The symbol of a youth lost against the war.
In 1961, Dylan
was still a guitar player intended to perform eternally at bars and cafés. But one day, Caroline Hester, a friend that he has met in New-York and who signed with Columbia Records, says him that she is looking for a harmonica player. Bob Dylan jumps at this chance and go with her in the studios. At one point, he shows to Caroline Hester a song that he composed, and that’s precisely at this moment that John H. Hammond notices him and asks him to sign a contract.
Dylan, who agreed of course, records his first eponymous album in 1962. It contains many covers, but two original tracks too. The album doesn’t sell so much, but the contract is not broken, and Dylan comes back with a second album. It’s this long chain of events that brings Dylan to write and compose all the songs of what became one of the greatest folk album in the world : “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan”. Each song shows not only the compositor/music player talent of the young man, but also his writer and poet talent, because the lyrics are of a breathtaking beauty.
Since he signs all his songs, Bob Dylan expresses finally his own opinion with this album that contains a lot of protest songs. “Blowin’ In The Wind”, first track, is right in this motion. The song has been played for the first time by Gil Turner at the “Gerde’s” while Bob Dylan just finished to write it a few minutes sooner. Composed with only four chords, the song follows the lead of the great folk tracks : it is made to be learnt by heart and transmitted easily. Heavy success, “Blowin’ in the wind” quickly became the most “in vogue song” at that time and erected Dylan as the leader of the youth, frightened by the “Cold War”.
If most of people only remembers « Blowin’ In The Wind”, some others don’t forget that other committed masterpieces were born on this album. Following more or less the same principle that the opening track, “Masters Of War” is intended to the weapon dealers that Dylan considers as cowards and that hide to avoid seeing the horrors they commit ("You that hide behind walls/You that hide behind desks/I just want you to know/I can see through your masks"). The sublime “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”, written during the Cuba Crisis, denounces the horrors of the war through the eyes of a kid, symbol of innocence. Built on a succession of chords with a high tone, it creates contrast with the grave and dark theme. This track is a writing model for everybody, and according to the legend, it would have pushed Leonard Cohen to play music.
Though it is very engaged, this album proves the talent of Dylan to tell stories about life too. The wonderful “Don’t Think Twice It’s Allright” and “The Girl From The North Country” are two prime examples of it. Each one begin with arpeggios and then, turn into ballads. Dylan’s voice is less nasal than usual and the tone is lighter, proving once again that Dylan isn’t only a revolutionary man but also a poet, able to write about Something Else than war.
I could talk about this album for hours, but the best is to discover it by yourself. Indeed, words aren’t enough to describe the real beauty of this album. Is today, this work has lost a part of its political impact, we mustn’t not be forget that “The Freewheelin’ …” made of Dylan the messiah of a youth lost against the war, and hoping for a better world. The peace message is visible even into the artwork (a picture of Dylan with his girlfriend at that time in the streets of Greenwich Village, where they lived), proof that in spite of the war, love and peace are still possible. True symbols, the songs of this album will resonate in our heads until the end of time.