- Autograph manuscript, with minor corrections, of "Blowin' in the Wind" - the essential final lyrics as recorded on 9 July, 1962 and released on the 1963 album The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan.
The following is from a letter by noted Dylan scholar Clinton Heylin accompanying this lot:
"There are four manuscript versions known to exist: a fragment dated April 12, 1962; a version that appears to be a 'final working draft’ on Taft Hotel stationary from late April/ early May 1962, a fair copy given to ‘Sis Cunningham around May 1962, reproduced in The Bob Dylan Scrapbook, and this three verse version of the song which also appears to be an original period manuscript in the hand of Bob Dylan.
The verses here are in the order adopted from July 1962 on. There are a couple of slight oddities here. One, Dylan titles the song, at the top of the page, 'Blowin In The Wind' but when he writes out the chorus, on both occasions he writes the grammatically correct ‘blowing in the wind’. This according with the Taft Hotel draft, where he also adheres to correct spelling, though the phrase is never published a ‘g’. Secondly, in all three verses he puts a question mark at the end of each line, i.e. halfway through a sentence, but not on lines 2, 4, or 6, the three places where question marks actually should be (and are, in Writing & Drawings)."
Heylin, Clinton. Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades Revisited. New York, 2001
Heylin, Clinton. Revolution in the Air: The Songs of Bob Dylan, 1957-1973. Chicago, 2009
Sounes, Howard. Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan. New York, 2011
The Bob Dylan Scrapbook. New York, 2005
"Blowin' in the Wind" has always held a unique place in the pantheon of Dylan songs. Often dismissed by its author as not overly important ("just another song I wrote") and disliked by his fellow folk artists at the time (Pete Seeger diplomatically said it wasn't his favorite), the song captured the public imagination from its first performance and went on to vastly change its authors career.
Dylan recalled writing two verses of the three in some ten minutes while sitting in the Black Pussycat in April, 1962, by adapting his lyrics to the melody of an African-American spiritual, "No More Auction Block." This was a time of intense creative fertility for Dylan, 1962 saw him write some 50 songs including "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall," "Don't Think Twice It's Alright" and "Ballad of Hollis Brown."
Initially, he had great enthusiasm for the song, Gil Turner recalls Dylan "Came flying into Folk City where I was singing, [saying], 'Gil, I got a new song I just finished. Wanna hear it?'"
After Turner heard it, Dylan wrote out the music and lyrics and taped them to the mic stand. Turner played it for the crowd at Gerde's Folk City that evening, stunning the audience. Dylan wasn't even the player that debuted the song; Bob Dylan as songwriter rather than performer had arrived.
Such was the impact of the song just around the Village by the summer of 1962 that parodies were being performed in Washington Square Park. When a song that had only been performed live and not recorded was strong enough to elicit street corner parodies ("Blowin' Out Your End," naturally), it was destined to be a hit.
Those looking to Dylan for answers for the song's rhetorical questions were already starting to wear on him, well before it was released on The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul and Mary brought the song to the top of the charts in June, 1963:
"There ain’t too much I can say about this song except that the answer is blowing in the wind. It ain't in no book or movie or TV show or discussion group. Man, it's in the wind — and it’s blowing in the wind. Too many of these hip people are telling me where the answer is but oh I won't believe that. I still say it's in the wind and just like a restless piece of paper it's got to come down some ... But the only trouble is that no one picks up the answer when it comes down so not too many people get to see and know ... and then it flies away. I still say that some of the biggest criminals are those that turn their heads away when they see wrong and know it's wrong."
The sentiment expressed in the last line above was the one picked up by Civil Rights protestors to make it an anthem of the movement and of the 1960's in general (Sam Cooke said it inspired his own "A Change is Gonna Come"). It was from the present work that the weighty "voice of a generation" accolades were to first begin and here too, one can find for the first signs of Dylan's withdrawal from and reflection of the same.
The song also provided the impetus for Dylan's manager Albert Grossman to really take his charge seriously as a potential money earner. The Dylan covers (and resulting royalties) were to become an avalanche in the Sixties. The next single Peter Paul and Mary released after "Blowin' in the Wind" was "Don't Think Twice It's Alright." Dylan's single following this was "The Times They are a Changing."