A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this music.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Essential Bob Dylan, a two-disc, 30-song collection released in 2000, is an excellent introduction to the legendary singer-songwriter's work, from protesting folk-singer ("Blowing in the Wind") to world-weary cynic ("Things Have Changed"). It gathers some of his most notable, representative works, many of which were hits for other artists ("Mr. Tambourine Man," "It Ain't Me Babe," "All Along the Watchtower," "I Shall Be Released"), in which, with verbal mastery and the fervent zeal of an Old Testament prophet, he examines life's hardships, social injustice, and tortured relationships -- and, as in "If Not for You," the occasional sweet one. Some drug and sex references ("Just Like a Woman," "Rainy Day Women #12 + 35," "Lay Lady Lay") from the '60s era -- some dark, some upbeat.
What's the story?
Bob Dylan is the standard against which all other American singer-songwriters are measured. Rising up in the folk movement of the '60s, he wrote songs that were hits for others (\"Blowing in the Wind\"), and his works have stayed popular with generations of artists in the decades since. His lyrics -- economical, well chosen, and often bitingly satirical -- are more often directed at things gone wrong, from social injustice to bad relationships, but can deliver sweetness and fun just as well.
Is it any good?
The Essential Bob Dylan provides a great overview of the many moods, phases, and styles of Dylan's career from the '60s to 2000 -- and an opportunity to revisit a lot of 20th century history and pop culture, from civil rights ("Blowing in the Wind," "The Hurricane") to '60s drug-party culture ("Rainy Day Women #12 + 35") to the resurgence of Christian fundamentalism ("Gotta Serve Somebody"). Not to mention some of his notable collaborations, including with the Band ("Forever Young") and the Grateful Dead ("Silvio"). Dylan fans probably already have all the tracks on The Essential Bob Dylan on their original albums, but for those just joining the program, it's hard to imagine a better introduction. Many newcomers will probably recognize at least some of the songs from their cover versions and be interested in the originals, which are often more complex. They'll probably also be startled by Dylan's singing (or non-singing) voice, in which the urgency of the lyrics tends to be more important than sounding pretty.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what Dylan's music meant to today's parents and grandparents, and whether it has anything to say to today's kids.
What do you know about the historical and political events Dylan is singing about in many of these songs? Does hearing the songs make you want to learn more?
Have you heard any of these songs performed by other people? What do you suppose they liked about the song?
Do you think "Forever Young" is a good song from a parent to his kids?
Our editors recommend
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