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Bob Dylan's third record, recorded between August and October of 1963, and released in January of 1964. This was Dylan's last record of protest songs, and the last one to have the approval of the old-guard folk community in New York City. Less than two years later, Pete Seeger would be trying to take an axe to Dylan's power cables at the Newport Folk Festival. For now, it was still just the man, his guitar, and his harmonica.

Though not generally considered among the top five Dylan albums, The Times They Are A-Changin' is packed with enduring classics. The well-known title track is, in fact, one of the record's weaker songs. Dylan has drawn heavily on "The Times" for his live shows. Ballad of Hollis Brown, for example, found new life in 1985 at the Live Aid benefit concert. One Too Many Mornings and The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll have been in regular rotation in Dylan's setlist since the mid-1970's.

It's also one of Dylan's grimmest records, and Dylan tips it off on the cover, a stark black-and-white head shot that leaves Dylan resembling a Dust Bowl refugee. By the conclusion of the second song, Hollis Brown, seven people are dead on a South Dakota farm. Before long, Medgar Evers and Hattie Carroll also kick the bucket. The love songs end in bitterness and disappointment, too.

Boots of Spanish Leather, for example. Kind of a sequel to Don't Think Twice, It's All Right but more sorrowful and less smart-assed. Dylan's lover sails away to Spain, and keeps asking if he wants anything. (Is there something I can send you from across the sea, to make your time more easy passing?) Dylan says no, just come back. By the song's end, it's clear that she isn't going to come back, and so Dylan replies:

Take heed, take heed of the Western wind
Take heed of stormy WEA-THURRRR
And yes, there is something you can send back to me
Spanish boots of spanish LEA-THURRRRR

Also of note is that half of the song is sung, quite comfortably, in the woman's voice.

As for the protest songs, they contain a subtlety that was lacking from the work of Dylan's contemporaries, or even from some of the songs on The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. With God on Our Side is a critique of self-righteous warmongers disguised as a history lesson. It spans American history from the subjugation of the Indians to the beginnings of the Cold War, concluding with the line "if God's on our side, he'll stop the next war." Only a Pawn in Their Game is his eulogy for slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, but the song is hardly about Evers at all. Instead it addresses the underlying causes of his murder-- the mindless hatred of the poor white Southerner, and the white politicians who nurture that hatred.

The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll is another highlight. Dylan details the murder of a black barmaid, Hattie Carroll, by a wealthy young white man, William Zantzinger, without ever once mentioning their respective races. After verses detailing the murder, and the parties involved, Dylan comes to Zantzinger's trial in the final verse. "In the courtroom of honor, the judge pounded his gavel, to show that all's equal and that the courts are on the level"--then "he spoke through his cloak, most deep and distinguished, William Zantzinger, with a six month sentence.

Tracklist:

1. The Times They Are A Changin'
2. Ballad of Hollis Brown
3. With God on Our Side
4. One Too Many Mornings
5. North Country Blues
6. Only a Pawn in Their Game
7. Boots of Spanish Leather
8. When the Ship Comes In
9. The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
10. Restless Farewell


Lyrics to the title track:

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 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'.

Chords are:
C Am F C
C Am F G
C Am F C
C G
G
C Am F C

Dylan himself on the song:

"Well, you know, it seems to be what the people like to hear."-- Oct. 1963

"I had to sing it, my whole concert takes off from there. I know I had no understanding of anything. Something had just gone haywire in the country, and they were appluading that song. And I couldn't understand why they were clapping, or why I wrote that song, even." --Dylan, on opening a show with this song the day after the Kennedy assassination.

"It happened maybe those were the only words I could find to separate aliveness from deadness. It had nothing to do with age."-- 1964

"I can't really say that adults don't understand young people any more than you can say big fishes don't understand little fishes. I didn't mean it as a statement... It's a feeling."-- 1965


Sources:
Clinton Heylin "Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades", 1991
Andy Gill "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right", 1998

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