Bob Dylan

Blowin' in the Wind

Song Review by

Inarguably the peak of modern protest songwriting, "Blowin' in the Wind" transformed Bob Dylan from hipster folky to cultural sensation and provided the growing protest community with an anthem equally applicable to every kind of injustice ever visited upon the Earth. Though it'd been brewing in Dylan's head for a while, "Blowin' in the Wind" was first heard in public on April 19, 1962. After finishing the lyric and tune that afternoon, Dylan took the song with him over to the nightclub Gerde's Folk City in Greenwich Village. He ran through it in front of Gil Turner, the host of that night's performances, and Turner immediately decided to add it to his set. After he played it that night, the audience went wild and gave the song an ovation.

Still, over a year passed before "Blowin' in the Wind" appeared on a Dylan LP. Finally, in 1963, the song was released as the first track on The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. Even before it had hit the stores, however, Dylan's manager, Albert Grossman, brought an acetate to Peter, Paul & Mary. The trio cut the record themselves as quickly as they could, and the single hit number two by the summer of 1963. Stevie Wonder also hit the Top Ten with his version three years later. Folkies of all stripes (Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, the Kingston Trio, the New Christy Minstrels, the Chad Mitchell Trio, Judy Collins) have recorded the song, as well as other artists including the Hollies, Cher, King Curtis, Sam Cooke, Marianne Faithfull, Ray Conniff, Chet Atkins, Stan Getz, Earl Scruggs, Lou Donaldson, Bobby Darin, and the Searchers.

Of course, only a handful of performers -- Jimi Hendrix ("All Along the Watchtower"), the Byrds ("Mr. Tambourine Man"), Manfred Mann ("The Mighty Quinn") -- have done Dylan songs better than Dylan himself, so it's no surprise that the definitive reading is the first issued, from The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. As with most of his other classics, Dylan makes a complex song sound deceptively simple; in each of the three verses, he asks three rhetorical questions (i.e., "How many roads must a man walk down, before you call him a man?"), and answers each time with the chorus: "The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind/The answer is blowin' in the wind." While the questions speak to the unending record of injustice in the long history of the world, the answers reflect the Taoist mantra that the solution is obvious to all who truly think about it, yet impossible to grasp with any type of standard (i.e., written or expressed) explanation. Though it's masked in naturalistic thinking, "Blowin' in the Wind" is an encapsulation of Eastern thinking within abstract songwriting that (surprisingly) made the charts and (not so surprisingly) became one of the most famous standards of the rock era.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan 1963 Columbia / Legacy 2:49
Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits 1967 Legacy / Sony Music Distribution 2:51
Greatest Folksingers of the '60s 1972
Various Artists
Vanguard 3:17
Biograph 1985 Columbia 2:47
Folk Song America, Vol. 3 1994
Various Artists
Smithsonian Folkways Recordings 2:48
Freewheelin' Bob Dylan/Times They Are A-Changin'/Another Side of Bob Dylan 1995 Columbia / Sony Music Distribution 2:48
No Image 1995 Sony Music Distribution 2:48
Masterpieces 1998 Columbia 2:43
Sing America [Warner] 1999
Various Artists
Warner Bros. 2:46
Sony Music 100 Years: Soundtrack for a Century 1999
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 2:48
Bob Dylan: His Legacy of Songs 2000 BCI Music (Brentwood Communication) 3:26
Things Have Changed 2000 Sony Music Distribution 0:00
The Essential Bob Dylan 2000 Columbia 2:49
The Best of Bob Dylan, Vol. 2 2000 Columbia 7:08
No Image 2000 Sony Music Distribution 2:47
No Image 2001 Sony Music Distribution 2:49
God Bless America [Sony] 2001
Various Artists
Columbia 2:48
Bob Dylan [Limited Edition Hybrid SACD Set] 2003 Legacy 2:49
Greatest Hits, Vol. 1-3 2003 Legacy / Columbia 2:51
No Image 2004
The Collection, Vol. 2: Freewheelin' Bob Dylan/Times They Are A-Changin'/Another Side 2005 Legacy / Sony Music Distribution 2:49
The Best of Bob Dylan [Sony/BMG 2005] 2005 Sony Music Distribution 2:48
Dylan 2007 Legacy 2:48
In Performance 2008 Hurricane International
Let Freedom Sing! Music of the Civil Rights Movement 2009
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 2:48
Pink Floyd's Jukebox: The Songs That Inspired the Band 2010
Various Artists
Chrome Dreams / United States of Distribution 2:35
The Best of the Original Mono Recordings 2010 Columbia / Legacy 2:48
The Bootleg Series, Vol. 9: The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964 2010 Columbia / Legacy / Sony Music Entertainment 2:38
The Original Mono Recordings 2010 Columbia / Sony Music 2:53
Music & Photos 2013 Columbia 2:48
The Complete Album Collection, Vol. 1 2013 Columbia Records / Sony Music 4:33
Playlist: The Very Best of Bob Dylan 2014 Legacy / Sony Legacy 2:48
The Bootleg Series, Vol. 11: The Basement Tapes - Complete 2014 Columbia / Legacy 6:35
Blowin'in the Wind Hully Gully / Zebralution
No Image Gunsmoke Records
George Harrison's Jukebox: The Music That Inspired the Man Chrome Dreams 2:39