This became an anthem for frustrated youth. It summed up the anti-establishment feelings of people who would later be known as hippies. Many of the lyrics are based on the Civil Rights movement in the US.
In the liner notes of this album Biograph, Dylan wrote: "I wanted to write a big song, some kind of theme song, with short, concise verses that piled up on each other in a hypnotic way. This is definitely a song with a purpose. I knew exactly what I wanted to say and who I wanted to say it to." (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
Dylan recorded this song in October, 1963. He first performed the song at a Carnegie Hall concert on October 26 that year, using it as his opening number.
On November 22, 1963, United States president John F. Kennedy was assassinated, which made this song even more poignant. This also presented a quandary for Dylan, who had to decide if he would keep playing the song; he found it odd when audiences would erupt in applause after hearing it, and wondered exactly what they were clapping for.
Dylan kept the song in his sets. It was issued on the album of the same name on January 13, 1964.
Dylan covered the Carter Family Song "Wayworn Traveler," writing his own words to the melody and named it "Paths Of Victory". This recording is featured on "Bootleg Series Vol. 1-3". After writing that song, he re-wrote the words again, changed the time signature to 3/4, and created this, one of his most famous songs ever.
This was released as a single in England in 1965 before Dylan went there to tour. When this hit in England, Dylan's second album, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, went to #1 on the UK charts. It was the first time in two years that an album by a group other that The Beatles or Rolling Stones was #1.
Dylan allowed this to be used in commercials for accounting firm Coopers and Lybrand in the '90s. In 1996, he also licensed it for commercial use by the Bank of Montreal. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
Handwritten lyrics to four verses of this song jotted on a scrap of paper by Dylan were sold for $422,500 at a December 10, 2010 sale. Hedge fund manager and contemporary art collector Adam Sender placed the winning bid by phone to Sothebys in New York.
This song appears on the official soundtrack of the 2009 movie Watchmen
. A cover of Dylan's "Desolation Row
" by My Chemical Romance also appears on the soundtrack. (thanks, Kleber - São Paulo, Brazil)