50 years of Blowin in the Wind

In May 2011 I wrote a post in celebration of Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday and the impact he had on me as a teenager. The original text can be seen here.  50 years ago today Bob Dylan first performed Blowin in the Wind. Then aged 15, I clearly recall the first time I heard it and how it fed into the worldwide social happenings of the world and stirred the conscience of a generation. Most particularly it provided a vehicle for our rebellious spirits. The original post is below.

Bob Dylan and his Harmonica in 1963. Image Guardian.co.uk

Being a teen in Ireland in the early 1960s was a fascinating time. The Irish television service had just been introduced in 1961, although those of us who lived near the border with the six counties of Northern Ireland had enjoyed the BBC for  several years before – all in black and white of course!

One of the abiding memories from my teens was at age 15, racing into the living room and being stopped in my tracks by Martin Luther King on the television, delivering his ‘I have a Dream’ speech, in Washington D.C. I was rooted to the spot. I also vividly recall the news reports of the war in Vietnam, the ‘FLOP-flop, FLOP-flop,FLOP-flop,FLOP-flop’ sound of Huey helicopters flying at terrifying angles and offloading their human cargoes of young men just a few years older than myself – either crouched and running,being carried on stretchers or in body bags. Never before had anything like these scenes been witnessed at a distance, by any generation. The impact on us was remarkable.

Dylan and Joan Baez. Civil Rights March Washington D.C 1963. Image wikipedia.com

Dylan and Joan Baez. Civil Rights March Washington D.C 1963. Image wikipedia.com

At the same time music was evolving, leaving behind the big band and orchestral sounds and becoming much more exciting and exhilarating. For a huge number of teenagers and young adults in the 1960s, Bob Dylan was phenomenal. With his guitar and harmonica and ‘drawl style’ of singing, he was unique. ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ and ‘The Times  they are a-Changin’ captured the mood exactly. They not only added an authenticity to the events, they challenged us not to remain complacent.

That Bob Dylan helped motivate an entire  generation to become socially aware, is probably an understatement.  Although he disliked the tag ‘protest song’, this is exactly what his compositions were to an emerging generation who were seeing things in their own homes that had only ever been read about in the past. His social commentaries were powerful motivators in making people question social inequality and the human cost of the Vietnam conflict. Not only that, his songs were like nothing we had heard before.  They had beautiful melodies, they were poetic, they had a social message. They were anthems of the time, most especially for the Civil Rights movement in the USA and for the anti-war movement, both of which, with the inspiration of Bob Dylan, became international movements.

For those of us emerging into adulthood in the sixties, Bob Dylan was a true icon. His poetry was inspiring; his message was beyond love-songs, beyond ‘ be-bop-a-doo-dah’ banality. His place in the politics, history and culture of the 1960s  enabled us to admonish those who perpetrated injustices in a way that had not been seen before and  not has been seen since.

How many roads must a man walk down, before you can call him a man?….. How many times must the cannonballs fly, before they are forever banned?…

How many years can some people exist, before they’re allowed to be free?… How many ears must one man have, before he can hear people cry?

How many deaths will it take till he knows  that too many people have died? The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind

The answer is blowing in the wind.

Blowin still 50 years on.  Bob Dylan –  you changed me…you changed the world !


Filed under Life in the 1960sLiving in IrelandSocial Change

Tagged as 


Filed under Life in the 1960s, Living in Ireland, My Oral History, Social Change, Social History Ireland

6 responses to “50 years of Blowin in the Wind

  1. crissouli

    Lots of great memories, and shivers of conscience that have never left… I can’t erase the images of the Vietnam war, nor the fear that so many of my friends were called up or worried they might be. Bob Dylan’s lyrics still ring true..

    • Lots of memories indeed – of course we here did not have the possibility of call-up to consider, although 7 native Irish died in that conflict, fighting on behalf of the USA. Thanks for your visit – much appreciated!

  2. I grew up listening to Bob and Joni and Joan and these songs followed me into my own protest days of No Nukes and the environmental movements. My daughter grew up with them as well and still listens to a lot of it.
    Just goes to show you how timeless the message is.

    • It is – their anthems helped to galvanize a world wide non-acceptance of things that had not ever been seen before….or since? A timeless message indeed. Thanks for visit 🙂

  3. A “… vehicle for our rebellious spirits …”
    Wow. Really liked this post … your writing connects with the soul, the mind’s memory of a wild, redemptive, sojourner who definitely had things to say worth hearing through music, harmonica, and voice. It is good to remember as you have shown through Bob Dylan, but also by referencing what you were writing about two years ago. I hope spring is happening in Ireland. I don’t know anything about the summers …

  4. Oh yes… this certainly resonates with me Angela… Like Crissouli I grew up with the horror and threat, here in Australia, of our brothers, boyfriends etc., being forcibly conscripted (via a lottery based on their date of birth) and forced to put their lives, health and sanity at risk in an unconscionable action in Vietnam.

    My youngest brother followed his girlfriend to New Zealand and got permission to marry because my parents were told that in NZ married men were not conscripted. My own boyfriend/ husband joined the RAAF partly because if you had to go to Vietnam it was better to be in the Air Force than a “grunt” i.e. infantry. The brother of my best friend committed suicide by throwing himself off a roof after serving a term in Vietnam… and during the 1970’s our Women’s Shelters became filled with the wives and children of Vietnam Vets who were seeking safety from the vicious violence meted out by their previously loving husband and fathers.

    My children grew up with the constant playing of my tape “The Protest Songs of the 60’s” and know them all word for word much to the surprise of my Grandchildren at a recent family get-together. Music is indeed a powerful conveyer of information and Bob Dylan was indeed a wonderful conduit. Thanks for the reminding.
    PS… sorry this is so “long winded” Angela but clearly I needed to get it out of my system… 😦

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