7 Best Bob Dylan Songs, Ranked By Fans

Bob Dylan is one of the most influential musicians and songwriters of all time. With a career spanning over six decades, Dylan has released countless iconic songs that have left a lasting impact on music history. From his early folk ballads to his electric rock anthems, Dylan’s discography is a treasure trove of timeless classics that continue to resonate with listeners today. So much so that we at StudyFinds decided to delve into some of the best Bob Dylan songs of all time, exploring the stories behind the music and the enduring legacy of this legendary artist.

Born Robert Allen Zimmerman, Bob Dylan is widely regarded as the greatest songwriter of all time. Rising to fame in the 1960s with his self-titled debut album, Dylan quickly became known for his poetic lyrics and unique blend of folk, rock, and blues music. Today, he remains a legendary figure in the music industry, influencing generations of artists with his iconic sound and thought-provoking lyrics. Of course, some Dylan classics are just more iconic than others, which is exactly what we at StudyFinds decided to find out. Researching across 10 expert sources, we scanned through list after list to find you the top seven best Bob Dylan songs of all time! Don’t agree with our ranking or feel we missed out on a good suggestion? We would love to hear from you in the comments below. Now, onto the list!

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"The Essential Bob Dylan" album
“The Essential Bob Dylan” album (Photo by Stefano Chiacchiarini ’74 on Shutterstock)

The List: Best Bob Dylan Songs Fans Love

1. “Like a Rolling Stone” (1965)

The first song to take up residence on our list today is “Like a Rolling Stone.” Rolling Stone describes the song as cracking open “songwriting for a generation.” Its rebellious and revolutionary tone captured the essence of the 1960s counterculture movement perfectly and continues to be celebrated today. The song’s powerful message of questioning authority and breaking free from societal norms resonated with listeners then and continues to resonate with new generations of music fans.

YardBarker describes that music enthusiasts have long regarded “Like a Rolling Stone” as elevating Dylan from a folk rocker to a full-fledged “rock star.” The song’s iconic opening electric guitar riff and driving beat set the stage for Dylan’s impassioned vocals and scathing lyrics. “Like a Rolling Stone” remains a timeless classic that has inspired countless artists and continues to be a staple in Dylan’s live performances.

The Guardian adds that “Like a Rolling Stone” was a “boundary-breaking single” that changed the fabric of rock music forever. The revolutionary impact of “Like a Rolling Stone” can still be felt today, as it paved the way for artists to push boundaries and challenge the status quo in music. Dylan’s ability to capture the essence of a generation with this single solidifies its place as one of the greatest songs in rock history.

2. “Visions of Johanna” (1966)

The Dylan track “Visions of Johanna” is the next pick. As The Guardian notes, “Like a Rolling Stone” may have revolutionized music, but “Visions of Johanna” may just have the makings of being Dylan’s best song. The song’s intricate lyrics and haunting melody have captivated listeners for decades, with many interpreting the song as a reflection of lost love and longing. Dylan’s poetic storytelling in “Visions of Johanna” showcases his unparalleled songwriting talent and ability to evoke powerful emotions in his audience.

YardBarker explains that Dylan’s lyrics “flow beautifully” despite the “complexity of the composition.” “Visions of Johanna” is often hailed as a masterpiece in Dylan’s discography, with its enigmatic imagery and profound introspection leaving a lasting impact on those who listen. The song’s title character has become a symbol of unattainable beauty and desire, adding to the allure and mystique of the lyrics.

USA Today adds that Dylan’s song takes you on a “haunting, acoustic journey.” This journey is further enhanced by Dylan’s unique vocal delivery, which adds a raw and emotional depth to the already poignant lyrics. The intricate instrumentation and subtle nuances in his music only serve to amplify the impact of his storytelling, creating a truly immersive experience for all who listen. Dylan’s ability to create such a rich and multi-layered sonic landscape is a testament to his unparalleled talent and enduring legacy in the world of music.

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3. “Tangled Up in Blue” (1975)

The number three spot goes to “Tangled Up in Blue,” which is noted by YardBarker as an “undisputed highlight” of Dylan’s album, “Blood on the Tracks.” The song is praised for its complex storytelling and introspective lyrics, which delve into themes of love, loss, and personal reflection. Dylan’s distinctive vocal delivery and intricate guitar work add to the emotional depth of the track, making it a standout piece in his extensive discography.

