“They’re selling postcards of the hanging”: Highway 61 Revisited (Bob Dylan)
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Genre: Folk Rock
Preceded by: Bringing It All Back Home (1965)
Followed by: Blonde on Blonde (1966)
Related to: The Beatles – Rubber Soul, The Byrds – Mr. Tambourine Man
You have to start somewhere, so somewhere must be Dylan. Bob Dylan is one of America’s most influential musicians of all time and influenced many many musicians all over the world. Especially this album marks a turning point in rock history.
Back in 1965, Dylan was known as a very successful folk artist. But at that point he decided he didn’t want this to be for the rest of his life and exchanged his acoustic guitar for an electric one on the A side of the album Bringing It All Back Home. He completed this transition on his next album: Highway 61 Revisited.
The name of the album was derived from one of North America’s great highways. This road had a special meaning for Dylan, as it connected his birthplace Minnesota with places in the south like Memphis and New Orleans. It were those places where some of Dylan’s heroes like Elvis Presley and Muddy Waters came from.
What makes this album a perfect starting point is it’s ‘revolutionary’ character which had a great influence on a lot of other music to be discussed here later on. Not only the transition to electric rock, but also for example the introduction of songs lasting longer than three minutes. Every song lasts about 5-6 minutes and the epic final track ‘Desolation Row’ even lasts 11 minutes. On top, the songs are not mainly about love anymore and they don’t have the traditional sing along choruses which were standard those days. Last but not least, the emphasis on this album lies on the lyrics, not the voice which sings them. That’s by the way the main reason that Jimi Hendrix started to sing after all: if Dylan could sing, Hendrix could at least give it a try.
Hendrix even covered the famous opening track of the album: ‘Like a Rolling Stone’. This track in particular avoids all traditional themes of a pop song, expressing resentment and revenge instead. This song was even listed number ONE on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, could you imagine a better start for your discovery? Enjoy the album!