The 80 Greatest Bob Dylan Songs (in Honor of His 80th Birthday)

Below is a list of my 80 favorite Bob Dylan songs in honor of his 80th birthday later this month. I started compiling this list a year ago and have been continually revising it – as well as the thumbnail reviews accompanying it – ever since. During this process, many songs were on the list at one point, only to fall off and be replaced by other songs that I realized, in my heart of hearts, I loved more. This is not an attempt to be objective or acknowledge Dylan’s most important songs (there are plenty of other lists like that already). This is simply a list of what I consider to be the greatest Dylan songs based on my own personal point-of-view as a Dylan fan of 30+ years. I’ve also created a Spotify playlist that functions as a countdown of the top 80, which you can stream here. Enjoy!

80. Death is Not the End (Down in the Groove, 1988)
Probably best known for Nick Cave’s cover version, this is a gospel song with a sweet melody, a killer sense of humor and backing vocals by Brooklyn hip-hop collective Full Force.

79. Song to Woody (Bob Dylan, 1962)
Dylan’s tribute to his most important formative influence also announced his arrival as a songwriter.

78. What Can I Do For You? (Saved, 1980)
The harmonica solo on this, one of Dylan’s greatest, has a pleading quality that captures the song’s devotional message as well as the lyrics do.

77. Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues (Highway 61 Revisited, 1965)
I’ve always loved the counterpoint between the warmth of Paul Griffin’s barroom-piano playing and the feeling of dislocation imparted by the lyrics.

76. Long and Wasted Years (Tempest, 2012)
A Rolling Stone critic astutely compared this to Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman in that it features a narrator who no longer has anything, looking back on a lifetime of regret.

75. Sign on the Window (New Morning, 1970)
Probably the most obscure song on this list, this is Dylan’s most sublime ode to domestic tranquility.

74. Dignity (recorded during the Oh Mercy sessions in 1989, released on Greatest Hits Vol. 3, 1994)
Who but Dylan would write a song taking “dignity” as its subject, not to mention personifying that quality as a character in a detective story?

73. Lay, Lady, Lady (Nashville Skyline, 1969)
Dylan’s sexiest song ever, sung in his “country crooner” voice.

72. Dark Eyes (Empire Burlesque, 1985)
A solo acoustic ballad with highly poetic lyrics, purportedly inspired by Dylan looking into the eyes of a prostitute in a hotel lobby, this stands out like a diamond in a coal mine on the otherwise overproduced Empire Burlesque.

71. Lenny Bruce (Shot of Love, 1981)
A surprising, deeply moving piano-driven tribute to the late comedian.

70. Forgetful Heart (Together Through Life, 2009)
Like a dark sequel to 1981’s “Heart of Mine,” Dylan addresses his heart as if it had a mind of its own.

69. Blowin’ in the Wind (The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, 1963)
Dylan’s most covered song ever, and arguably his most important, this was the “big bang” of the notion that folk music would serve as the soundtrack to the Civil Rights movement.

68. I and I (Infidels, 1983)  
This ominous sounding, reggae-tinged blues song nods to Rastafarianism as well as Dylan’s lifelong obsession with Rimbaud’s phrase “Je est un autre.”

67. The Man in Me (New Morning, 1970)
Best known as the main-title theme of The Big Lebowski, this is one of the catchiest creations in the whole Dylan songbook.

66. I Shall Be Released (recorded in 1967 during the Basement Tapes sessions, released on Biograph, 1985)
This gospel-influenced song about a prisoner (perhaps literal, perhaps figurative) yearning for redemption is one of the highlights of the Basement Tapes sessions.

65. Forever Young (Planet Waves, 1974)
Dylan wrote this prayer-like song for one of his children and it deservedly became an instant wedding/graduation/birthday-party staple.

64. Summer Days (“Love and Theft”, 2001)
Next to his 2009 cover of “Must Be Santa,” this is probably the fastest song Dylan ever recorded (as well as one of the most fun).

63. The Times They Are a-Changin’ (The Times They Are a-Changin’, 1964)
The ultimate protest anthem, cutting but never preachy, this sounds as relevant today as it did upon its release 57 years ago.

62. One More Cup of Coffee (Desire, 1976)
Allen Ginsberg aptly described Dylan’s singing here as “Hebraic cantillation.”

61. Simple Twist of Fate (Blood on the Tracks, 1975)
This sad story-song about a relationship fated not to work out is the broken heart of Blood on the Tracks.

