Five greatest political songs from Bob Dylan

Dylan specialized in make art from politics.

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We’ve looked at Bob Dylan’s greatest love songs and his epic story songs. Today, we turn our attention to the type of song that made him most famous at the outset of his career - the political protest song. That type of song was what launched the folk revivalists who really came of age with Dylan in the early 1960s. Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger inspired them and began by playing populist worker songs before the Vietnam War became their primary target.

Dylan was too prolific to stick to political protest – Phil Ochs was more of a constant voice about political issues. But when he turned his attention to it, Dylan could write a powerful polemic – equally caustic and incisive about the issues of the day.

It began with one of the two original songs on his self-titled debut. “Song to Woody” is only political in its wistful longing for Guthrie’s voice to return to the early ‘60s. (A Dylan devotee, Steve Earle, would follow suit 35 years later with his own plea to Guthrie – “Christmas in Washington.”)

Five of the best political songs from Bob Dylan

The following album opened with the iconic “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and the restrictor plates came off. Dylan would study politics in poetic terms (“A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall”), in comic terms (“Talkin’ World War III Blues”), and in outright anger (“Masters of War”).

Then with his third album, opening with “The Times They Are a-Changin,” he really hit his stride. And that is where we begin our countdown of Bob Dylan’s five greatest political songs.