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14 of Bob Dylan’s Most Poignant Lyrics

Bob Dylan is hailed as one of the world’s greatest musical artists, and the awards he’s earned, such as the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Nobel Prize for Literature, prove the depth of his legacy. Dylan may be celebrating his 80th birthday today, May 24, but his lyrics are just as moving as they were in his early heyday, the 1960s.

Born in 1941, Dylan embarked on his musical career at age 21. His songs fused folk music and rock ‘n’ roll to create a new and unique sound. The singer-songwriter’s poetic lyrics highlight profound and astute truths about life, and he used his songs to comment on the pressing issues of the time, from the war in Vietnam to civil rights. In total, Dylan wrote more than 500 songs during his career, and sold tens of millions of albums, including his best-selling album, Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, which featured renowned songs such as “Like a Rolling Stone.”

Dylan may be entering a new decade today, but that doesn’t mean his reign as a rockstar is over. He continues to push himself to greater heights, releasing new albums as recent as 2020, even as his earliest hits continue to impress fans almost 60 years later. To celebrate the musical icon, here are 14 of Bob Dylan’s most profound lyrics.

If your time to you is worth saving /
Then you better start swimmin' or you'll sink like a stone.
“The Times They Are A-Changin’,” 1964

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The answer, my friend / Is blowin’ in the wind.
“Blowin’ In the Wind,” 1963

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If you don’t underestimate me / I won’t underestimate you.
“Dear Landlord,” 1967

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Don’t have the inclination to look back on any mistake.
“Every Grain of Sand,” 1981

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I say to the willow tree, "Don't weep for me" / I'm saying to hell to all things that I used to be.
“My Own Version of You,” 2020

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Strange how people who suffer together have stronger connections than people who are most content.
“Brownsville Girl,” 1986

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So when you see your neighbor carryin' somethin' / Help him with his load / And don't go mistaking Paradise / For that home across the road.
“The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest,” 1967

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May your hands always be busy / May your feet always be swift / May you have a strong foundation / When the winds of changes shift.
“Forever Young,” 1974

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You can’t take it with you and you know that it’s too worthless to be sold / They tell you, “Time is money,” as if your life was worth its weight in gold.
“When You Gonna Wake Up,” 1979

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Why wait any longer for the one you love / When he’s standing in front of you.
“Lay Lady Lay,” 1969

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She knows there’s no success like failure / And that failure’s no success at all.
“Love Minus Zero / No Limit,” 1965

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When ya ain't got nothin', you got nothin' to lose.
“Like a Rolling Stone,” 1965

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You can always come back, but you can't come back all the way.
“Mississippi,” 2001

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Businessmen, they drink my wine / Plowmen dig my earth / None of them along the line / Know what any of it is worth.
“All Along the Watchtower,” 1967

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Featured image credit: Val Wilmer/ Contributor/ Getty Images

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About the Author
Stephanie Vermillion
Stephanie is an Ohio-based writer and photographer who's never met a slice of pizza she didn't like — or inhale.
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