60. Ring Them Bells (Oh Mercy, 1989)
An indelible, descending piano chord progression combines with lyrics that plead for compassion for the less fortunate of this world.

59. The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll (The Times They Are a-Changin’, 1964)
Dylan used a newspaper article about a real-life murder to form the basis of this haunting masterpiece about a tragic miscarriage of justice.

58. I’ve Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You (Rough and Rowdy Ways, 2020) 
This beautiful recent song can be interpreted as addressing a lover, a higher power, or Dylan’s own fanbase.

57. Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again (Blonde on Blonde, 1966)
I always felt that the groovy organ playing and snappy drumming on this rollicking number were exactly what Dylan had in mind when he described Blonde on Blonde as featuring “that thin, wild mercury sound.”

56. Born in Time (Under the Red Sky, 1990)
Dylan’s most mystical love song.

55. When He Returns (Slow Train Coming, 1979)
Jean-Luc Godard has used this song in three different movies in three different decades.

54. Tears of Rage (recorded in 1967, released on The Basement Tapes, 1975)
One of Dylan’s most multitudinous lyrics — it manages to contain the Bible, King Lear and the Declaration of Independence — set to a gorgeous melody by The Band’s Richard Manuel.

53. Every Grain of Sand (Shot of Love, 1981)
The highlight of Dylan’s entire gospel period, the Blakean lyrics are best served by the minimalist acoustic-guitar-and-piano-arrangement of the demo version included on The Bootleg Series Vol. 3.

52. Things Have Changed (single, 2000)
The song that inaugurated Dylan’s great late period (which saw him bring his Never Ending Tour band into the studio for the first time and serve as his own producer), this Oscar-winning acoustic rocker is also quite danceable.

51. Sara (Desire, 1976)
One of Dylan’s most nakedly autobiographical songs, in which he looks back on a family vacation from the vantage point of estrangement from his first wife, I sometimes find this too painful to listen to.

50. Girl from the North Country (The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, 1963)
A simple, perfect love song.

49. I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine (John Wesley Harding, 1967)
My favorite cut from John Wesley Harding, which I’ve always loved for the sparseness of the arrangement (just one acoustic guitar, bass and drums) and the dreamy, parable-like quality of the lyrics.

48. If You See Her, Say Hello (Blood on the Tracks, 1975)
Another devastating song: “She might think that I’ve forgotten her / Don’t tell her it isn’t so.”

47. It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) (Bringing It All Back Home, 1965)
Some lamented that Dylan had abandoned “protest music” after 1964’s The Times They Are A-Changin’ but a track like this, featuring an astonishing, seemingly never-ending torrent of words, proved that he had merely broadened his concerns in order to protest the insanity of living in the modern world.

46. Pay in Blood (Tempest, 2012)
This Rolling Stones-esque rocker is as musically infectious as it is lyrically vicious.

45. Where Are You Tonight? (Journey Through Dark Heat) (Street-Legal, 1978)
The most underrated song on Dylan’s most underrated album (which, more than Blood on the Tracks, is his real “divorce album”), this desperate-sounding track is pop music at the end of its tether.

44. Tomorrow is a Long Time (live recording from 1963, released on Greatest Hits Vol. 2, 1971)
Dylan justifiably cited Elvis Presley’s version of this as his favorite cover of any of his own songs.

43. Tryin’ to Get to Heaven (Time Out of Mind, 1997)
A moving song about rambling through the world, this features two fantastic “electric” harmonica breaks in which the sound of Dylan’s harp was driven through a distortion box.

42. Shelter from the Storm (Blood on the Tracks, 1975)
I’m obsessed with the hard-rocking live 1976 version of this song about seeking refuge in the arms of another person, featuring one of Dylan’s most impassioned vocals and his sick, but rarely displayed, slide-guitar playing.

41. Chimes of Freedom (Another Side of Bob Dylan, 1964)
A lyrical tour de force about looking at a thunderstorm and imagining that the lighting is somehow flashing in solidarity with everyone who has ever felt downtrodden or dispossessed.

40. High Water (For Charley Patton) (“Love and Theft”, 2001)
A tribute to one of the great Delta bluesman that is, perhaps perversely, not a blues itself but rather a banjo-driven folk song full of memorable apocalyptic imagery.

39. Senor (Tales of Yankee Power) (Street-Legal, 1978)
The most famous song on Street-Legal, and the one Dylan has played live the most often, this minor-key ballad is dark, brooding and awesome.

