Extremely prolific, and regarded as one of the best songwriters of all-time, Bob Dylan has been a commanding influence in the music world, and pop culture in general, since the early 1960s. His work is deeply personal, yet anyone can relate to it. With themes surrounding civil rights and the anti-war movement, many of his classic songs are now more relevant than ever. With a troubador-like singer-songwriter feel, many of his songs are quite simple to learn and get comfortable playing quickly, making them perfect for beginner-to-intermediate guitarists looking to get their sea legs playing some iconic folk tunes.
Famously recorded in just one take, Maggie's Farm is a blues-influenced protest tune that features Dylan digging into the service industry, but also his own relationship with the music business. After a faster, more aggressive performance of the song at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, it became referred to as "the counterculture's war cry" with it's opening notes being some of the loudest live music anyone had ever heard. This fueled Bob Dylan's transition from primarily acoustic folk to electrified rock, which was considered controversial at the time.
The Times They Are A-Changin'
The title track to Bob Dylan's 1964 album, The Times They Are A-Changin' is another protest song that Dylan himself cited as being a deliberate attempt to create an anthem of change. Inspired by old Irish and Scottish folk ballads, the song features simple verses that are easy to sing along to and build upon eachother with themes of civil rights and pleas to government officials and lawmakers to change their ways. Because of it's general, all-encompassing message of change, the song has been covered countless times and has lived on for nearly six decades as a relevant protest song.
Just Like A Woman
First released on his 1966 album, Blonde on Blonde, "Just Like A Woman" is an interesting piece of the Bob Dylan catalog. Thought to have been mostly improvised in the studio, not only by Dylan with the singing and lyrics, but also by the band with the music and style in general, the song initally took on a strange sound before being shaped into the commercially-viable version heard on record. While the song is rumored to be about a couple different real-life aquaintences of Dylan, like Joan Baez and Edie Sedgwick, the references to relationship struggles can be related to by just about anyone.
Like A Rolling Stone
Born out of Bob Dylan's frustrations with the music industry, "Like A Rolling Stone" came out in 1965 on the heels of a grueling English tour that made Dylan question whether or not he wanted to continue playing music as a career. While his label at the time was hesitent to even release the song due to it's 6:15 length and heavier rock sound, "Like A Rolling Stone" has persevered and remained extremely relevant, landing the number one spot on Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Songs of All Time" list and notable covers from an impressive list of artists.
It Ain't Me Babe
Featured on Dylan's 1964 album, Another Side of Bob Dylan, "It Ain't Me Babe" was influential enough to also make it's way onto a Johnny Cash record the following year, performed as a duet between Cash and his wife, June Carter. The song's subject matter adresses the feeling of not being able or willing to be the man that his lover is looking for. It wasn't just Johnny Cash that appreciated the message; "It Ain't Me Babe" went on to be covered by The Turtles, Joan Baez, Nancy Sinatra, and many more.