3 Bob Dylan Songs that Will Make Any Folk Fan Tear Up

Largely recognized as the premier songwriter of the 20th century, Minnesota-born Bob Dylan rose to fame in the New York City folk scene in the 1960s. Much of his early work were protest songs, tunes played with an acoustic guitar to folk fans everywhere. But famously, Dylan couldn’t be kept in a musical box. He’s since released blues songs, rock songs and just about everything in between.

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But part of his legacy is writing emotive songs that both make the listener think and feel something. Here below, we wanted to dive into a trio of songs that fall into the latter category. Three songs that can make any fan of Dylan or folk music tear up.

[RELATED: 3 Bob Dylan Songs that Will Help You Be a Better Songwriter]

“The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” from The Times They Are a-Changin’ (1964)

From Dylan’s 1964 LP The Times They Are a-Changin’, this song tells the timeless story of injustice. When we think of the 21st-century list of problems, topping it are race-based murders. But that’s nothing new to this country, sadly, and Dylan sang about it here, telling the story of Black woman Hattie Carroll who was killed by the much younger, white tobacco heir William Devereux Zantzinger. But Zantzinger got off with just a six-month sentence. Sings Dylan of the sad, tear-worthy story,

In the courtroom of honor, the judge pounded his gavel
To show that all’s equal and that the courts are on the level
And that the strings in the books ain’t pulled and persuaded
And that even the nobles get properly handled
Once that the cops have chased after and caught ’em
And that the ladder of law has no top and no bottom
Stared at the person who killed for no reason
Who just happened to be feelin’ that way without warnin’
And he spoke through his cloak, most deep and distinguished
And handed out strongly for penalty and repentance
William Zanzinger with a six-month sentence

Oh, but you who philosophize, disgrace and criticize all fears
Bury the rag deep in your face for now’s the time for your tears

“If You See Her, Say Hello” from Blood on the Tracks (1975)

This song from Dylan’s 1975 album Blood on the Tracks is a nostalgic, wistful song of love. Time and distance and misunderstanding are the things that get in the way of love. And that’s what Dylan sings about on this song of remorse. On the vulnerable song, the Bard sings,

If you see her, say hello
She might be in Tangier
She left here last early spring
Is livin’ there, I hear

Say for me that I’m all right
Though things get kind of slow
She might think that I’ve forgotten her
Don’t tell her it isn’t so

“Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie” from The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961–1991 (1991)

Admittedly, this 1963 written work by Dylan is less a song and more a poetic essay. It’s an ode to the man that inspired his journey into folk music. Dylan performed the work at Town Hall in New York City just four years before Guthrie passed away. It’s so passionate, so vivid, so imaginative that the listener can’t help but shed a tear given the artful reverence imbued in the writing. Dylan offers,

No but that ain’t yer game, it ain’t even yer race
You can’t hear yer name, you can’t see yer face
You gotta look some other place
And where do you look for this hope that yer seekin’
Where do you look for this lamp that’s a-burnin’
Where do you look for this oil well gushin’
Where do you look for this candle that’s glowin’
Where do you look for this hope that you know is there
And out there somewhere
And your feet can only walk down two kinds of roads
Your eyes can only look through two kinds of windows
Your nose can only smell two kinds of hallways
You can touch and twist
And turn two kinds of doorknobs
You can either go to the church of your choice
Or you can go to Brooklyn State Hospital
You’ll find God in the church of your choice
You’ll find Woody Guthrie in Brooklyn State Hospital

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Photo by David Redfern/Redferns

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