Thoughtful (and throwback) Thursday: The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind

My husband and I were treated to a trip down memory lane recently when PBS reran one of their old Legends of Folk Specials, featuring popular singing groups from the 60s performing their hits. We watched and enjoyed the show, reminiscing about when we had heard – and sung – all those songs so long ago. Those were our coming of age years, and folk singers were big. The Kingston Trio. The Brothers Four. Bob Dylan. Canada’s own Gordon Lightfoot. Believe it or not, after having spent the few preceding years dancing to Elvis and all things rock ‘n roll in the late 50s and early 60s, in the 60s we young people spent significant periods of special times at parties gathered around whoever brought their guitar, singing hugely popular folksongs. Good times. Throwback Thursday indeed.

In paying closer attention to the oh-so familiar lyrics, it was hard not to reflect on how powerful the messages  are in some of the songs and how they remain as relevant as ever. To invoke one popular folksong of the time, when will we ever learn? Not anytime soon, it would appear.

One of the songs played was Bob Dylan’s 1962 hit, Blowin’ in the Wind. When you read the lyrics you’ll realize that there was a good reason why Bob Dylan was presented with the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016 (much to his astonishment).

Blowin’ in the Wind

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, and 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.

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

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

See what I mean; these lyrics are as relevant as ever. Sadly so. This song became a classic signature piece of Joan Baez, Peter, Paul, and Mary, and Bob Dylan himself. Here’s a YouTube clip of a rendition by a young Peter, Paul, and Mary. Time to get out our guitars and sing from the heart.

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44 Responses to Thoughtful (and throwback) Thursday: The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind

  1. M says:

    I so remember that song.
    I was actually taught to sing first few lines of Blowin’ in the Wind, as a child in school. I must have been around 8-9 yrs. old. Imagine, influencing children at that time. 🙂

  2. Roy McCarthy says:

    Those were the days when we were going to change the world! American folk swept through our land and – if you could pick a few chords on an acoustic guitar and hold a tune – you were like a mystic god. Then the Brits started creating their own electric folk music much to the disdain of the traditionalists with their ballads, sea-shanties and lots of cider. It was fun.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      We were going to change the world … hmm, that didn’t turn out as well as we had hoped, did it?! But it sure was fun, with both styles of music and all those guitars! 😊

  3. Blowin’ In The Wind has always been a favourite of mine, and yes, the words are so relevant to today’s world. By the way, PBS did a special on ABBA and the BeeGees. My husband was in heaven, reliving his glory days on the dance floor 🙂

  4. We saw that show also! It was also good to see John Sebastian again. Great songs and great messages. – Marty

  5. I’m with my mother, and she’s mostly sleeping these days. I played Blowin’ in the Wind for her anyway. My parents record collection was smallish, but I always got a kick out of The Kingston Trio.

  6. We were in Australia for them

  7. Laurie, the 70’s was a great decade too, but nothing truly compares to the innocence, and passion of the youth and musical artists during the 1960’s. Our friends were coming home in body bags from Viet Nam and we were too young to vote. ( you had to be 21). So we wrote poetry and put it to music. I’m so glad I grew up during that time period. It was inspirational.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      As a side note but on that topic, fully three of the last 4 presidents came of age in that era (all born the same year I was): George W, Clinton, and Trump. How do historians analyze how growing up in that inspirational era affected the three of them??!!

      • Jane, it is interesting to look at all three. Bush grew up wealthy from a political family. His father was an honorable man who served his country in politics and fought in WWII. “W” had a diverse administration and that was progressive for the times. Clinton grew up poor and without his biological father. But his political values were about equality. He appointed RBG to the Supreme Court. Though the two of them differed politically they both loved their country and valued diversity. The thorn in the mix is Trump. No one in his family ever served in the military. His father was a known bigot who openly discriminated against POC and those with modest incomes. In fact Woody Guthrie wrote a song about his racism called Old man Trump. So Donald grew up not caring about anything but money or himself. The other two related to the times but Trump was never apart of anything but wealth and exclusion.

  8. dfolstad58 says:

    Okay Jane, you sparked me thinking about the kingston trio – I have always loved “Bad Man’s Blunder” and now the tune and words are in my head. Lol, thanks. Enjoy your day – I’ll be boxed in – in New Mexico. “

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Lol, sorry, David. I gave you an ear worm and it wasn’t even Blowin’ in the Wind. I think the Kingston Trio was my favourite group of all. Sigh. These wonderful songs are all on my running playlists. I need to get back to running!

