By Izzy Yellen
Fifty years is long time. 1965 was an entirely different era, so how is an album from then still holding up so well today? Bob Dylan has released countless classics, and almost everyone has heard of him or at least one of his songs. However, this album is one of his most famous, ranking number four in Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time,” and opening with “Like A Rolling Stone,” a song that ranked number one in Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”
I do not always agree with Rolling Stone’s rankings or opinions, but anyone who has heard either the album or song has to admit, they are both pretty damn good. There is definitely some justification for their ranking, but while I do not rank the album number four in my list, it is in fact my favorite Dylan album, hands down.
This album is an essential album of mine—one I have strong connections to, know front to back and have listened to innumerable times. My dad has been playing Dylan for me since I was born, so just growing up hearing that voice and poetic approach to music made me a huge fan for life.
Since then, every time one of the songs from “Highway 61” comes on the radio, I sing along, no matter what—and I barely sing, but then again, some say, neither does Dylan. It was also one of the first albums I learned completely on guitar. Granted, the chords are straightforward, but playing with the recording is an enjoyable experience.
Personal connections or not, this album was groundbreaking. Dylan’s sixth album, it was the second to use electric instruments and the first to use them on every track, except for one. While this may not seem like a huge deal now, it was then. In a folky, poetic environment still coming out of the beatnik era and slowly easing into the ‘60s we all know of, at least a little, Dylan going electric while maintaining the personal poetic and socially conscious lyrics was important. With this album, and others close to it chronologically, he started to pave the way and create templates and ideas for the popular music of the rest of the decade, and for years to come.
Today, “Highway 61 Revisited” continues to inspire musicians and activists. Dylan was one of the first popular musicians to speak about social issues in his music, and this album documented the turbulent times that were happening, while also blending in surreal and sometimes personal narrative. Now, there are seemingly less socially conscious musicians, but oh so many socially conscious people, some also utilizing creativity to get their opinions across.
So, a very happy 50th birthday, “Highway 61 Revisited,” an album that has greatly impacted me and innumerable others. Long may you be spun.