Bob Dylan Deserves the Highest Award of his Life

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Updated: Jun 22, 2022
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Bob Dylan Deserves the Highest Award of his Life essay

Bob Dylan, living in one of the most turbulent times in American history, the 1940’s through today, has spoken, signaled and sang for social peace most of his life. Dylan, one of the starters of the hippie movement, produced his lyrics and beliefs from his parents influence and the Jewish faith. His parents moved to the United States in 1902 in order to avoid the anti-Semitic Odessa government (Ukraine now). Dylan lived through many unjust wars and events before he even completed college; such as WWII, Korean War, and the Cold War. When Dylan started to record records with Columbia records, John F. Kennedy was elected president and sent the first of the US troops to Vietnam and the Berlin Wall building project began. Eventually, Dylan would release a draft of one of his major protest songs, “Blowin’ in the wind,”in April 1962 inside a New York bar . This version did not include the second verse of the song. Dylan, realizing the potential effect of his song, added the important second verse before recording in July.

“Blowin’ in the wind” has a simple message woven into every single word of the song, Love. But the questions then become, Love who? and Why? From the first two lines of the song, “How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man,” the idea of love introduces itself. Why must this man be forced into walking for a seemingly endless amount of time before someone is able to accept him as a man which he clearly is. This walking down roads can relate to Dylan’s time through civil rights marches. How many roads and streets must African Americans walk and protest down before they are recognized as equal humans?

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The very next line “How many seas must a white dove sail before she sleeps in the sand” ties into the search for peace. This dove could possibly relate to the dove Noah released from the ark, who searched and searched for peaceful land, where love was present, before it could rest. This passage relates to the question, how long will it take before peace can be found in a time where violence riddles the globe just as the waters did at Noah’s time. The next line about cannonballs flying directly relates to wars, most likely the Vietnam War, and by asking how long until they’re banned basically asks when can I love my current enemy and give him enough respect not to kill him? In the second verse, Dylan asks “how many years can a mountain exist before it is washed away to sea?”

This question could refer to the Soviet Union at the time, a large institution with a very small minority on top controlling all below. By washing away to sea, Dylan asks how long will the nation last before all are truly equal and willing to be part of each other as all aspects of a sea are intertwined and flow with the other parts. In asking how long it will take before some people are allowed to be free, Dylan most likely questions the Jim Crow laws in the southern United States as they treat African Americans as inferior and not with love that they should be receiving in order for them to obtain the true meaning of American freedom. Then, by asking about how many times a man could turn his head and pretend that he doesn’t see relates to the world leaders as they and the rest of the world are able to witness and see the atrocities but choose not to do anything as they do not want to become involved.

By the mentioning of looking up towards the sky and not being able to see the sky, Dylan could be addressing the violence of the Vietnam war where soldiers looked up and could only see vegetation or flying bomber planes. By asking how many ears must a person have before cries would be heard could refer to the United States government who did not listen to civil rights speeches or the cries to leave Vietnam. Deaths of many people also refers to the government’s inability to remove troops from Vietnam after many Americans have died. Most importantly of all of the songs words is “the answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind, the answer is blowing in the wind.” These words are meant to describe the current hope, peace, and love that is blowing away and leaving people, but also surrounds everyone at all times. It just takes energy and a little will to realize and to find its meaning and existence.

Bob Dylan’s Jewish faith helps the message of “Blowin’ in the Wind” to tie itself closer to Catholic social teaching through nearly identical Old Testament beliefs. Themes in “Blowin in the Wind” that can relate to catholic social justice teachings are ideas of utilitarianism. The Church and Dylan agree that governments should do what is best for all people, yet they need to acknowledge the needs of the minorities and be willing to provide love and guidance to them as well. Dylan by pointing out the civil rights movements implies equality in the workforce and the role of the government to provide justice to all. This idea is also presented relates to the encyclical Rerum Novarum in providing labor advice and suggestions for governments to be just. Pius XI in Quadragesimo anno addresses social orders which is also implied by Dylan’s song in order for the social problem of civil rights to be addressed at a smaller level before it consumes American progress.