Rolling Stone even adds that of all Dylan’s hits, “Tangled Up in Blue” stands to be “his most personal examination of hurt and nostalgia.” With its vivid imagery and poetic language, the song takes listeners on a journey through the highs and lows of relationships. The raw emotion and vulnerability in Dylan’s voice resonate with audiences, making “Tangled Up in Blue” a timeless classic that continues to captivate new generations of music lovers.

According to GQ, “Tangled Up in Blue” is “so ridiculously catchy” that the artistry of the composition itself sometimes gets lost. Despite its catchy melody, however, the depth of emotion and reflection in the lyrics is what truly sets “Tangled Up in Blue” apart. 

4. “Desolation Row” (1965)

Next up is 1965’s “Desolation Row.” Explained by The Guardian as being the product of Dylan’s gripe that his songs weren’t as “far out” as the most bizarre folk ballads, but with “Desolation Row,” he succeeded in reimagining the ballad genre entirely. The song features a surrealistic narrative populated by a cast of eccentric characters, including Cinderella, Einstein, and Casanova, in a nightmarish cityscape. Dylan’s lyrics are filled with vivid imagery and social commentary, creating a dark and haunting atmosphere that captivates listeners.

Described by YardBarker as clocking in at an astounding “11 minutes, 21 seconds,” “Desolation Row” stands as a masterpiece of storytelling and songwriting. The song’s intricate and poetic lyrics, combined with Dylan’s emotive vocal delivery, transport the listener to a world that is both familiar and unsettling. As the song builds in intensity and complexity, it becomes clear that “Desolation Row” is not just a ballad but a work of art that pushes the boundaries of the genre and solidifies Dylan’s reputation as a visionary musician.

GQ reports that this track was famously referred to as “Dylan’s equivalent of TS Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land'” by literary critic Christopher Ricks, and well, he’s not wrong. “Desolation Row” is a sprawling epic that delves deep into the human experience, touching on themes of isolation, disillusionment, and the search for meaning in a chaotic world. 

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 5. “The Times They Are A-Changin'” (1964)

The next track on today’s ranking is a powerful call to action, “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” “Written deliberately as an anthem to promote change,” says One37PM, this song has become synonymous with social movements and protests. Its lyrics are a rallying cry for those seeking to make a difference and stand up against injustice. The timeless message of the song still resonates today, inspiring people to continue fighting for a better world.

Described as “an inclusive ‘call-out’ song” by GQ, this hit encourages listeners to join together and work towards creating a more just and equitable society. Its powerful and poignant lyrics serve as a reminder that change is possible when people come together and demand it. In a world filled with uncertainty and unrest, this song remains a beacon of hope and a reminder that progress is only possible when individuals unite for a common cause.

Singers Room adds that with “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” Dylan encapsulates the hope and “urgency” of a generation ready for change. As we continue to navigate through tumultuous times, it is important to remember the message of unity and activism that this song conveys. The call for societal transformation is as relevant now as it was when Bob Dylan first released this timeless anthem.

6. “Mr. Tambourine Man” (1965)

“Mr. Tambourine Man” is the next song we will be breaking down today, a song that proves sometimes the “most popular songs” are also musically the best, according to One37PM. This iconic Bob Dylan track showcases his poetic lyricism and unique vocal delivery, creating a mesmerizing listening experience. The dreamy, psychedelic sound of the song perfectly captures the feeling of being lost in music and entranced by its beauty.

GQ describes Dylan as being at “full throttle” on “Mr. Tambourine Man” in terms of his wittiness. The intricate guitar work and ethereal harmonica solos further add to the song’s enchanting atmosphere, drawing listeners in and holding them spellbound until the final note fades away.

Singers Room reports that the instrumentation within this song has “an ethereal quality” to it, creating a dream-like quality that transports listeners to another world. The juxtaposition of Dylan’s raw vocals with the soft, melodic background melodies adds depth and complexity to the song, making it a truly immersive experience. It’s no wonder that “Mr. Tambourine Man” remains a timeless masterpiece that continues to resonate with music lovers of all ages. 

