What's your favorite Bob Dylan song?
It's not an easy question to answer.
First of all, he's penned more than 600, many of them iconic and others so ubiquitous that the temptation is to avoid them and pick something more obscure to prove that you're a true fan.
When I was in high school, I was fascinated by ''Hurricane,'' a story song that details the arrest and questionable conviction of boxer Rubin ''Hurricane'' Carter, and I remember listening to ''Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again'' more than ''Like A Rolling Stone,'' ''The Times They Are A Changin''' or other more popular songs.
''Tangled Up in Blue'' is an undeniable masterwork that is the most played Dylan song on my original iPod. And if I want a rarity to single out, I've always thought Dylan's ''Infidels'' is an underrated album and ''Sweetheart Like You'' is the main reason why. The uptempo version of ''Forever Young,'' one of two arrangements on the ''Planet Waves'' album, has become a recent favorite, thanks to its use as the theme song for the NBC series ''Parenthood.''
But my default answer to the favorite Dylan song question is ''Don't Think Twice, It's All Right.'' For a singer known for his wordplay and ambiguity, ''Don't Think Twice'' couldn't be more straightforward, a breakup song that's equal parts resignation, bravado and bitterness.
When You Go
WHO: Bob Dylan
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: Covelli Centre, 229 E. Front St., Youngstown
HOW MUCH: $65, $55, $45 and $25
I can't explain why it resonates more than any of the other 600+ songs, but it does.
To preview Dylan's appearance Tuesday at the Covelli Centre, I asked area musicians, singers, DJs and others to share their favorite Dylan song. Here are some of the responses, and it's fitting that only a couple songs got mentioned more than once.
''That varies from what kind of mood I'm in. 'Highway 61 Revisited' is always at the top of the list. I think it was one of those early songs where a guy kind of created a way to blues things into a folk setting into a rock feel. I think it's a real blending of things ... I also love 'Every Grain of Sand,' that's way up there. And for some reason, maybe it's because of the way things are always shifting, 'Things Have Changed' sums it up in a nutshell.''
co-host of ''Tangled Up in Blues.''
''Here are two of my favorites. 'Tangled Up In Blue' from 'Blood on the Tracks': There are so many aspects of this song that I love. The melody is one of the strongest he ever wrote. His vocals are nearly perfect. The lyrics deal with the singer and his relationship with a woman over a period of years and distance with an astute attention to detail. The first five verses seamlessly flow into each other and then suddenly we're thrown into a different century. Dylan was supposedly influenced by Cubist paintings during this time. A perfect way to kick off the album.
'''Visions of Johanna' on 'Blonde on Blonde' and 'Biograph': Both of these versions are truly hypnotizing. The images that the lyrics evoke are some of his most surreal ever: 'The ghost of electricity howls in the bones of her face'; 'Inside the museum infinity goes up on trial'; 'Louise holds a handful of rain tempting you to defy it.' A few of the other lines in the songs may even be silly throwaways, but it doesn't matter, because after the first verse, you're immersed in his vocal delivery and completely transported to a different world where it seems anything can happen. After 'Blonde on Blonde' there's no wonder why Dylan needed some time off.''
Deadbeat Poets and The Infidels
''Difficult choice, but my all time favorite Bob Dylan song is 'Tangled up in Blue.' This masterpiece embodies all the elements of what makes Bob Dylan Bob Dylan.The melody is musical perfection and its haunting lyrics, as always, speak for themselves. When listening to this song, I feel like it could be me in this 'story' or any young adventurous man. The lyrics conjure up such vivid images. I feel I am the one who teamed up, got married, lost her, got odd jobs and finally rediscovered her in the strangest of circum-stances.The title in itself has always intrigued me. Bob Dylan, the king of imagery.''
Marty Cohen, The Hillbilly Cats and
The Revolution and co-promoter of
the River Rock at the Amp concert series
'''The Man in Me' really shows Dylan's pop sensibilities. It took the man in him to write a song so vulnerable.''
Dean Anshutz, Red Wanting Blue
''Like any other red-blooded American musician, I am a huge fan of Bob Dylan. Years ago I heard one of his lesser known songs called 'Percy's Song' and it stays with me. He has always had a way of reinventing songwriting while you wait. This particular song is about a friend in trouble, and as he listens to the charges and the explanation of how his friend found himself in 'trouble deep,' he constantly refrains, 'Turn, turn again to the wind and the rain.' Always ending his lines on the five chord of the root (D if the song is in G) letting you know there is more to the story. He has written the bulk of the American Songbag in forty years and all this without letting anyone know what he's really saying for the last twenty. Amazing!
''I did see him here in Nashville at the Ryman Auditorium, and it was the best show of his I have ever seen. He was in a phase of complete enunciation, and the band never sounded better.''
Jerry Douglas, dobro player
''My favorite Bob Dylan tune is 'Don't Think Twice, It's All Right.' I love lyrics. There is no guessing to what he is trying to say. It's straight to the point. Yet it is still clever and intriguing. Not too mention, with guys like Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings covering this song, Bob must have done something right with this one.''
Robbie Jay McFarland, Robbie Jay Band
''I have so many Dylan greats, I don't know where to begin. We have played a few through the years. It took forever to get permission from Ram Horn Music (Dylan's copyright company) to put 'Knockin' On Heaven's Door' on our CD. I still have the letter framed. But I think my favorite is 'Lay Lady Lay'.''
