ESL Podcast Home ESL Podcast Store
HOME > BLOG > Bob Dylan – Blowin’ in the Wind

Bob Dylan – Blowin’ in the Wind

I took a trip this week – in my mind – to the past, to my early college and university days. The trip was prompted (caused) by an announcement of a new book, Bob Dylan in America, by Sean Wilentz. Seeing that title (name of the book) brought back memories of difficult times in the United States – violent (very strong) disagreement about the war in Vietnam and civil rights (treatment of African Americans) – and of some of my favorite music.

Wilentz is an American history professor at Princeton University and “historian-in-residence” at BobDylan.com. (We use the phrase “____ in residence” to indicate someone with a special occupation, like an artist or musician, who is paid to work at a university or, here, for a web site.)

Willentz believes that Dylan is the most important American songwriter of the last 50 years. Dylan will always be identified with (connected to) the ’60s, which were years of social unrest (a time of disagreement about social problems, like civil rights) and protest (public show of disagreement). Dylan and the feelings he expressed in his music were an important part of that era (time period). Many Americans shared (had the same) his feelings and ideas.

Dylan is probably best known for his song Blowin’ in the Wind. Most people would call it a protest song – a song calling for social change – because it asks a lot of questions about peace, war, and freedom. It became one of the most popular songs sung by Peter, Paul, and Mary – one of my favorite groups – another group that was involved in the musical protests of the 1960s.

Blowin’ in the Wind asks a lot of questions, but it doesn’t give any specific answers. Instead, each question is followed by a refrain (repeated words) – “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.” Some think the refrain means that the answers are right in front of us, like the wind blowing in our faces. Others think it means that the answers are difficult, like trying to catch the wind in your hand. No one knows for sure.

We may not be sure what Dylan meant, but for many people Blowin’ in the Wind summarizes (gives the main points of) the 1960s – a time of social conscience (concern about social issues, like war and civil rights), idealism (ideas about a perfect world), and a touch (small amount) of melancholy (deep, long-lasting sadness) – for many people.

Dylan, who was born in 1941, is still active today. He continues to tour (travel and perform) on what has been called the Never Ending Tour. He has received many awards, including Grammy (music industry), Golden Globe (international entertainment), and Academy (movie industry) Awards, and has been inducted into (made a member of) the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2008 he received a special award for his impact (effect) on popular music and American culture. I think he deserves it!

~ Warren Ediger – ESL tutor/coach and creator of Successful English, where you can find clear explanations and practical suggestions for improving your English.

Photo from Joe Gratz is used under Creative Commons License.

9 Responses to “Bob Dylan – Blowin’ in the Wind

  1. emiliano Says:

    Bob Dylan received The Principe de Asturias award of arts in the year 2007 here in Spain, the same award that received Woody Allen in the year 2002.
    These are the most important awards in Spain that are given to different people who has been leading figures in the ciencias, medicine, art, literature, sports and so foth along their lifes.

    Well, Dylan is a figure of my time, the same as Joan Baez, Cat Stevens, Rolling Stones or the Beatles. So what can I say about him, his time, and the 60s…….another world, another time, another feelings, and so much idealism that at the end it was nearly nothing except for the end of racism in USA the best achievement for civil rights, but of course it was because
    so many black soldiers were fighting in Vietnam, just the same as the women´s rights after second world war when women took an important role in the civil work behind the front line of war. Black soldiers fighting far away home, like the white ones, conquered their rights helped by another dreamer M.L.K. that was also killed for his dreams….

    Now very often when I think on those times I feel myself like an stupid nonconformist who was thinking in changing the world like Bob Dyland, Joan Baez or John Lennon based on songs and good feelings like the hippies….ja, ja, ja.
    Happy days to remember, good music, so good feelings against the war……….peace and so on….but now? what do we have now?
    Civil rights, yes very important change, a Black President……incredible, and little more.

    Yes, I live those years and felt these feelings, listened to this good music and thought the we could do a better world. What a Dreamer like all my generation, yes I know I am a skeptic now.
    Sorry Warren, may be you were also a dreamer?
    Thank you and regards.

  2. emiliano Says:

    Being so young on those “happy 60s” I got some signed photos from Joan Baez and another protest singers that were against the War.
    I felt so happy being against the War, against power, and agains the Empire.
    But what happened in Europe by those years? and about the Vietnan War? it is easy to guess….
    Every good thinker were against the Empire………the USA Empire of course, I could remember it perfectly well as I was also thinking
    the same.
    But not so much and so strong as others who still feel this hate to the Empire….
    Some of the others now think the same as they like to feel they are still young and they have the truth about nearly everything.
    For them the fall of the wall in Germany was like a shock…..ja, ja.

    Parents transmited this feeling to their sons, USA Empire is the Evil…….and our Presidet J.L.R.Zapatero is a good result of this kind of education, he felt the same unrespect when he remains sitting while the USA Flag passed infront of him a year before he was elected President…..a good example for
    all of us….yes, he is quite a dangerous person in the worst place to do big mistakes.

    He is a good thinker and he feels that the right is in his hand, a dreamer who has nice words beautiful ideas and good intentions.
    But like him there are thousands of people now here in Spain and in Europe.
    People from May of 1965 in France who were against all kind of power and USA was the Big power.
    It´s incredible but still there are lot of them thinking the same like when they were young…..

