I had my Pandora station set to Bob Dylan. Every so often, I revert back to my hippie, folky days, because they seemed so benign and simple. Compared to these times, things certainly have been a-changin.’

I almost changed the station to something newer, hipper. But then the lyrics jumped out at me. I listened. This time it wasn’t background music. It hit me. Could they be any more relevant? Perhaps that’s the magic, the brilliance of Bob Dylan…that his words could take a giant leap spanning 57 years and still be as meaningful as they were in 1963.

Come gather ‘round people, wherever you roam
And admit that the waters around you have grown
And accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sing like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’

Come writers and critics who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes open, the chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon, for the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’
For the loser now will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’

Come senators, congressmen, please heed the call
Don’t’ stand in the doorway, don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled
The battle outside ragin’
Will soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’

Come mothers and fathers throughout the land
And don’t criticize what you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’

The line, it is drawn, the curse, it is cast
The slow one now will later be fast
As the present now will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin’
And the first one now will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’

As I listened to the raspy,twangy poet songwriter, I thought back to when I was young and the fights I had with my parents over this song. It was, to my generation, the answer to all that ailed the country. It was our parents’ fault. Not a doubt. They were the ones to blame. They needed to move or get run over, in a figurative sense, of course. Years later, when I played the song again for my mother, she admitted the song had merit.

During the 2016 election everyone was positive Clinton was a shoe-in – or so we thought. Trump was a clown, a buffoon, a loser for many of us. But the “wheels” were still in spin and he won. We were in shock by what our country had brought upon itself. And here we are now in the same spot. That wheel’s still in spin. We cannot afford to be complacent. There is still that battle – and it is ragin.’ There are several battles, in fact. We are divided between the parties, at war with racism, and anti-Semitism, in the midst of an economic disaster, with COVID-19 holding our nation and the world, in a vise grip with our lives. Battles we can’t lose, but battles that are indeed shaking our windows and rattlin’ our walls, and will, until we take action. Because, just as Bob Dylan penned in these verses, ‘the times they are a ‘changin.’

Not content with merely hearing the protest anthem, I wanted to find out more about the song. I googled it, which led me to the “March for Our Lives” in 2018, after the Parkland massacre. The demonstration closed with Jennifer Hudson performing an emotional rendition of the sang. There were young people in the crowds who, I am sure, had never heard the song before, but were moved by the lyrics. The song was speaking to them, just as it had to me. It resonated.

“The Times They Are A-Changin” vibrates with the same power, maybe ever more so than it did in 1963. It has spanned generations of youth. I was 16 years old in 1963. I am now 73 and the song still gives me goosebumps. That’s what a great song does. Even more, it gives me hope that maybe the times are a-changin’ for the good.

One thought on “The Times They Are A-Changin’ by Linda Freedland

  1. Thank you Carl for this piece and for sharing what a great song does. I remember it too, and now I’ll think of it in these days too.

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