52 Weeks of Music

Bob Dylan – The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan

Posted in Uncategorized by Mark on February 24, 2009

Bob Dylan’s first, self-titled album contained only two original songs, the rest of the album was made up of covers of folk classics. The album only sold about 2500 copies and didn’t attract Dylan much popular success. It wasn’t until the release of his second album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, in 1963 that Dylan really burst out of the Greenwich Village folk music scene and onto the national stage.


Bob’s folk music roots are still apparent throughout the album – however his approach, themes and attitude were already at the radical end of the genre. It’s not that folk music was a stranger to protest songs – it had long been rooted in life and hardships of the downtrodden – but somehow Dylan brought a new immediacy, a raw edge and a power. As one of the producers on this album, a young african american named Tom Wilson, put it:

I didn’t even particularly like folk music. I’d been recording Sun Ra and Coltrane…I thought folk music was for the dumb guys. [Dylan] played like the dumb guys, but then these words came out. I was flabbergasted.

The album was recorded across numerous sessions between April 1962 and April 1963. Dylan’s song writing abilities were improving so rapidly at the time that 20 odd songs recorded in these sessions were discarded as Dylan wrote new, better songs.

The songs themselves range from political protest songs of rare potency like “Master of War”, “Oxford Town” and “Hard Rain” to standards like “Corrina, Corrina” and “Honey Just Allow Me One More Chance” and passive-aggressive love ballads like “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”.

Many of the tunes are adaptations of traditional, folk and spiritual tunes, each with their own Bob Dylan twist – “Girl from the North Country” for instance is a unique take on “Scarborough Fair”. Like a true artist in his prime Dylan was begging, borrowing and stealing every bit of inspiration he came across and turning it to his purposes.

The most lasting artifact of the album, and purhaps Dylan’s entire career, is the opening song “Blowin’ in the Wind”. Shortly after Freewheelin’ was release Peter, Paul and Mary released a cover of the song which promptly rose to #2 on the Billboard charts and was a key factor in Dylan’s subsequent rise to prominence. The song comes in at #14 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.

Allmusic Review

It’s hard to overestimate the importance of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, the record that firmly established Dylan as an unparalleled songwriter, one of considerable skill, imagination, and vision.
allmusic ★★★★★

Sample: http://blip.fm/profile/markstanton/blip/7097724


5 Responses

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  1. Bron said, on February 26, 2009 at 10:52 pm

    I am still listening. I haven’t listened to this yet. BUT I WILL.

    First though, I have to say that the girl pictured on the cover kind of looks like Miley Cyrus.

    But apparently she is Suze Rotolo and has written, “A Freewheelin’ Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties” all about her exploits with young Dylster. Now I wouldn’t mind reading that.

    • Shawn said, on August 25, 2010 at 4:53 am

      I read Suze’s book. Not a whole lot on Bob, but enough to keep it interesting. Once you know enough about him and you learn to absolutely love the Freewheelin’ album, then you just have to know the story behind the girl on the cover. She was his muse and as you might soon find out, rather important to formation of Dylan as an artist. Bob was very lucky to have met her. And, IMHO, to sleep with her.

  2. Mark said, on February 27, 2009 at 9:45 am

    A good number of the songs on the album are about Suze. For most of the period during which the songs were written and recorded Suze was in Italy, initially for a short trip but then for an indefinite period. She returned to live with Bob as the album was being finalised, but I think they broke up shortly after it’s release.

    • Shawn said, on August 25, 2010 at 4:57 am

      I really think the final break with Suze was almost two years after Freewheelin’ was released. I have some Joan Baez playing on the laptop now.

  3. Bron said, on March 4, 2009 at 11:43 am

    You are indeed a fount of knowledge…

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