This song records a critical transformation in Bob Dylan's life and art.
Up until his fourth album Another Side of Bob Dylan
, his music had been lumped cleanly in with the progressive intelligentsia, heavily politicized, with many songs used as anthems for various movements. Though Dylan chose to cut that relationship off and claim he'd never been a political artist, those intellectuals can't really be blamed for their assumptions. Dylan's early songs were clearly about topics politically relevant to the day: American military aggression, racism, sexism, poverty, and paranoia of Communism. Some critics have gone so far as to accuse him of using the scene to launch his career and then abandoning it as soon as he could fly on his own.
Around the time of this album, Dylan started making it very clear that he didn't see himself as part of any political movement, and claimed his songs were never meant to be political. They were about deeper, or at least more ancient things, than the ebb and flow of politics. Or sometimes maybe they were about nothing at all. Either way, Dylan started seriously resisting the efforts to pigeonhole him.
At least two other songs on Another Side of Bob Dylan
delve into the same topic: "I Shall Be Free No. 10" and "To Ramona." "My Back Pages," though, is really the culmination of Dylan's break. It's the song that's best remembered from the album and is usually considered one of the two best off of it, with the other being Chimes of Freedom