38. Boots of Spanish Leather (The Times They Are a-Changin’, 1964)
Not many songwriters have even attempted to write an epistolary song but this is one of the greatest examples of the genre.

37. Abandoned Love (recorded during the Desire sessions in 1975, released on Biograph in 1985)
Left off the album for which it was recorded and shelved for a decade, this violin-driven love song would’ve been the crowning achievement of anyone else’s career.

36. Positively 4th Street (single, 1965)
Dylan’s ultimate “fuck you” song, this catchy 1965 single convinced Joni Mitchell that lyrics could be literature and that she could become a professional singer/songwriter herself.

35. Most of the Time (Oh Mercy, 1989)
The rhetorical genius of this song is that, by relentlessly repeating how content he feels the majority of the time, the narrator makes the listener acutely aware of how heartbroken he secretly is by what he doesn’t say (i.e., describing how he feels the rest of the time).

34. Nettie Moore (Modern Times, 2006)
So memorable for the vocal melody, which sees Dylan’s voice rise and fall with every line in the verses, and a sparse musical arrangement highlighted by George Receli’s metronomic, heartbeat-like drumming.

33. Lay Down Your Weary Tune (recorded 1963, released on Biograph, 1985)
An incredible early song about communing with nature and hearing “music” in the sounds of the natural world.

32. Highlands (Time Out of Mind, 1997)
Dylan’s second longest song ever sees him talk-singing over a blues riff: he laments his vanished youth, gives shout-outs to Neil Young and Erica Jong and, for one uproariously funny verse, has a sexy and tense flirtation with a waitress in a Boston restaurant.

31. Caribbean Wind (recorded during the Shot of Love Sessions in 1981, released on Biograph, 1985)
Dylan spent a lot of time in the Caribbean in the early 1980s, which inspired some great wordy songs, and this galloping number, with delightful “wind” sounds provided by the female backup singers, is one of the best.

30. It Ain’t Me, Babe (Another Side of Bob Dylan, 1964)
An exquisite anti-love song and a farewell to the purists in the folk-revival movement all rolled up in one.

29. Black Diamond Bay (Desire, 1976)
One of the best of the long story-songs on Desire, unforgettable for its crazy “wrap-around rhymes” (“veranda…and a”) and a surprise ending that shifts from the third to the first person.

28. Mother of Muses (Rough and Rowdy Ways, 2020)
Perhaps inspired by the engraving on the back of his Nobel Prize for Literature medal, Dylan explicitly invokes his muse on this lyrically majestic, melodically intricate and tenderly sung song.

27. Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right (The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, 1963)
The delicacy of Dylan’s finger-picking and his emotional singing reveal an affection for the object of this song that is missing from the spiteful lyric.

26. Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, 1973)
Three simple chords and Dylan’s most unforgettable sing-along chorus have made this so famous that a lot of folks don’t even know that he wrote it.

25. Standing in the Doorway (Time Out of Mind, 1997)
The most potent song about heartache on an album chock-full of songs about heartache.

24. I Want You (Blonde on Blonde, 1966)
Everyone should hear this ecstatic love song and feel like it describes how they’ve felt about another human being at least once in their lives.

23. Man in the Long Black Coat (Oh Mercy, 1989)
Almost indescribably spooky and divine, like a Nathaniel Hawthorne short story set to music.

22. Workingman’s Blues #2 (Modern Times, 2006)
The way Dylan’s vocal melody confidently rolls and flows over the chords from Pachelbel’s Canon – as he poignantly pays tribute to the working class – rarely fails to bring a tear to my eye.

21. Red River Shore (recorded during the Time Out of Mind sessions in 1997, released on Tell-Tale Signs, 2008)
Jesus Christ, Bob: “Some of us turn off the lights and we laugh in the moonlight shooting by /
Some of us scare ourselves to death in the dark to be where the angels fly.”


20. Jokerman (Infidels, 1983)
I was a child when this came out and, although I didn’t first hear it until later, its provocative mixture of socio-political commentary and biblical imagery conjures up the early 1980s for me like no other song.

19. A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall (The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, 1963)
If “Blowin’ in the Wind” proved popular songs could address social issues and “Don’t Think Twice” gave birth to the singer/songwriter “confessional” genre, “Hard Rain” showed it was possible to write epic songs influenced by serious literature (in this case, Romantic, French Symbolist and Beat poetry).