Populorum Progressio also addresses social inequality among all people and that people must develop to form peace as the American rights movement must work for more peace to be achieved in the country. Another encyclical that Dylan’s song relates towards is Mater et Magistra, this encyclical warns about the arms race and as Dylan questions the flying of cannonballs, he could imply the production of nuclear weapons between the United States and Soviet Union. Also involved in the arms race, the threat of nuclear war presents itself in people dying and crying in the song as well in Gaudium et Spes. Most importantly regarding encyclicals, Dylan’s whole song addresses peace and love on Earth with all people, Pacem in Terris addresses peace across all of earth and human rights as the basis for peace. Most importantly overall, the key principles of Catholic social teachings are addressed in the song as the dignity of the Human person is questioned through Dylan’s mentioning of Civil rights, the common good is addressed by Dylan by asking for peace instead of war, solidarity is implied through the wind blowing around everyone. Subsidiarity is mentioned by Dylan through addressing the rights of minorities in the civil rights movement and finally participation is addressed as all people must be willing to work for peace and provide love towards all. These Catholic teachings reflect the teachings of the Bible and the teachings of Jesus as his whole message was to spread love and peace to all.

Jesus Christ and “Blowin’ in the Wind” have identical messages. To spread kindness and love towards everyone no matter who they are. Before Jesus walked on Earth, Ezekiel was preaching about Jesus’s coming by stating “Son of man, you live in the midst of a rebellious house; they have eyes to see, but do not see, and ears to hear but do not hear. They are such a rebellious house” (Ezekiel 12:2). This is almost identical to the first two lines of the last verse. People have the ability to hear the word of God’s peace but choose not to. They can see God’s love in their lives yet see no value in it. But Jesus wants the man “who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 11:19). He and Bob Dylan want people to hear the struggles of others and be willing to provide love and hope to them. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives us the Beatitudes or the Supreme Happiness and this happiness is love which presents itself in the message of Dylan’s song.

The first beatitude, Blessed are the poor in spirit, ties to Dylan’s song as people who live the simple lives and not concerned about destroying or dehumanizing others live out a faithful and kind life which is what Dylan implies for peace. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted is the second Beatitude in which Jesus wants us to comfort others through compassion and what Dylan wants us to provide towards the civil rights activists. The meek, Jesus describes, are those who are humble and willing to serve the needs of others. Dylan wants the needs of others to be served in order for violence to end and people to unite as one. Those who strive to achieve justice in heaven are those who strive to do what is just and right for all, for Dylan, this is uniting people in civil rights so that all people have equal rights. In killing mass amounts of people and making mistakes, countries are ashamed and are not pure in their hearts and not innocent to other countries and God.

Dylan uses his song as an inspiration for nations to be innocent and not create death and destruction. Peacemakers are people like Dylan who are willing to resolve the conflicts present in their time and are willing to become involved so that justice and love may be spread. Jesus also speaks about loving your enemies in his sermon and Dylan supports this by calling for peace and respect towards enemies and not killing them. Seeking the kingdom of God implies that people should put God above all and be willing to spread his love, which as Dylan suggests people are not doing but instead focusing on monetary, political and social advantages over others. Lastly and most importantly, Jesus teaches to treat others as you would like to be treated with love. The social injustice examples Dylan implies tie into this, white people would not want to be treated the same way they are treating African Americans, America would not like it if Vietnam invaded them, lawmakers would not like it if their family members were killed fighting, and no country would approve of being attacked or blown up.

Dylan attempted to change the social landscape through his song from the current landscape of violence and discrimination towards a more peaceful and loving one. This song was used as an anthem for the anti-Vietnam groups and support for the civil rights movement along with another one of his songs, “The Times They Are a-Changin.” As stated by Bob Dylan in one of his later interviews, he read the Bible a lot during the 60’s and 70’s and infused part of it into his songs which is part of the reason why this song can relate so much to Jesus and the Church’s teachings. Jesus and Dylan want God’s love to be shown and by using the phrase “blowin’ in the wind,” Dylan establishes the Holy Spirit into all peoples’ lives that the Spirit goes where it wills. By using the repetition of this statement, Dylan asserts that the Spirit is always there. Above all, the Gospel of John synthesises by inscribing “The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3: 8)

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Bob Dylan Deserves the Highest Award of His Life. (2022, Jun 22). Retrieved from