel) says:

    There’s no denying I have a strong personal preference for Billy Joel. I can listen to “Glass Houses” or “An Innocent Man” on repeat whereas though I will appreciate the lyric value I can’t really stand to listen to Bob Dylan’s grating voice on classic albums such as “Blonde on Blonde” or “Blood on the Tracks” in the same manner. Therefore, though I truly do appreciate the impact of Bob Dylan’s lyrics and that he has had on all artists that follow after him, I’m going to have to go with Joel.

  4. Clay says:

    Heresy! But I can appreciate the opinion, having been there myself with the likes of Joni Mitchell and Neil Young.

  5. Amy says:

    This is a tough vote for me. Last week I played Maddie some of my favorite Dylan songs to help her better understand my vote for him over Counting Crows, a family favorite. Your final line in this round of Gonzo blogging (Love that label, Peter!) makes it all the harder.

    Still, it’s Billy Joel, who connects with listeners like few others. This listener included. I’m going Joel.

  6. Andrea Katz says:

    My vote is surprising … to no one. I sand Dylan to Dana as a tiny baby. They’re both incredible song writers. But still clear for me.

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