18. Hurricane (Desire, 1976)
Thank God Dylan had to re-cut this with altered lyrics in order to avoid being sued for libel — the version that ended up on Desire, with its faster tempo (and Ronee Blakley’s valiant attempts to sing along on the chorus), is the definitive version of this supremely cinematic song.

17. Mr. Tambourine Man (Bringing It All Back Home, 1965)
Incomparably lovely for Bruce Langhorne’s subtle electric guitar playing and some of Dylan’s finest ever lyrics (the “Take me disappearing through the smoke rings of my mind” verse, in particular, is solid gold).

16. Mississippi (“Love and Theft”, 2001)
If the musical genre known as “Americana” didn’t exist, it could be recreated entirely by using only this song as a seed.

15. Changing of the Guards (Street-Legal, 1978)
Mixing imagery drawn from Tarot cards and the life of Joan of Arc, this wild song features a wailing saxophone and call-and-response vocals with a female chorus that will get your adrenaline pumping like nothing else Dylan has done.

14. Series of Dreams (recorded during the Oh Mercy sessions in 1989, released on The Bootleg Series Vol. 1-3, 1991)
The best song anyone ever wrote about dreaming, the feeling of which is accurately conveyed through the surreal lyrics and the elaborate, wall-of-sound production.

13. Desolation Row (Highway 61 Revisited, 1965)
One of Dylan’s most ambitious works, the 11-minute-plus opus that closes Highway 61 Revisited weaves together a large cast of characters (from history, the Bible, literature, etc.) into a chugging, panoramic epic that single-handedly expanded the artistic possibilities of popular song.

12. Blind Willie McTell (recorded during the Infidels sessions in 1983, released on The Bootleg Series Vol. 1-3, 1991)
Dylan’s soulful piano playing, Mark Knopfler’s nimble fretwork, a melody inspired by “St. James Infirmary Blues” and lyrics that address the ghosts of slavery and the cathartic power of the blues are the ingredients of this timeless masterpiece.

11. Tangled Up in Blue (Blood on the Tracks, 1975)
The principles of Cubist painting applied to narrative songwriting — where the story of a man and woman splitting up (and perhaps reconnecting) in the wake of the death of the ’60s counterculture — is told alternately in the third and first person, and is somehow more effective because of it.

10. Murder Most Foul (Rough and Rowdy Ways, 2020)
Dylan’s longest song is also his largest song. It’s less about the assassination of JFK than it is about the healing power of art in a time of collective trauma (you know, like the COVID-19 pandemic). It’s his grandest poetic statement, the centerpiece of his most unified album, the Damascus to which all of the other songs on Rough and Rowdy Ways lead. To give oneself over to it for the entirety of its 17 minutes is to become hypnotized and feel time flowing forwards and backwards simultaneously. There’s nothing else like it in the history of recorded music — by Dylan or anyone else.

9. Like a Rolling Stone (Highway 61 Revisited, 1965)
The greatest rock and roll song of all time, or “La Bamba” for intellectuals.

8. Tempest (Tempest, 2012)
This isn’t a song about the sinking of the Titanic. It’s a song about someone dreaming about the sinking of the Titanic, an ingenious conceit that unmoors Dylan’s long narrative song from historical reality and allows him to fill it up with crazy, Hieronymous Bosch-like visions. There is incredible variety and expressiveness in his singing, and the delightful Celtic melody always makes me want to sway a mug of beer to and fro and try to sing along.

7. Not Dark Yet (Time Out of Mind, 1997)
The lofty peak of Time Out of Mind, released after Dylan had contracted a near-fatal fungal heart infection, which colored its reception forever after. As the great literary scholar Christopher Ricks points out, this poignant and beautiful song features a narrator, like John Keats in “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” who is “half in love with easeful Death.”

6. Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands (Blonde on Blonde, 1966)
Tom Waits said this song made him think of “a drifter around a fire with a tin cup under a bridge remembering a woman’s hair.” And I think I know what he means.

5. Ain’t Talkin’ (Modern Times, 2006)
Dylan’s darkest ever song, in which a first-person narrator wanders a post-apocalyptic landscape that has seemingly been abandoned by God (“The gardener is gone”). The popular-song equivalent of an Ingmar Bergman film.