  9. AMWatson207 says:

    I’m right there with you. Back in the day, music moved us. Too often now I just use it as background noise. Thanks-this one was a gift!

  10. Before my time—I came of age in the 1970s. Yet I have heard this poignant song many times, and I read your post with a lump in my throat. We humans are very slow learners.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Another good time for music, especially the “British Invasion”. I’m afraid the past year and more have proven your last sentence anew, we are indeed very slow learners.

  11. LA says:

    My daughter took a class in the 60s history, and her final paper was an interview with someone who talked about the influence of music in the sixties

    • Jane Fritz says:

      It’s great to hear that the 60s are recognized as a unique part of history, and it’s heartening that your daughter had that personal experience. We could use some of that influence now as well. Our current situations kind of reinforce the adage that we don’t do a good job of learning from history; we seem destined to repeat the same mistakes.

  12. Thank you for this trip down memory lane. “Blowing in the Wind” was the first song I learned to play when I was a teenager. I got my first folk guitar from green stamps and quickly learned to play all the classic folk songs from the early 60’s. The words were so moving that I recall crying as I’d sing and strum. My best friend and I listened carefully to Dylan’s first album, mesmerized by his message. We began writing our own poetic songs and at 16 made sure we were up front to see Dylan perform in Ft Lauderdale. A year later I pulled together my baby sitting money and my guitar went from green stamps to a Gibson Melody maker where I rocked out in an all girl’s band. Many decades later, my fried and I called one another upon hearing that Bobby Zimmerman (akaDylan) had been honored with his Literary award. WE recognized his poetic genius back in the day. It inspired us to take to the stage so others could hear his words. As a teacher his genius was my lead into introducing poetry. And what song did I play for them? Of course… Blowing in the Wind. Who would have thought that in 2020 we would still have to teach it’s message to humanity?
    I think it would benefit creative artist today to listen to the richness of folk heroes of the past and hear their message. Perhaps then we might avoid another monster like 45 from ever being allowed to corrupt half a nation.
    Thank you for this trip back in time. ❤️✌️🎸❤️

    • Jane Fritz says:

      What a wonderful story, Lesley, starting with using green stamps to buy your first guitar. I’d forgotten about green stamps. My mother used to stash them in a drawer and then every once in awhile I’d be enlisted to paste them all into the little books. Ugh! I am blown away by your musical prowess. An all-girls band, awesome! Thank you so much for sharing. Btw, I hope you’re continuing to feel better. Stay safe!!!

      • Yes! Those green stamps were like gold! I got married at 20 (in 1969) and saved them religiously. I can’t tell you how many household items I bought with those stamps! Lol But that original guitar lasted more than five decades. My youngest son is musical and it was his first guitar too. By the time he got around to playing it he could go on YouTube and learn the chords. Lol I had to buy sheet music and I got lessons from a friend of my older brother who was the lead guitarist in a band. It was a fabulous time to be young!
        Music in the 1960’s made a political statement. Today’s young people could learn a lot from the creative artists of that era.

        • Jane Fritz says:

          Oh, Lesley, your last line is so true. Btw, I got married in ‘67 at 21, so pretty similar. It was for sure a fabulous time to be young (unless you were drafted).

    • LA says:

      You were an inspiration! I read Haley’s paper today and you have an amazing interview…!!

  13. I’ve often noticed this with folk/protest songs of the 60s – the message has been there loud & clear for decades. I was a guitar strummer in the 60s & sang Blowing in the Wind amongst several other songs with meaningful words appropriate to today – Black and White, Last Night I had the Strangest Dream. I started strumming when at teacher training college and took the guitar into the classroom when I’d qualifed and ran the school’s guitar group, so there will be some middle-aged adults out there who I taught, and these songs will be somehwere embedded in their memory banks too!

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Oh, wow, Joyce, so you were one of those most sought out at parties! And bravo for passing along lasting, powerful music. You’re right, many of those protest songs never stopped resonating. And their messages are just as relevant to fighting to overcome racism or to contain a pandemic as they are to put a stop to wars. 😥

  14. So nostalgic for you young people

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