7. “Blowin’ in the Wind” (1962)

Last but certainly not least in terms of Dylan’s discography is “Blowin’ in the Wind.” Described by YardBarker as “the undisputed highlight” of “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” album, this iconic song has been covered by countless artists and remains a timeless anthem of the 1960s folk music movement. Its poignant lyrics and simple melody capture the essence of Dylan’s early career, showcasing his talent for writing socially conscious songs that resonate with listeners of all generations.

One37PM adds that at its heart, this song is “a protest anthem that asks questions about peace, war, and freedom.” “Blowin’ in the Wind” has become a symbol of the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s, with its message of hope and change still relevant today. The song’s universal themes of justice, equality, and peace make it a timeless classic that will forever be associated with Dylan’s legacy as a legendary singer-songwriter.

Far Out simply states “Blowin’ in the Wind” as being one of Dylan’s “timeless masterpieces,” and nothing could be truer. Dylan’s ability to capture the essence of the era’s social and political turmoil in just a few verses is truly remarkable. The power of his lyrics combined with his soulful delivery resonates with listeners of all ages, making “Blowin’ in the Wind” not just a song but a powerful statement that continues to inspire change and unity. Dylan’s music will always be a beacon of hope and a call to action for those who believe in a better tomorrow.

Sources:

Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. This article may contain affiliate links in which we receive a commission if you make a purchase.


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About the Author

Jilly Hite

Janelle is a freelance writer from New York. Her writing focuses on parenting, tech, business, interior design, education, and telling people’s inspiring stories. Janelle has written for Mustela and Newton Baby and has bylines in Pregnant Chicken, Syracuse Woman Magazine, the Baldwinsville Messenger, and Family Times Magazine. She holds a master’s degree in literacy from the State University of New York at Oswego.

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Comments

    1. It’s alright MA, I’m only bleeding belongs there. One of the most powerful, intense songs ever written by anyone.

      1. Totally agree. Not the most catchy tune, but melody is not what makes Dylan great. As poetry, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) hold its own against *any* poem, in any language, from any period in history.

  1. Huh, I never noticed the “song’s iconic opening electric guitar riff” underneath Al Kooper’s B2 organ. I’ll have to listen to it again to see what I’ve been missing!

    1. Positively 4th Street definitely belongs on any list of Bob’s greatest songs. I remember when it came out, it was even played on the radio quite a bit. Whenever it came on, I stopped whatever I was doing (except driving) and listened to it.

  2. Lay lady lay / knocking on heavens door/ Mozambique (tambourine man is great by the “Birds” ) never been crazy about like a rolling stone !! 🤠

  3. So many more man like pledging my time also leopard skin pillbox hat and idiot wind also sooner or later one of us must know and let’s not forget about hurricane my list goes on and on I’ve been a freak of Dylan since 1963 and still Rock his music today loud as possible

  4. Bout right. But could add Girl From Red River Valley to go along with Mr. Tambourine Man. And Idiot Wind.

  5. Gotta have “I Shall Be Released ” on this list. I could skip the Rolling Stone song…

  6. Agree with many of your choices

    However, I’d like to add “The Ballad of Emmett Till”. One of Bobby’s earliest songs, rarely heard, but poignantly singing the story of one of countless heinous murders of a young Black boy-man by racist white men (Young Emmett was visiting Mississippi one summer from Chicago). The death of Emmett Till had a chilling impact on countless Black children/teenagers in the South and throughout the nation—& some white children too—for decades to come. Bob Dylan is the only singer/poet to write & sing about Emmett Till. I dedicate this suggestion to Dorie Ladner —a SNCC activist from Hattiesburg MS, & a close companion of Bobby back in the 60’s. Dorie became an Ancestor March 11, 24 in Washington DC, where (among other things) she persuaded many local Dj’s to play another one of her favorites (&
    mine too) “MASTERS OF WAR”

  7. Can’t argue with the list, but I’d replace Times and Blowin’ with A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall and Not Dark Yet.

  8. Kevin Kelly
    My list would include Positively 4th Street and Boots of Spanish Leather but there are so many other noteworthy songs

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