‘Rough and Rowdy Ways’ Brings Bob Dylan Back to the Protest Frontlines

Bob Dylan has come full-circle with Rough and Rowdy Ways, his first original album in eight years.

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The folk-rock pioneer first came to fame with his sophomore album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan back in 1963. Tracks from the album like “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” and “Girl From The North Country” gave him his breakthrough as a singer-songwriter and became songs for folk class 101. But it was “Blowin’ In The Wind” that went on to become a civil rights anthem and shines as even more relevant today. It’s even said that “Blowin’ In The Wind” inspired another civil rights anthem, Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.”

Rough and Rowdy Ways goes back to that signature Dylan sound of using storytelling to bring social issues to the forefront. He again uses beautiful imagery and metaphors to discuss religion, war, and civil rights while simple yet genius instrumentation lightly accompanies him in the background.

Bob Dylan “I Contain Multitudes”

Though his old school harmonica solos are absent, his thought-provoking lyrics and passion-fueled melodies seem to have ripened like a fine wine.

Though music sources like Rolling Stone and NME are calling this his most “timely” album ever, it’s no surprise to Dylan fans that his songs are poetically profound and soaked in social relevance.

Though Dylan was known for his folk music, he thrust another genre into pop culture called “protest songs.” “Blowin’ In The Wind” was not his only song to highlight the injustices against Black people. He’s been fighting for justice throughout his entire career—songs decades apart like “The Times They Are A-Changin’” in 1964, “Hurricane” in 1975, and “Blind Willie McTell” in 1991.

Bob Dylan, “Murder Most Foul”

Rough and Rowdy Ways is already on the path to providing protest songs for today. For instance, the epic 17-minute long track “Murder Most Foul” lays down poetic line after line exposing the injustices in American society. Though he references past events like the JFK and MLK Jr. assassinations, the morals of each allusion are completely relevant to current events unfolding.

Rough and Rowdy Ways comes out tomorrow, June 19 on Columbia Records—the 39th full-length studio album for Dylan. You can pre-order it here.