What Are YOUR Dylan Picks? IPR staffers share some favorites (now, please tell us yours!)

Oct 19, 2016

at Lida Festival in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1996.
Credit Photo by Henryk Kotowski / Wikimedia

Iowa Public Radio’s staff has no idea whether Bob Dylan will show up to collect his Nobel Prize in Literature. (We realize he's been to Stockholm before - the photo is from a gig there in 1996 - and that he's accepted major awards, like this one in 2012, but this time? Who knows.) Yet IPR staff from many departments and age groups do have Dylan memories or tracks to share. Scroll down to read some - then please share YOUR Dylan picks on our Facebook page or by email. Here's our list so far, organized alphabetically by last name:



- Tony Dehner, Production Assistant, Studio One Host:

I'm going with Like A Rolling Stone, but specifically the live performance in May 1966, at Free Trade Hall in Manchester, England. The crowd was angry about Dylan and his band (later The Band) going electric. Someone in the audience yelled "Judas!", and the ensuing performance of Like A Rolling Stone was one for the ages. This happened well before I was born, but I've always admired the way Dylan stuck to his vision and refused to simply give the people what they wanted.


- Bob Dorr, Host/ Producer of Backtracks, Blue Avenue, and The Beatles Medley

 Blood on the Tracks: Greatest love/relationship album EVAH. Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum from Love & Theft captures a life-changing experience for me.


- Karen Impola, Host/ Producer of The Folk Tree and University Concert

My favorite Bob Dylan song is probably A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall, for a few reasons. The imagery is so dense, you could spend years interpreting it. As Dylan himself said, "Every line in it is actually the start of a whole new song. But when I wrote it, I thought I wouldn't have enough time alive to write all those songs so I put all I could into this one."  Some say it was written in response to the Cuban missile crisis, although it was written and performed before the crisis came to a head.  Certainly the sense of impending apocalypse runs powerfully through the song, even if the exact meaning remains elusive. (To quote another Dylan song, the listener should make “no attempts to shovel a glimpse into the ditch of what each one means.”)

The other reason I like it is because it borrows the question-and-answer format in the first two lines from the British ballad Lord Randall. As startling and innovate as Dylan was when he first appeared on the scene, he knew his traditional sources well, and he understood how repetitive structures are the backbone of oral poetry, and have been for centuries and even millennia.


- Myrna Johnson, Executive Director:

I love so much about Dylan. His poetry is amazing; he really was the poet of his generation.  One of my favorites is Like a Rolling Stone: “How does it feel, how does it feel? / To be without a home / Like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone...”  But one that I play more often is his collaboration with Johnny Cash.  The result was so beautiful in my opinion.  If you haven’t recently, I highly recommend listening to Girl from the North Country, their version of the old folk song Scarborough Fair.

BOB DYLAN JOHNNY CASH Girl From The North... http://dai.ly/x1qaym4


- Lindsey Moon, Talk Show Producer:

I fell in love with Bob Dylan in college. I started wearing silver jewelry because I am so in love with the song and the character he sings about in Shelter from the Storm. I feel like the prettiest version of myself with silver bracelets on my wrists and flowers in my hair. That’s super dorky, but I’m 100% sure I’m not the only Dylan fan out there who lives vicariously through his poetry some days.

shelter from the storm - bob dylan from me.greg on Vimeo.

- Katherine Perkins, Executive Producer:

My dad is a big Dylan fan. I couldn’t get past the singing. He used to say, “listen to the lyrics.” My teenage response was, “he should’ve recited them as poetry instead of trying to sing them.”

Then, I married a Dylan fan. After repeated exposure over nearly my entire lifetime, my appreciation has grown. Now, every time I hear a Dylan song I think about the two men I love.

- Jordan Powers, Account Executive:

Bob Dylan’s music will always remind me of my older brother. He’s 10 years older than me, and was really into Dylan around the time I was 7-10. I have so many memories of listening to tapes with him, and even seeing cover bands play at local coffee shops. Every time I hear Blowin’ in the Wind or Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat, I can’t help but smile!

