Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Story Behind the Dylan Song "Like A Rolling Stone"

English: Portrait of Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dy...
Portrait of Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan by Elsa Dorfman (1975) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
By Emilio Basa

I just shot a video for Bob Dylan's song, Like a Rolling Stone.

I normally don't perform cover songs, but I want to start reaching out to a new audience and start connecting with people on YouTube or whoever will hear me.

So I'm hoping that I meet some new people online through this video and I thought why not give a history of the song so people can understand more about it. I did some research on this amazing song and here is what I found.

Coming back home from his tour in England in '65, Dylan didn't like what the public expected of him. He also didn't like where his career was headed. He had a strong desire to quit the music business altogether. In 1966, Dylan talked about his issue with this troubling perception that people had of him.

"Last spring, I guess I was going to quit singing. I was very drained and the way things were going, it was a very draggy situation ... But 'Like a Rolling Stone' changed it all. I mean it was something that I myself could dig. It's very tiring having other people tell you how much they dig you if you yourself don't dig you."

The premise of the song started from a piece that Dylan wrote. He described the beginnings of this song as the following:

"It was ten pages long. It wasn't called anything, just a rhythm thing on paper all about my steady hatred directed at some point that was honest. In the end it wasn't hatred, it was telling someone something they didn't know, telling them they were lucky. Revenge, that's a better word. I had never thought of it as a song, until one day I was at the piano, and on the paper it was singing, 'How does it feel?' in a slow motion pace, in the utmost of slow motion."

So when Columbia Records first heard Like a Rolling Stone, they were unhappy with the song. What a big surprise! lol. They didn't like the length of the song, which is over six minutes, and they also didn't like the heavy electric sound.

They didn't want to release the song at first, but somehow a copy of the song was leaked out and many influential DJ's started playing the song. Many of the stations were hesitant to play a track that long, but it was able to reach the #2 in the US charts and become a hit worldwide.

Dylan referred to this song as a "breakthrough" in his career and he explains that it changed how he saw where his career was going. He describes it as writing a "long piece of vomit, 20 pages long, and out of it I took "Like a Rolling Stone' and made it as a single. And I'd never written anything like that before and it suddenly came to me that was what I should do ... After writing that I wasn't interested in writing a novel, or a play. I just had too much, I want to write songs."

When I read the story of how this song started as a 10 page verse of ramblings that Dylan didn't even like that was very inspirational to me. When I first started writing I didn't have that strumming and singing coordination on the guitar. It's when you can the strum the chords on guitar, but when you start singing it all goes to crap. So I used to write.

Sometimes they would rhyme and other times they wouldn't. It was just a healthy way to unload my thoughts on to paper. It's the ultimate truth that you reveal about yourself. You find things about yourself that you might not have known before or sometimes you say things that you normally wouldn't say. Its a great release and you don't need to be musically inclined to do it. You just have to have something to say.

People call this song revolutionary because of the different musical elements and the cynical sound in Dylan's voice. I personally just like this song. No need to dive into the specifics. For instance, I love art. Whenever I see a beautiful piece of art I say to myself "I like that. I don't know why, but I just do". This song is a song that just hit a chord with me and I'm glad that I got a chance to cover it.

Emilio Basa is an independent singer songwriter. His unique style is a blend of folk, pop and soul. To download a free mp3 of his latest single, Poor Boy, click HERE. Basa is also the creator of, a blog offering tips and advice for musicians at all levels.

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