Subterranean Homesick Blues
In a Nutshell
Bob Dylan scarcely needs an introduction. Considered by many to be the greatest songwriter of all time, Dylan revolutionized American popular music and influenced generations of subsequent artists. "Subterranean Homesick Blues," released shortly after Dylan "went electric" and abandoned the acoustic-only instrumentation of traditional folk music, was his first Top 40 hit. With its rapid-fire lyrics laid out atop a rollicking blues rhythm borrowed from a Chuck Berry song and the rhyme scheme of its last verse borrowed from a Robert Browning poem, the song sounded not quite like anything that had come before.
About the Song
||Musician(s)||Bob Dylan (vocals, guitar),
|Album||Bringing It All Back Home|
Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
He didn't know it at the time, but Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" marked an important turning point in the history of rock n' roll
. No, we don't mean the birth of hip-hop, although a few critics have looked back at Dylan's rapid-fire delivery of the song's lyrics and seen the first rap song. (We find that argument to be fun but pretty dubious, mainly since none of the artists who pioneered hip-hop a generation later ever named "Subterranean Homesick Blues" as an inspiration.)
But even if it wasn't really the first rap song, "Subterranean" did represent another important first: the first music video. D.A. Pennebaker's short film clip, simple but unforgettable, showed Dylan flipping cards bearing the song's lyrics while the music played. And it transformed the music industry forever, changing what had been a solely audio medium into an audio-visual one. So should we call Bob Dylan the godfather of MTV?
On the Charts
"Subterranean Homesick Blues" was Dylan's first Top 40 hit, peaking in at #39 in the US in 1965.
The song did even better in Great Britain, cracking the Top 10.