Al Cooley, Shades of Gray
''My favorite Bob Dylan song is 'Not Dark Yet,' from the 1997 release, 'Time Out Of Mind.' It is my favorite Dylan song because it exhibits an old, wise voice dealing with issues of mortality. It is an inspirational, straightforward moment for the artist in his golden years.''
Lee Boyle, Third Class
"All of his songs are really beautiful, but 'Wagon Wheel' is always tons of fun to sing with a big group of friends. It's at least ONE of my favorites."
Katianne Timko, singer-songwriter
''My favorite Dylan song is 'Like a Rolling Stone.' I bought the 45 of it at Vogue Records in Warren after previewing it on their house turntables. It was the first Dylan song I heard, and it's been one of my favorite songs of all time. I like his more melodic songs, and this is a great one.
Bob ''Rollo'' Miller, The Bridge, Side Show
''From ballads of lost love and mortality to politically charged protest songs which are still relevant, Bob Dylan is a prolific songwriter and true American poet. It's almost impossible to have a favorite Dylan tune. However, I'm currently stuck on 'Highlands' from 'Time Out of Mind.' I love listening to it on long drives through the countryside, on repeat, windows down and no destination. Really dig the loose yet trance-like meditative vibe. Perfect for sweltering Ohio summers.''
Chris Iacono Rutushin,
filmmaker and the band Radio Lark
''My favorite Bob Dylan song has changed a lot over the years, but currently it is 'Not Dark Yet' off of the CD 'Time Out Of Mind.' During 'Not Dark Yet,' Dylan reveals his foreboding sense of hopelessness in regards to humanity, and his obsession with staying creative and on the move being the only thing that has ever kept him grounded and / or sane.''
Damian Knapp, Testify and Fester Presley
''My favorite Dylan song (at the moment) is 'Just Like a Woman.' It vividly portrays Dylan's painful fascination and frustration with a formerly familiar but now distant and perhaps no longer attainable woman (Edie Sedgwick? Joan Baez?) and her rapid ascendancy as a cultural icon. Dylan is disdainful (envious?) of her new superstar status in the ultra-hip circles they inhabit, which in Dylan's mind exceeds his own. In a scathing portrayal of the paradox between feminine power and weakness, while simultaneously revealing his own deep longing for her, Dylan reminds her (and the world) of the frail and vulnerable person he knows very well that is hidden behind all the superficial trappings of fashion, glamour, and pop-culture celebrity.''
Sonic Boomers and Holes in the Road
'''Blowin' The Wind.' It's the simplicity of this song that speaks to me. It really is an actor's piece and when Bob recorded it, you would have thought he was an old man by the sound, which of course was his interpretive choice, and it gave the feeling of a wise man trudging along life's journey and pointing out the seemingly simple but meaningful moments and questions it can contain, and how they aren't simple at all. Also, it's one of the first songs my Dad sang to me ... that is special!''
Liz Rubino, singer and actor
''For us we would have to say 'Times They Are a Changin'.'' It's basically the beginning time of very real and very lyrical songwriting. It is very intimate with the lead vocal being at the forefront of the track. The song has a kind of Irish feel to it, hence a bit of revolution to it. It was written at a very important time in our society that today's generation needs to connect with and pay attention to that part of our country's history.''
Todd and Missy Shay, Mortisha's Secret
'''Lily, Rosemary and the Jack Of Hearts.' It tells a great story. It's loaded with imagery. I always thought it would have made a great video staring Bob, Tom Petty, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and some other guys like that. It's a western movie in seven minutes, but the song flies by. I remember back in the day, Stan Viteck did an album cuts show on WBBW-AM, and he would always play that one and 'Rosalita' by Bruce Springsteen. I would always tune in.''
''Fast Freddie'' Woak, DJ on WNCD-FM
'''When I Paint My Masterpiece.' This song has always spoken to me and has urged me to strive for what I might say. I have recorded with Levon Helm and Garth Hudson, and I have recorded a Dylan song with Commander Cody ('Positively 4th Street'). I definitely feel an affinity.''
Tommy McCoy, singer and guitar player
'''Knockin' on Heaven's Door' was one of my first songs that I learned to play bass on in the early '80s. And then Guns N' Roses redid it with a little bit of a hard rock twist. It's one of those songs when you hear the first couple of notes being played, you know who it is and what song it is.''
Garry Palcisco, The Fillbillys
'''All Along the Watchtower,' but I prefer the (Jimi) Hendrix version.''
Chara Politte, concert photographer,
'''All Along The Watchtower,' just because Hendrix made a great version of it.''
Derrick Wray, DJ Blazing Entertainment
''My initial exposure to Bob's songs, other than what I heard on the radio ('Blowin' in the Wind' and 'Like a Rolling Stone' in particular), was through other versions The Byrds' 'My Back Pages' and, of course, Jimi Hendrix's version of 'All Along the Watchtower.' Growing up a fan of Michael Bloomfield, I was also excited when Bob went electric at Newport and listened for Bloomfield's playing on 'Highway 61.' ... And, who can forget Bob's first 'music video' for 'Subterranean Homesick Blues'? Classic!''
Pete Broberg, guitar player
with Travelin' Man Band
'''Positively 4th Street.' I enjoy the way Dylan mercilessly berates an old friend who's turned his back. It's very relatable to friendships that have soured due to societal, political or even creative differences. The lyrics seethe with venom, while the melody is pleasant and joyous. 'I wish that just for one time you could stand inside my shoes / you'd know what a drag it is to see you.' Dylan holds nothing back.''
Christopher Fidram, actor and director