My choices for the Quintessential ‘It’s Alright Ma’ Dylan Playlist

dylan_pic_6The other day I got a message from a friend and former professor of mine from our Malone days, John David Geib, who is in the middle of facilitating a class on all-things Dylan. He’s calling the class, “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m only Bleeding) Deconstructing The Song That Deconstructs Heads from The 60’s till Now” or something to that effect.  Anyways, back in college him and I would talk about Dylan and the possibility of having a class on his stuff someday and hearing the news that he is actually doing it made me happy (though I will confess a little jealousy too). I had similar visions of grandiose (or should I say Johanna) when I was at Fuller. Ryan Bolger and I often semi-joked around about doing a class on the “The theology of Bob Dylan.” Anyways, these are all still dreams and with my PhD studies relegated to the part-time moments when I can steal away from other responsibilities (and social interactions online) it feels far off.

In the meantime, I’m digging through a pile of bootlegs I happened upon from a fellow Dylan fan and compiling “Quintessential” lists of Dylan songs I wouldn’t be the same without; I was also asked by the owner of our local Camas Coffee shop, Cafe Piccolo Paradiso, to come up with a playlist for the cafe I found myself at multiple times a week now. Creating a playlist for our Camas coffeeshop is a win win situation for me, she gets great Dylan tunes, and I get to listen to it while I do work and drink a latte!

So anyways, when John Geib bragged about his Dylanology class, I thought I’d set him the task of compiling, in his opinion, the 12 most important Dylan songs, or what we’re calling the Quintessential “It’s alright Ma” Dylan Playlist (It’s Alright Ma is Geib’s favorite song).

I decided if I was going to ask such a hard task of him, I should be willing to make my own, so here it is (it is subject to change of course!).

  • Love minus Zero/No Limit
  • Girl from the North Country
  • To Romona
  • Boots of Spanish Leather
  • I Shall Be Released
  • Kingsport Town
  • It’s Alright Ma, I’m only Bleeding
  • My Back Pages
  • Lovesick (Live Version)
  • Black Cross (Audio available here)
  • Gotta Serve Somebody
  • Masters of War
  • Bonus track: One More Cup of Coffee
  • Bonus track: All Along the Watchtower
  • Bonus track: Ballad in Plain D

Listen to the playlist on Spotify and view all the lyrics to these songs here.

What’s your twelve? (Okay, you can also have a bonus track).

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13 responses to “My choices for the Quintessential ‘It’s Alright Ma’ Dylan Playlist”

  1. This is John David Geib's list:

    OK, that was the assignment, and on October 19, 2009 I did it, but I reserve the right on 10.20 and hereafter to be as mercurial as Dylan himself and adopt another posture as I "change."

    Song to Woody
    Blowing in The Wind (only his original version, not covers)
    A Hard Rain's a gonna fall
    With God on our Side
    It's alright Ma, I'm only bleedin
    Like a Rolling Stone
    Forever Young
    Just like a Woman (live version only, done at Concert for Bangledesh)
    Oh Sister
    Tangled up in Blue
    Pressing On
    When He Returns
    Bonus track: To Ramona


    • Good choice Nate, that is such a great album. When I was compiling my list I remembered you playing masters of war and all along the watchtower our freshmen year.

  2. Great choices Wess!

    These are my choices:

    Subterranean Homesick Blues
    Ballad of Hollis Brown
    It's Alright Ma
    Visions of Johanna
    Shooting Star
    Tangled Up In Blue
    Ring Them Bells
    Workingman's Blues #2
    Like A Rolling Stone

    [I forgot all about 'Love Minus Zero' … shoot! ;o)]

    And these were my Dad's choices:

    Blowin' In The Wind
    Masters Of War
    Don't Think Twice, It's All Right
    The Times They Are A-Changin'
    Boots Of Spanish Leather
    All Along The Watchtower
    Girl From The North Country
    Knockin' On Heaven's Door
    Every Grain Of Sand
    Summer Days
    Blind Willie McTell

    Some good overlaps with your choices!

    Great selections too John and Nate!

    Peace & Light from Si ;o)]

    • Simon, thanks again and tell your dad thanks too. Great stuff here. One thing I noticed about your list Simon is that it's mostly newer Dylan. Any reason for that?

  3. As a Minnesotan, I take pride in Dylan's early work. I think it was growing up on the Iron Range that led Dylan to become a listener first, a songwriter second; which, in my estimation, set him up for the mercurial (thanks for the word John!) career he sustained. Why? Because there's nothing to do on the Iron Range except listen to music. Not only is there nothing to do on the Iron Range, but all that the imagination could implore one to do in the great outdoors is stifled by our mind/body numbing winters. Thus, my list is rather early-years heavy (and subject to change as well…(I get a kick out of how no one wants to commit fully to their list!))

    PS. I grew up on Highway 61. I regularly revisit it!

    To Ramona

    Tomorrow is a Long Time

    Girl From the North Country

    Only a Pawn in their Game

    Sign on the Window

    Ballad in Plain D

    Visions of Johanna

    Oxford Town

    The Man In Me


  4. As the Dylan boot-provider I'll jot down the first 12 that come to mind (though I have to say I tend to have greater fondness these days for Dylan's shaggy dogs than the ones that will, admittedly, stand the test of time). After the first one, no particular oder :

    1. Visions of Johanna (live 1966 version from Biograph that I embarrassingly don't know the show it's from)
    2. Idiot Wind
    3. Moonshiner
    4. You Ain't Goin' Nowhere
    5. Blind Willie McTell
    6. Changing of the Guards
    7. I Threw It All Away
    8. Never Say Goodbye
    9. Abandoned Love
    10. Ballad of a Thin Man ("Royal Albert Hall" version)
    11. I'm Not There (1956)
    12. It's Alright Ma (Before the Flood version)

  5. Coming to this late, but here's my 12. No particular order.

    1. Shelter From the Storm
    2. Like a Rolling Stone
    3. Not Dark Yet
    4. A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall
    5. The Times They Are A-Changin'
    6. Masters of War
    7. Saved
    8. Bye & Bye
    9. Boots of Spanish Leather
    10. With God On Our Side
    11. Idiot Wind
    12. Desolation Row