Who Really Wrote "Blowin' In The Wind"?
The night Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind'' was first heard by an audience [Apr 16, 1962], Dylan and I had been killing the latter part of a Monday afternoon drinking coffee [at the "Fat Black Pussycat"] and bullshitting.
About five o'clock, Bob pulled out his guitar and a paper and pencil. He began to strum some chords and fool with some lines he had written for a new song. Time passed and he asked me to play the guitar for him so he could figure out the rhymes with greater ease. We did this for an hour or so until he was satisfied. The song was "Blowin' in the Wind.''
We decided to bring it over to Gil Turner who was hosting the Monday-night hoots at Gerde's, and we arrived about nine thirty or ten. Gerde's was packed with the regular Monday night jam of intense young folk singers and guitar pickers. We fought our way through the crowd down the stairs to the basement where you waited and practiced until your turn to play was called. It was a scene as usual.
Gil Turner finally took a break and came down to the basement to organize the next half of the show. Bob was nervous and he was doing his Chaplin shuffle as he caught Gil's attention. "I got a song you should hear, man,'' Bob said, grinning from ear to ear. ''Sure thing, Bob,'' Gil said. He moved closer to hear better. A crowd sort of circled the two of them. Bob sang it out with great passion. When he finished there was silence all around. Gil Turner was stunned. "I've got to do that song myself,'' he said. "Now!'' "Sure, Gil, that's great. You want to do it tonight?'' "Yes,'' said Turner, picking up his guitar, teach it to me now."
Bob showed him the chords and Gil roughly learned the words. He took the copy Bob made for him and went upstairs. We followed, excited by the magic that was beginning to spread. Gil mounted the stage and taped the words on to the mike stand. "Ladies and gentlemen,'' he said, "I'd like to sing a new song by one of our great songwriters. It's hot of the pencil and here it goes.''
He sang the song, sometimes straining to read the words off the paper. When he was through, the entire audience stood on its feet and cheered. Bob was leaning against the bar near the back smiling and laughing. Mike Porco bought us a drink. Later in the evening Bob went home with Suze, and l split with some friends. Another moment in time ticked of.
Quoted in Robbie Woliver, Hoot! A 25-Year History of the Greenwich Village Music Scene, New York, NY, 1986, pp. 83-84;
addenda [in square brackets] by Manfred Helfert.
With a lyric sheet on his mike stand, Turner became the first in a long line to pose that lilting litany of metaphorical questions....
Riotous applause told Dylan, if he didn't know already, that "Blowin' In The Wind" was his first classic. The next day Dave Van Ronk, who had been working the Village scene far longer, begged to differ. "Jesus, Bobby," he later recalled telling him, what an incredibly dumb song! I mean what the hell is blowing in the wind?" A few weeks later he had the answer. "I was walking through Washington Square Park and heard a kid singing,'How much wood could a woodchuck chuckAt that point I knew Bobby had a smash on his hands."
if a woodchuck could chuck wood
The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind.'
Quoted by Jasper Rees in Tim De Lisle (ed.), Lives of the Great Songs, Penguin, 1995, pp. 143-144.
Let's talk about the song "Blowin' In The Wind." When was the first time you remember hearing that song, under what circumstances?
I don't remember the exact first time, but I remember leaving Gerde's Folk City in New York City, and I heard Bob do it, maybe not the first time, but he had just written it.
And I got into a cab and I was so excited. Bob put me in the cab, actually, and I drove off and I wanted the world to know I'd been in on this phenomenal episode, this incredible new song.
And I was trying [laughs] to tell the New York cab driver about it. "You wouldn't believe this. I mean, this is amazing. This is real poetry." [laughs] He said, "Does it rhyme?" [laughs] I said, "Yeah." He says, "Okay." [laughs] He wasn't impressed. But something in me knew, probably, it was one of the songs that would last forever.
L. A. Johnson Interview, Bloomington, IN, Aug 28, 1995.
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It was Bobby Dylan's writing that put us on another level. A big controversy started when Albert [Grossman] brought in the acetate of Bobby's new solos. Albert thought the big song was "Don't Think Twice." That, he said, was the hit. We went crazy over "Blowing in the Wind."
We went into the studio and released "Blowing in the Wind" as a single. We didn't wait for an album, we just put it out. Instinctively, we knew the song carried the moment of its own time.
If I had to pick one song, my softest spot, it would be "Blowing in the Wind." If you could imagine the March on Washington with Martin Luther King and singing that song in front of a quarter of a million people, black and white, who believed they could make America more generous and compassionate in a nonviolent way, you begin to know how incredible that belief was.
And still is. To sing the line, "How many years can some people exist before they're allowed to be free?" in front of some crummy little building that refuses to admit Jews in 1983, the song elicits the same response now as it did then. It adresses the same questions. "How many deaths will it take till they know that too many people have died?" Sing that line in a prison yard where political prisoners from El Salvador are being kept. Or sing it with Bishop Tu Tu. Same response. Same questions.
Joe Smith, Off The Record, London, 1989, pp. 161-162.
June 1962 -- There ain't too much I can say about this song except that the answer is blowing in the wind. It ain't in no book or movie or T.V. show or discussion group. Man, it's in the wind -- and it's blowing in the wind. Too many of these hip people are telling me where the answer is but oh I won't believe that. I still say it's in the wind and just like a restless piece of paper it's got to come down some time... But the only trouble is that no one picks up the answer when it comes down so not too many people get to see and know it... and then it flies away again... I still say that some of the biggest criminals are those that turn their heads away when they see wrong and know it's wrong. I'm only 21 years old and I know that there's been too many wars... You people over 21, you're older and smarter.
Bob Dylan, Oct.-Nov. 1962 issue of SING OUT, reprinted in liner notes for "Broadside" (BR 301; 1963).
"Blowin' In The Wind" has always been a spiritual. I took it off a song, I don't know if you ever heard, called "No More Auction Block." That's a spiritual. "Blowin' In The Wind" follows the same feeling....
I've always seen it and heard it that way, it's just taken me... I just did it on my acoustical guitar when I recorded it, which didn't really make it sound spiritual. But the feeling, the idea, was always, you know, that's where it was coming from, so now I'm doing it in full like a spiritual....
Bob Dylan, Marc Rowland Interview, Rochester, NY, Sep 23, 1978.
Here's one that's called "How Many Roads Must a Man Walk Down"....
Here's a song that's in sort of a set... set pattern of songs
that say... a little more than
"I love you, and you love me,
An'... let's go over to the banks of Italy
And we'll raise a half a family,
You for me, and me for me..."
How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
How many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they're forever banned?The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,How many years must a mountain exist
The answer is blowin' in the wind.
Before it is washed to the sea?
How many years can some people exist
Before they're allowed to be free?
An' how many times can a man turn his head,
An' pretend that he just doesn't see?The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,An' how many times must a man look up
The answer is blowin' in the wind.
Before he can see the sky?
An' how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
An' how many deads [sic] will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind.