Five fantastic Bob Dylan story songs

You should listen to these five songs today.
R. Diamond/GettyImages
2 of 4

“Desolation Row” (1965)

Dylan closes out Highway 61 Revisited with an eleven-minute acoustic story filled with a panoply of intriguing characters. It has a vaguely Western feel about a downtrodden, corrupt society that is being passively observed by the singer and his lady.

On an album famous for the singer’s newfound love of electric guitars, this distinctly non-electric tune has a particular poignance. The song benefits enormously from Nashville guitarist Charlie McCoy’s largely improvised, flamenco-styled guitar flourishes.

”Isis” (1976)

“Hurricane,” about the incarceration of boxer Rubin Carter, opens Desire. The song that follows it, a story about love, greed, and failed dreams, is even better.

With minimal orchestration – just piano, bass, drums, harmonica, and Scarlett Rivera’s violin insinuating its way through the entire tale – Dylan writes some of his best lyrics – including one of my favorite verses – “The wind, it was howlin’ and the snow was outrageous – We chopped through the night and chopped through the dawn – When he died, I was hopin’ that it wasn’t contagious – But I made up my mind that I had to go on.”