4. Brownsville Girl (Knocked Out Loaded, 1987)
Buried on Dylan’s worst ever album, Knocked Out Loaded, is one of his finest ever songs. Co-written with Sam Shepard, this is a widescreen western epic that is funny as shit (note how the backup singers continually undercut the narrator’s pomposity) while also being, somehow, inexplicably moving. My favorite line: “I didn’t know whether to duck or to run, so I ran.”

3. Visions of Johanna (Blonde on Blonde, 1966)
Ever wonder what it must have felt like to be stoned in a cold Greenwich Village loft circa the mid-1960s? This song will transport you. Dylan’s lyrical genius reaches its apex with the “Inside the museums” verse.

2. Idiot Wind (Blood on the Tracks, 1975)
Often described as an epic “breakup song,” I’ve always felt “Idiot Wind” was much more than that. I suspect that Dylan was thinking of his hero Woody Guthrie, for instance, in the “Down the highway” verse. In any case, the pronoun change in the final chorus (from “I” to “We”) shows an impressive humility that tempers the righteous anger on display elsewhere in the song.

1. Key West (Philosopher Pirate) (Rough and Rowdy Ways, 2020)
Dylan’s very own “Over the Rainbow,” a song about which I already wrote a mini-essay here. What else can I say? This is the final song on my deathbed playlist, the one I hope to be listening to at the exact moment my soul leaves my body.

About michaelgloversmith

Filmmaker, author and Film Studies instructor. View all posts by michaelgloversmith

47 responses to “The 80 Greatest Bob Dylan Songs (in Honor of His 80th Birthday)

  • JH

    Wow! Fantastic. No Big Girl Now? Dylan is as good as it gets.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  • John Charet

    Great post about a lot of Bob Dylan’s best work 🙂 One of these days I have to do a list of my favorite songs from him 🙂 I am so glad that you remembered to put his song Knockin On Heaven’s Door on his list 🙂 A great song from one of Sam Peckinpah’s many great films – 1973’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid 🙂 On an unrelated note, did you read that complimentary reply I gave to your recent post on Alfred Hitchcock films regarding that zoom video lecture? 🙂 Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

  • Walter Buydens

    Great to see that you started with “Death is not the End” and ended with “Key West” May I suggest that it would be great to have both played on the deathbed. But don’t wait that long to enjoy playing one after the other.

    The ones i missed are “How Good Am I”, “In the Garden” , Too much of Nothing”, “Angelina” and quite a few others.
    And I believe you rated “Tempest” a bit too high. But tastes are individual and you show to have a great connection to Bob’s art.

    Also, yours is way a better list than most I have seen of late. I like it particularly because “Red River Shore “ is high up there, with the recent “Mother of Muses” and that you adore the bootleg version of “Every Grain of Sand”.

    Thanks for sharing,

    Walter, enjoying Bob’s art for almost 50 years.

  • jamiereeve2014

    Great list. You’ve perhaps included a couple of cover versions by mistake in the playlist eg Nina Simone’s Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues (great version though)? Thanks for putting it together.

  • Le bossu de Notre-Dame

    For me, 3 great songs missing: Just like a Woman, My Back Pages and Cross the Green Mountain.

  • Albert Farrugia

    Thanks for recognising some underrated works. My number one will always be Visions of Johanna. But where’s Love Minus Zero/No limit?

  • Martin Gayford

    How could you miss out Tombstone Blues, one of his greatest songs and probably his fastest?

  • Fons Buyens

    Very great list. Almost mine. the one I really miss is :She’s your lover now,
    but you had to kill your darlings. I agree totally with Key west, and the great respect for the songs. Congratulations
    thank you for the mirror

    Fons Buyens

  • George Hunter

    A good list, but I think it shows the author has never listened to Tell Tale Signs which contains a wealth of classics that should easily appear on any top 80 list.

  • dave lawrence

    Great list with none that I don’t agree with . A couple of curve balls to add ,after 45 odd years of listening to Bob I would add wigwam and no time to think . !!! New pony too !!!

  • dave lawrence

    Great list with none that I don’t agree with . A couple of curve balls to add ,after 45 odd years of listening to Bob I would add wigwam and no time to think . !!! New pony too !!! I guess all along the watchtower was an accidental omission .

  • rich whalen

    Dirge, catskill serenade, polly vaughn, what was it you wanted, marching to the city, copper kettle, sugar baby, wild wolf, dear landlord, moonshiner, I’m not there, love sick, I’ll keep it with mine…. and I agree with most of your list!

  • Simon

    WHERE IS ISIS?????

