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Blowin' in the Wind (Bob Dylan) 
Review by psychologist, Dr. Bruce L. Thiessen, aka Dr. BLT 

Dr. BLT's experimental rock cover of Blowin' In the Wind 
(mp3: free to Phantom Tollbooth visitors) 

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... 
My review is not intended to be an opinion piece.  Those of you who attempt to draw conclusions about my opinion on the Iraq war, based on my willingness to cover this quintessential anti-war folk anthem, are obviously not within range of the WFMU New York City radio waves, or you may have heard another side of me, reflected in a song of mine that is on their play list: Merle Hasn't Lost His Fightin' Side (words and music by Dr. BLT (c)2006)  

Merle Hasn't Lost His Fightin' Side is a song inspired by Merle Haggard's song, The Fightin' Side of Me. 

The purpose of reviewing (and covering) Blowin' in the Wind, is not to use the song as a vehicle for ushering in my views on issues of war and peace. It is to express the views of Bob Dylan and the counterculture of the sixties that he represented.  

I'm introducing the song as a way of showing you an auditory/visual snapshot of the counterculture of the '60s.  The song, and the artist who made it famous, were products of a counterculture of discontent, angst and protest, all over the Viet Nam war.  The song poignantly delivers a sentiment that was strong now, and is strong again, especially among vocal opponents of the war in Iraq. 

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. 
The power of this song lies in its simplicity, Bob Dylan's rough, rugged, haunting voice, and in Dylan's apparent understanding that the greatest way to evoke deep thought and to foster social-conscious soul searching is by asking penetrating, universally plaguing questions.  The questions are all different, yet there is a thematic repetitiveness to them that ties the questions together, and in doing so, multiples the power of the underlying message.  

In the song, Dylan reveals a certain resigned hopelessness about the inevitable self-destructive nature of human beings, something Freud referred to as Thanatos, or, the death instinct.  Yet, ironically enough, the urgency reflected in the lyrics and delivery of the piece suggests that Dylan saw a glimmer of hope in the very communication of his sense of futility and utter hopelessness. 

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. 
Arguments for and against the prospect of a just war can be found in the Bible, and that's why Christians of disparate positions on issues of war and peace must try to refrain from making divisive statements or alienating one another.  They must come together to prayerfully seek God's wisdom on the matter. 

I would say that instead of bickering, name-calling, and going around starting verbal civil wars in our churches, Christians need to listen to and respectfully engage in debate with those who may disagree with them.  Musical motivation for this collaborative endeavor among believers can be established by first listening to Blowin' in the Wind, and then to Merle Haggard's The Fightin' Side of Me. I believe truth can be found somewhere between the two songs.  Well, it looks like this is becoming an opinion piece after all, so I better quit while I'm ahead, or, rather, while I'm rapidly falling behind.  

Before I do that, here are some interactive questions for Tollbooth visitors: 

1. What images and thoughts does Blowin' in the Wind provoke in you, the listener? 

2. What feelings emerge as you pay attention to the music and to the lyrics of this song?  

3. What do you believe God would say if asked about whether there is such a thing as a just war, and, if so, if the war in Iraq falls under the category of a just war?  

4.  Speaking of justice, did I do justice to the song with my radically altered experimental rock cover of Blowin' in the Wind? Why or why not?

Send your responses to: 

and, while you're at it, be sure to pay me a visit at: 


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