Bob Dylan turns 70 on Tuesday. To mark the occasion I’ve assembled a (highly debatable) list of what I consider his top ten protest songs with accompanying videos, a surprisingly difficult task given Sony’s Music’s aggressive online policing of Dylan’s catalogue.
Needless to say, Dylan is far more than a protest singer, a guise he purposefully rejected early in his career, most famously with the song Maggie’s Farm, commonly considered to be a protest against protest songs.
It’s complicated, as the eminent historian and Dylanologist Sean Wilentz explained in a recent interview: "Politics are inescapable for any writer of Bob Dylan’s human and humane scope. His work, I think, shows that around 1963, he abandoned any idea that conventional politics of any kind could really change the world. He’s said more than once that he puts no store in the political game. But he writes, bitingly, that ‘we live in a political world,’ so it’s always there."
Most importantly, Dylan did write some of the most affecting and evocative songs ever conceived about racial injustice, unnecessary war and the threat of nuclear peril.
Bob Dylan’s Top Ten Protest Songs
1. Masters of War
2. The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
4. A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall
5. With God on Our Side
6. George Jackson (Performed here by the British reggae band Steel Pulse because Sony has made it impossible to find a video of Dylan doing the song.)
7. The Times They Are a Changin’
8. Only a Pawn in Their Game
9. Senor, Tales of Yankee Power
10. Chimes of Freedom