One of my very favorite pastimes is making top five/ten/whatever lists. With Kyle, while out at the bar with friends, in my own head while browsing the internet. I love reading other people's lists of favorites, and I love making them on my own. Broad lists, highly specific lists — it doesn't matter. I love learning about why others love the things that they do.
I'm also kind of an extremist. I love a lot of things, and when I find something new that I love, I feel this need to consume all of it, in its entirety, every waking moment, to know absolutely everything I can about it until I burn through it. Finally, I'll sort of plateau and just start liking it a normal, sane, non-obsessive amount. I've done this with pretty much everything I've ever loved that isn't another human being, and as a result, I've loved a whole lot of things. This is also why I never got any work done in college.
So making lists of favorite things and figuring out what I love most about the stuff I love has always been a source of entertainment/distraction. Perfect for a procrastinator like me :)
Which is all just to say that I'm launching a new series called "Top Five." I'll be picking a topic or category and then run through my very favorites within that. It's a fun way to be able to talk about stuff I love, and hear about stuff you love too!
My first top five, starting now, consists of my top five Bob Dylan songs, ever. He is, I believe, the greatest songwriter of all time, and his music has shaped me like no other. He's a master of poetry, of melody, of turning a phrase, of creating a feeling through music that punches you in the gut. He was never the best singer, but he's much better than most give him credit for, and he's been a major influence on my life. His music was also the soundtrack of the beginning of my relationship with Kyle, and continues to be to this day. I love Bob Dylan. And I love lists. This one was a no-brainer to start with.
#5: Buckets of Rain
(album: Blood On The Tracks. 1975.)
I like your smile
And your fingertips
I like the way that you move your hips
I like the cool way you look at me
Everything about you is bringing me
About unrequited love, or unspoken love, or maybe the ending of a love story. It hit me hard when I first heard it in 2007 and Kyle and I used to sing it to each other on the rooftop of an outdoor amphitheatre in Korea, long before we ever admitted that we loved one another. It's the perfect little love song. Not too happy. I never like the ones that are.
#4: With God On Our Side
(album: The Times They Are A-Changin'. 1964.)
Oh my name it is nothin'
My age it means less
The country I come from
Is called the Midwest
I's taught and brought up there
The laws to abide
And the land that I live in
Has God on its side.
If I was doing a Top Ten Dylan list, the other five might just be rounded out with mostly protest songs. There's such a sincerity and authenticy to them, which is interesting, considering how incredibly young he was when he wrote most of them. Blowin' in the Wind was the first song that I remember hearing as a fairly young kid, that hit me on a really emotional level. It opened my eyes to this whole world of music as this beautiful, emotional thing. It makes you feel something when you hear it. He did socially conscious songs better than anyone, and With God On Our Side is my favorite of the bunch.
#3: I Was Young When I Left Home
(album: The Bootleg Series No. 7. Recorded in 1961)
If you miss the train I'm on
Count the days I'm gone
You will hear that whistle blow a hundred miles
A hundred miles, honey baby
Lord Lord Lord
And you'll hear that whistle blow a hundred miles
This song just kills me every time I hear it. I think it's one of the most emotionally astute songs ever written about what it's like to be young. To so desperately want freedom but also feel the need to actually make something of that freedom instead of just letting it cast you adrift. It's heartbreaking, hauntingly beautiful and, as with all Dylan songs, incredibly hopeful.
#2: Boots of Spanish Leather
(album: Times They Are A-Changin'. 1964.)
So take heed, take heed of the western wind
Take heed of the stormy weather
And yes, there's something you can send back to me
Spanish boots of Spanish leather.
About a love story falling apart. One person goes one way, the other person stays behind. Tremendously sad. Tremendously beautiful. It's written to the same melody as Dylan's Girl From The North Country, which may also easily make my top ten list. Both are perfection, but Boots of Spanish Leather has the slight edge for me. It's just so lovely, you guys.
#1: Don't Think Twice, It's All Right
(album: The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. 1963.)
So long honey, babe
Where I'm bound, I can't tell
Goodbye's too good a word, babe
So I'll just say fare thee well
I ain't saying you treated me unkind
You could have done better but I don't mind
You just kinda wasted my precious time
But don't think twice, it's all right.
Oh, this song. It's the song that first made me want to play guitar. Made me want to travel the world and maybe never come back. Made me want to always try to avoid the ordinary. It's one of my favorite songs of all time, and certainly one of the prettiest things I've ever heard. It's about a relationship ending and is this mixture of resentment and acceptance and hopefulness. Holy crap, it's just so great.
Are you a Dylan fan? Feel free to leave your own top five list in the comments, or even just a favorite song! Is there another artist whose songs hit you in the gut like Bob Dylan's hit me? I'd love to get your recommendations. New music is always something I'm looking to find.