Audio/ Video: Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday with ‘Protest’ Songs of Bob Dylan

When Bob Dylan began writing his own material in the early ’60s, he wrote a number of songs dealing in one way or another with racism and the abuse of African Americans in this country. So I thought it fitting on this day in which we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday (he was born January 15, 1929), that we listen to some of the powerful ‘protest’ songs of Bob Dylan.

On August 28, 1963 Bob Dylan was at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. for the “March On Washington,” performing “When The Ship Comes In” with Joan Baez and “Only A Pawn In Their Game” solo before Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his remarkable “I have a dream” speech:

Most of the songs I’ve included below made it onto The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan and The Times They Are A-Changin’. One is from Another Side Of Bob Dylan.

One, “The Death Of Emmett Till,” was recorded for The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan but didn’t make the cut.

I’ve also included “Maggie’s Farm,” which may not be as direct as some of the earlier songs, but is certainly about the oppression of the poor by the wealthy (and plenty more).

These are powerful songs. They hit home when they were first released, and all these years later they have lost none of their potency.

Certainly great strides have been made in the area of equal rights since the early ’60s, but things are far from perfect. Consider the Supreme Court cutting the Voting Rights Act last year, and the how badly President Obama has been treated by Republicans in the House and Senate. Or the needless death of Trayvon Martin.

These songs are heavy, and they remind us of what’s at stake, and of the power of music.

“When The Ship Comes In,” August 28, 1963 (performed with Joan Baez at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.):

When That Ship Comes In by Bob Dylan on Grooveshark

“Only A Pawn In Their Game,” August 28, 1963 (performed at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.):

Only A Pawn In Their Game by Bob Dylan on Grooveshark

“Blowin’ In The Wind,” 1963 (Town Hall, New York):

Blowin' In The Wind (Live Version) by Bob Dylan on Grooveshark

“The Death Of Emmett Till” (The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan outtake):

The Death Of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan on Grooveshark

“Oxford Town”:

Oxford Town by Bob Dylan on Grooveshark

“Ballad Of Hollis Brown”:

Ballad of Hollis Brown by Bob Dylan on Grooveshark

“The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll”:

The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll by Bob Dylan on Grooveshark

“Chimes Of Freedom”:

Chimes of Freedom by Bob Dylan on Grooveshark

“The Times They Are A-Changin'”:

The Times They Are A-Changin' by Bob Dylan on Grooveshark

“Maggie’s Farm”:

Maggie's Farm by Bob Dylan on Grooveshark

-– A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post: sounds, visuals and/or news –-

About Michael Goldberg

Michael Goldberg is a distinguished pioneer in the online music space; Newsweek magazine called him an ‘Internet visionary.’ In 1994 he founded Addicted To Noise (ATN), the highly influential music web site. He was a senior vice-president and editor in chief at SonicNet from March 1997 through May 2000. In 1997, Addicted To Noise won Webby awards for best music site in 1998 and 1999, and also won Yahoo Internet Life! awards for three years running as best music site in 1998, 1999 and 2000. Prior to starting Addicted To Noise, Goldberg was an editor and senior writer at Rolling Stone magazine for 10 years. His writing has also appeared in Wired, Esquire, Vibe, Details, Downbeat, NME and numerous other publications. Michael recently completed his first novel, Days of the Crazy-Wild, and is currently writing a second novel.

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