With ‘Like a Rolling Stone,’ American Folk Hero Bob Dylan Revolutionized Musical Landscape

In 2011, RollingStone magazine deemed it the “greatest song of all time,” cementing singer-songwriter Bob Dylan’s status as perhaps the most influential musician in American history.

“Like a Rolling Stone,” recorded 52 years ago on June 16, 1965, was considered the “moment” when rock music took the spotlight from traditional American folk songs, according to critics and fans.

Dylan plugged in, abandoning his usual acoustic sound by adding a gospel organ arrangement and the steely sounds of a Telecaster guitar.  He also stretched convention in the master recording with the song’s six-minute length.

The impact was undeniable.  To hard core folk fans, it was a betrayal.  To others, it was a new, and positive, beginning in American music.

Rolling Stone magazine justified the importance of the song, writing:

“The most stunning thing about Like a Rolling Stone is how unprecedented it was: the impressionist voltage of Dylan’s language, the intensely personal accusation in his voice (“Ho-o-o-ow does it fe-e-e-el?”), the apocalyptic charge of (Al) Kooper’s garage-gospel organ and Mike Bloomfield’s stiletto-sharp spirals of Telecaster guitar, the defiant six-minute length of the June 16th master take. No other pop song has so thoroughly challenged and transformed the commercial laws and artistic conventions of its time, for all time.”

Of the song, rocker Bruce Springsteen was quoted as saying, “[it] sounded like somebody’d kicked open the door to your mind.”

Dylan was just 24 years old when he changed the sound of American music, and would go on to have many other crowning (and controversial) achievements, not the least of which was his 2016 win of the Nobel Prize in Literature. 

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