The Voice That Changed the World

“… 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’.”

Today, May 27th, 2011 marks the 70th birthday of the one and the only, Bob Dylan.

Railroad trains, major highways and cities were major infrastructures that inspired one of America’s most controversial, counter-cultural performers of all time. Bob Dylan’s voice was greater than the sum total of him as a person. The voice. It was the most politically forward, the most phenomenal culture-changing, poetic powerhouse behind all activators of his generation, my generation and your generation.

Here are the top 10 songs inspired by major infrastructures:

10. Down the Highway (The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan)
“I ain’t got much more to lose / Right now I’m havin’ trouble / Please don’t take away my highway shoes.” This is about walking on the lonely streets of America, its train tracks and by the Statue of Liberty and Golden Gate Bridge.

9. Highway 61
This talks about driving on a US Route from his hometown Minnesota to New Orleans.

8. The Levee’s Gonna Break
This was released a year later to inspire the aftermath and the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf.
“Some people on the road carrying everything that they own.”

7. From a Buick 6
“Well, when the pipeline gets broken and I’m lost on the river bridge / I’m cracked up on the highway and on the water’s edge / She comes down the thruway ready to sew me up with thread,” Dylan sings on “Buick.” Another musician from his time period, actually was inspired to re-make this song and use the slogan: Fix America’s pipelines and bridges.

6. Marchin’ to the City
This song was about Dylan, heartbroken and walking along sidewalks of a city in order to capture the soul of solitude and isolation from urban life. “Loneliness got a mind of its own / The more people around the more you feel alone.”

5. Crash on the Levee (Down in the Flood)
“There’s a crash on the levee / And, mama, you’ve been refused … If you go down in the flood / It’s gonna be your own fault.” This song was to imply a woman who was going through a crisis and could not “escape”. She struggles to “find herself”.

4. Dirt Road Blues
This bluesy ballad encaptures the moments of Dylan’s famous image as a hitchhiker and lovesick at the same time. “Gon’ walk down that dirt road until my eyes begin to bleed / ’Til there’s nothing left to see, ’til the chains have been shattered and I’ve been freed.” In the later version of this ballad, Dylan “leaves” humanity and isolates himself until he is brave enough to find his true love.

3. High Water
Dylan writes about people who run away from a very distaserous high flood too late. “Water pourin’ into Vicksburg, don’t know what I’m goin’ to do / ‘Don’t reach out for me,’ she said / ‘Can’t you see I’m drownin’ too?’ ”

2. Highway 51
This bluesy song describes a major roadway running from Louisiana to Wisconsin. As Dylan drives through the highway, he encounters different life experiences along the way. “Yes, I know that highway like I know the back of my hand / Running from up Wisconsin way down to no man’s land”.

1. It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry
Dylan writes this song about a mail train passing through “emotional” encounters, implying his past life stories. “The mail train can’t buy a thrill…… Don’t say I never warned you / When your train gets lost.”


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