  • Jim Sullivan

    When I saw Red River Shore included, I thought Up to Me and Angelina must surely follow. Otherwise, well done.

    • Martin

      Up To Me would be on my list too, certainly rather than Red River Shore, Cross The Green Mountain or Tempest – all odd choices IMO but then Bob has always touched people in such a direct way that the idea that a song – or version – is right or wrong, good or bad is very silly. Songs such as Red River Shore and Key West hardly touch me at all – they seem unfinished and underworked. Having said that (!) I challenged myself to make one so I here it is (original album versions unless *).

      It’s a difficult challenge – I had to leave off quite a few favourites including Tell Me Mama, Goodbye Jimmy Reed, I Made Up My Mind To Give Myself To You, Don’t Fall Apart On Me Tonight, New Morning, Can’t Wait (*Let’s Do It In B Flat*) and Never Say Goodbye but there are just too many great songs. I think a more satisfactory minimum number would be 100.

      80. Trying To Get To Heaven
      79. Forever Young
      78. Abandoned Love (*The Bitter End 1975*)
      77. Someone’s Gotta Hold Of My Heart (*Infidels outtake*)
      76. Lily, Rosemary & The Jack Of Hearts (*Test Pressing*)
      75. She’s your Lover Now (Take 5)
      74. You ain’t Going Nowhere (*Greatest Hits II*)
      73. Floater (Too Much To Ask)
      72. Highway 61 Revisited
      71. Girl Of The North Country (*Nashville Skyline*)
      70. Tell Me That It Isn’t True
      69. To Ramona
      68. Mississippi
      67. As I Went Out One Morning
      66. Senor
      65. Lay Down Your Weary Tune
      64. Series Of Dreams
      63. A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall
      62. Spanish Harlem Incident
      61. I’ll Keep It With Mine
      60. Angelina
      59. Lay Lady Lay
      58. What Good Am I?
      57. You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go
      56. Dear Landlord
      55. Po’ Boy
      54. Not Dark Yet
      53. Mother Of Muses
      52. Shelter From The Storm
      51. The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll
      50. You’re A Big Girl Now
      49. Black Diamond Bay
      48. Lonesome Day Blues
      47. Buckets Of Rain
      46. I Don’t Believe You (*Live 1966*)
      45. Joey
      44. Knocking On Heaven’s Door
      43. Dignity (*Best Of Vol.2*)
      42. Boots Of Spanish Leather (*Prague 1995*)
      41. Most Of The Time (*Acoustic Demo*)
      40. She Belongs To Me (*Live 1966*)
      39. Pledging My Time
      38. Romance In Durango (*Live in London 2003*)
      37. It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry
      36. Just Like A Woman (*Prague 1995*)
      35. Ballad Of A Thin Man
      34. Positively 4th Street
      33. Love Minus Zero / No Limit
      32. All Along The Watchtower
      31. I Shall Be Released
      30. Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands
      29. Isis
      28. Foot Of Pride
      27. Dark Eyes
      26. Tangled Up In Blue (*Real Live*)
      25. License To Kill (*Letterman 1984*)
      24. Jokerman (*Live in London 2003*)
      23. Blind Willie McTell (*Infidels – electric take*)
      22. Caribbean Wind (Rehearsal)
      21. Gates of Eden
      20. Chimes Of Freedom
      19. One Too Many Mornings (*Manchester 1966*)
      18. My Own Version Of You
      17. Brownsville Girl
      16. It Ain’t Me Babe
      15. It’s Alright Ma
      14. If You See Her, Say Hello
      13. It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue (*Prague 1995*)
      12. Tombstone Blues
      11. Changing Of The Guard
      10. Every Grain Of Sand
      9. Like A Rolling Stone
      8. Mr Tambourine Man
      7. Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues (*Liverpool 1966*)
      6. Idiot Wind (*Test Pressing*)
      5. Up To Me
      4. Desolation Row
      3. Subterranean Homesick Blues
      2. Visions Of Johanna
      1. Murder Most Foul

  • Kevan brown

    My top 10
    1. It’s Alright Ma(I’m only bleeding)
    2. Shelter From The Storm
    3. Like A Rolling Stone
    4. Tomorrow Is A Long Time
    5. Black Diamond Bay
    6. Billy#4
    7. Percy’s Song
    8. Masters of War
    9. Visions of Johanna ( live 1966)
    10. Changing of the Guards

  • bart gooch

    any such list that does not include “all along the watchtower” displays total ignorance.

