Five greatest political songs from Bob Dylan

Dylan specialized in make art from politics.

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NEIGHBORHOOD BULLY (1983)

Infidels, released in 1983, was a pretty clear pronouncement that Dylan’s flirtations with Christianity were over. Faith didn’t vanish from his songwriting, but it took a back seat to his observations about love and life. And about politics, which he was largely turning away from at this point in his career. “Neighborhood Bully” was as overt a commentary on a particular geopolitical issue as Dylan had ever written.

“Well, the neighborhood bully, he’s just one man – His enemies say he’s on their land – They’ve got him outnumbered about a million to one – He’s got no place to escape to, no place to run – He’s the neighborhood bully.” Lou Reed would be a little more bombastic in his defense of Israel a few years later in “Good Evening Mr. Waldheim,” but Dylan is pretty obvious here.

Listening to it today is painful, regardless of which side of the current brutality you are on. It’s hard to hear “Well, he’s surrounded by pacifists who all want peace – They pray for it nightly that the bloodshed will cease – And they wouldn’t hurt a fly, to hurt one they would weep – They lay and wait for this bully to fall asleep” and not be forced to confront uncomfortable questions. Which is what makes for a great political song.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

  • “Blowin’ in the Wind” (1963)
  • "The Times They are a-Changin'" (1964)
  • "Clean Cut Kid" (1985)
  • "Mother of Muses" (2020)

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