Blowin’ in the Wind


Blowin’ in the Wind established Dylan in the eye of the American public. Peter, Paul and Mary’s version went to number two on the Billboard charts. The song became a civil rights anthem. Peter, Paul and Mary sang it in front of 250,000 people at the March on Washington.

Blowin’ is certainly one of a handful of songs that Dylan will be remembered for. It may not be his best song but it is one of his most universal. It’s a simple but compelling lyric and melody that will stay relevant until the day there are no more conflicts in the world.

Blowin' in the Wind People have had remarkably different reactions to it. Gil Turner, a folk singer friendly with Dylan in the early sixties, instantly understood the significance of the song and insisted on performing it in front of a live audience in a New York City folk club just minutes after Dylan played it for him.

Some have faulted it for being just a series of questions and providing no ‘answers’. Fellow folkie Dave Van Ronk didn’t like it at all. “Jesus Bobby, what an incredibly dumb song!” he told Dylan.

The song was gently mocked in Douglas Adams’ book, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The characters find out that the answer to life is “42”, and after much searching, discover that the question is “how many roads must a man walk down?”.

Dylan himself seems to have mixed feelings about it. He has called it a “fluke” and “one-dimensional” as if he were trying to distance himself from it, almost as if he were embarrassed about it.

Dylan borrowed the tune from the anti-slavery spiritual Auction Block, a song that can be traced back at least as far as the Civil War, and probably goes back much further. Dylan’s cover of Auction Block can be found on the Bootleg Series Volume 1-3. A live version from 1962 is on The Gaslight Tapes.

Odetta’s version.

Baez and Dylan sang a nice version for the 1976 Hard Rain TV special.


How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
Yes, ‘n’ how many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, ‘n’ how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they’re forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

How many years can a mountain exist
Before it’s washed to the sea?
Yes, ‘n’ how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, ‘n’ how many times can a man turn his head,
Pretending he just doesn’t see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, ‘n’ how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, ‘n’ how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

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