  • Lisa

    No subterranean homesick blues??? The first rap song the first music video? Omg

  • Anthony

    #1 is ABSOLUTELY the worst #1 for this list

  • Angelo Simonelli

    I think this is the worst list that I ever read and I’ve been a Bob Dylan’s fan for over 65 years

  • Jüri

    Great list! Enjoyed them comments. Especially the one for Red River Shore. 🙂

  • Dan Brooks

    A futile exercise. You simply can’t rank genius.
    However, as lists go this isn’t a bad effort from Michael. Not bad at all. And I enjoyed the comments too.
    There is at least one GLARING omission though.
    No Isis??
    Seriously dude, WTF?

  • Barry Kaufman

    Been a Dylan fan since buying his first vinyl album. He’s 2 months older than I. Thanks for the Dylanesque job of compiling the 80s list. The magical thing about Bob is how much such a list may vary, depending on age perspective. I believe yours may well be most median list possible. Well done. Thanks. PS I still play guitar and sing and perhaps my favorite lines in music – Dylan or otherwise: the last verse of Tambourine Man.

  • Barry Kaufman

    BTW – I bought that first album – which immediately changed my perception of how music can impact life – in 1961…..

  • Barry Kaufman

    Erratum: 1962

  • lonnie golden

    This is one of the “Greatest” efforts, I’ve seen, kudos. I detect a bit of recency bias, with emphasis on lyrical majesty and hidden gems–over impactfulness–as the measure of “greatest.”
    “Re-working” this list (as Dylan would his own songs), To Ramona add: I Don’t Believe You (electric); For Impactful, add to Subterranean, Watchtower and Thin Man, add Sweet Marie, 4th Time Around; To underappreciated, late 70s lyrical gems, add, No Time to Think.
    Now if he just lives til he’s 120…

  • Addison Martinez

    Awesome work! Bravo! I usually can’t stand other dylanologists’ take on his music, but this one is way dif.

  • Patrick Knotts

    Lay Lady Lay and Blowin in the Wind should be way down on the list…Way Down!

  • dave lawrence

    How come nobody commented on my suggestion of wigwam ??? I love that tune …

  • Angela Snide

    You forgot “Cross the Grern Mountain,” didn’t you?

  • Angela Snide

    But I think it’s a great list.

  • joe johnson

    Mr smith, I see you dropped John Ford’s the searchers out of your all time greastest movie list and added wagon master.

  • John Averill

    Hi Michael. When I got to your pick for number one I was bowled over. Really liked Key West when I first heard the album, but lately I’ve been listening to KW constantly. The more I listen, the more mysterious and beautiful it is. I’ve been a diehard Bob fan for more than 50 years, so I’d be hard pressed to choose a favorite song, but at this moment in his career I totally get why you would pick Key West as the standout. It’s a diamond among the gems on your list. Good stuff.

  • Rough & Rowdy

    Pretty good list.
    Of course I’d change some (missing some classics from Basement Tapes and JWH) but as this is your list and not mine, my hat off to you like Bob on the Nashville Skyline cover.

    • dave lawrence

      I agree , that’s the point . The list is subjective . I like seeing underrated relatively obscure bob tunes on lists . It is indeed a fools task trying to pick a definitive list . Any artist that has that many extraordinary songs ,all worthy of a mention that misses all along the watchtower must surely be out of this world for productivity and excellence .

  • Tommy

    Very interesting article. I love Bob Dylan’s music…seen him several times in concert. I agree with most of your picks, but I would have switched #10 & #1. “Murder Most Foul” is far superior song to Key West. The songs I missed seeing on your list would be “Band of the Hand (It’s Hell-time, Man!)” probably his best rock song. “Huck’s Tune” the games gotten old, the decks gone cold! “Catskill Serenade” This song from 1992 may not be written by Dylan, but nobody sings it better than Dylan. A very sad song that describes “this must be the end…my house [USA] has tumbled down” Reminds me of the “Long & Wasted Years” line “I think that when my back was turned, the whole world behind me burned”. The harmonica at the end just makes you cry. “Jokerman” [Jesus] is a classic too. “False Prophet” “Up To Me” and “The Usual” should be on the list too!

  • Frans Buijs

    Nice list, but there’s no way I would ever name Key West as his best song. In fact, I find it one of the weakest on Rough and Rowdy Ways. I see it more as a prelude to the final track, a moment of rest after the blues of Rubicon and before the big climax.

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