    Some americans that came to Europe along years were so confused with these kind of feelings that I have the opportunity of listend to them
    and their complains about treatment in France, Spain and other European countries when I was working in the Bank by the 70s and 80s.

    An interesting topic Warren, living in Usa by those years nobody knew ove ther what where happening here in Europe and what
    europeans thought about your country.

    Now writting so much I have to say: Thank you Warren, Lucy and Jeff, you are teaching us the best English but besides you are showing us how the
    real USA is, teaching us also about the country, the people and the customs.
    Jeff, it´s possible you are not concious of your labour about this matter but it´s really incredible good and meritorious.
    Yes some of us are loving your country too and it´s a very high and great labour from you part, I think that all of you have to feel proud
    about this subject.

    With respect and gratitude, emiliano

  3. emiliano Says:

    Sorry, it wasn´t May 1965 (in Paris first and afterward in all France), it was May 1968 as everybody knows. Yesterday it was 2 a.m. at night when I was writting and scarcely I could had any consistent ideas at the end.
    Too long, too much sadness with the results of the dreams and falling asleep also.
    Thank you for your patience, sometimes I need to discharge all the disappointment of an era and the failure of a generation, mine of course.
    We don´t change the world, now I think it is even worst.

  4. peter Says:

    Thanks plenty guys,

    you are awesome!!!!

    I don’t wanna take up the blog space and time with my as-always gibberish.But, truth to be told, I see this as my duty to extend my appreciation towards Jeff,Lucy ,Warren and all the back-room members for the phenomenon you named Eslpod.

    are you wondering why,

    bear with me just a few lines then you will find out:)))

    In the pursuit of commencing a business, I ended up once again in a college program in order to achieve the licence required to open up a kind of specialty store. long story short, i was forced :) to write an English assessment test ,a long tedious essay about marijuana and its effects on people and society as a whole and government actions for that matter. the allocated time was 40 minutes . in the beginning , my imperssion was “I am Finished ,again I must start all over again because I will fail;Oh my Gush English classes again.”

    but ,you know what happened,I scored the highest . Could you possibly imagine that ? please ,believe you me, words came dancing from my mind to the paper:)
    don’t ask me how ,I am totally perplexed. All i was doing the whole time, blessing Jeff and Lucy . Because one thing I know all the sentenced structures I was inadvertently applying was coming form several-per -week Jeff and Lucy both verbal and written interaction with us. I outdid myself big time!. Before ,I always got poor scores on English tests ,what so ever.
    Jeff,needless to say,you are from beyond ,you are God
    Lucy is the best
    And, Warren is second best
    Don’t take umbridge guys , just trying to pump up some humour to my long, tedious rambling about myself .sorry guys
    Peace out

  5. roberto Says:

    I have been looking for the lyrics of the song “Blowin´in the wind in youtube and, as Warren says, every person has to decide the meaning of the sentence “The answer my friend is blowin´in the wind” , the key of the song.
    I can see that Emiliano loves talk about this topic and I agree wit him because I have always heard that this time, 60s and 70s, it was the time to change everything, to change our way of life but…now, we are into a fever of consumism and every person is valued for the things that he/she posses and not for himself/herself is. I also agree with Emiliano when he says that in many of European countries people have a wrong idea about U.S., we think in U.S like if all american people were Bush Jr. and this is a mistake.

    If you look for the Bob Dylan´s song in youtube you could see that there are another songs of this era very interesting that remember echoes from other era: Mamas and Papas “California Dreamin´”, Scott McKenzie “San Francisco”, “Sweet Home Alabama”, and so forth. By the way, many of these songs are on the film “Forrest Gump”.

    As you see, I love this song but I prefer the version of Joan Baez, though I must recognize that the Paul, Peter and Mary´s version is fantastic.

    Thank you Warren for this topic.

  6. emiliano Says:

    Last night a massive storm was falling in madrid while I was writting and my poor cat “Gatufo” was very afraid, so at the end I went to the bed
    nearly 4 a.m. as I was with the poor cat that was crying.
    This morning when I have seen all the long long writting I though…”you are crazy emiliano” it seems you are telling the friends the “Forrest Gump”
    movie.

    You are right Roberto, all the songs are in the movie and the great dissapointment of a whole generation too.

    As all wars Vietnam was disastrous, horrible, but what have changed now? History repeats all the big mistakes of humans once and a again.

    Congratulations Peter.

  7. Alvaro Barbosa da Silva Says:

    Great topic! One of the greatest things in life is music. Wherever you are, whatever the situation you are passing through, you can listen to a type of song and touch your inner self in some way. I really like to enjoy some moments of music a day and one of my favorite bands is called Guns N’ Roses. They are a really good and famous hard rock band. Well, I’m mentioning they because of a song they would play always after the release of the CD “Use your ilusion”. The song is by Bob Dylan and it’s called “KNOCKING ON HEAVEN’S DOOR”. That’s the most known song by him around here.

  8. Sashi Says:

    Poetry is its own medium; it’s very different than writing prose. Poetry can talk in an imagistic sense, it has particular ways of catching an environment.

  9. Dan Says:

    Blowin’ in the wind is one of my favorite songs, it brings me back to those old times.