- Clare Roth, Talk Show Producer:

My age and lack of musical inclination means my first Bob Dylan thought is the pitch-perfect use of The Times, They Are A-Changin’ in the opening montage of Watchmen. What an amazing way to encapsulate the seeming lightning speed at which our fictional and non-fictional country has evolved in the last century.


- Al Schares, Music Director


Favorite album:  Planet Waves. I don’t think this one makes a lot of “favorites” lists but it was one I really connected with. I just remember wearing this out when I got my hands on it. It was a timing thing really. About the time I was wearing out Planet Waves I was also reading Bob’s stream-of-consciousness book Tarantula. I wasn’t sure what it all meant but it made me consider the incredible power of language.   The Band backs Bob on Planet Waves and it veers from beautiful ballads like Forever Young and Going Going Gone to rockers like Tough Mama and You Angel You. Robbie Robertson plays some very cool stuff on Planet Waves!

Favorite song: Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands. A bittersweet epic! Like the rest of Blonde on Blonde it lays out the template for many great rock and roll ensembles that would follow – guitars, bass, drums and Hammond organ. Can’t be beat.


- Steve Schoon, Engineering Operations Manager

Funny you should mention this…

Just yesterday, I was reading a book by Rabbi Alan Lew, who quoted “Rabbi Zimmerman”!

- Barney Sherman, Classical host and producer

I was a kid when a friend’s brother played us The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. It felt like nothing we’d ever heard before, but it was exactly the sound we’d been wanting. Of course, none of us imagined that the songs we were hearing on scratchy vinyl would someday live on a worldwide digital network - this was before ARPANET or email - or that vinyl itself would one day seem cool to hipsters. But we did know what the words "cool' and "hipster" meant, and for us, Dylan embodied them both - so it wouldn't have occurred to us that he'd still be touring and writing songs at age 75. (Not that an actuary would have imagined it either: life expectancy was only 70.) 

Still, what would have amazed us most was that the kid from Hibbing would be chosen for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Predicting that would have seemed a hippie (not hipster) joke, if any of us could have thought of it. Who knew that Dylan would so effectively "redefine the boundaries of literature"? And how could kids back then recognize that his art did have precedents, often in folk and popular music from blues to folk to country to gospel to Tin Pan Alley? In recent years, Dylan has detailed his debt to greats like Woody Guthrie, Robert Johnson, Charlie Patton, Jean Ritchie, and Hank Williams, and has done his part to tell us about their achievements. So I’ll pick a Dylan song centered on one of them: Blind Willie McTell, in the acoustic demo with Dylan at the piano and Mark Knopfler on a twelve-string guitar.



- Mark Simmet, Studio One host and producer


 One of my favorite Bob Dylan albums is the usually overlooked Street-Legal from 1978.  The band (including horns, violin and a three-person female background vocal section) provides just the right backing for Dylan’s grand, dramatic, mysterious lyrical imagery on this record.  Derided upon release for a terrible mix (finally corrected for all reissues since 1999), Street-Legal also came out during one of Dylan’s periodic lulls in the court of public opinion.

I’ll mention two songs- Lenny Bruce was originally on the last of Dylan’s so-called “Christian albums” in 1981.  The song is structured like a hymn, with Dylan at the piano and a small (and subtle) female “choir.”  At a deliberate pace, Dylan explains why this controversial ground-breaking stand-up comedian is something of an outlaw-saint for speaking truth to power, and describes his own (we assume factual) brief encounter with Lenny Bruce in the lyrics.

Also, I’m going to single out Love Minus Zero/No Limit, as perfect a song as Dylan has ever written.  Check out this priceless outtake from the film Don’t Look Back.  Dylan is in a 1965 London hotel room, confidently delivering his new song to a crew of poets, musicians and hipsters- including a very young Donovan.




- Tiffany Spinner, Major Gifts Officer:

Shelter from the Storm.  Best. Dylan. Ever.

Every time I hear it – I am 16 again and driving down gravel roads.  Brilliant.