© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
Like A Rolling Stone

Like A Rolling Stone


by Bob Dylan

Like A Rolling Stone Introduction

This is the song by the artist who changed the face of folk, pop, and rock music in the 20th century. The beautiful twist is that Bob Dylan first performed "Like A Rolling Stone" to booing, jeering crowds. He was called a "Judas" for singing it (not a very cool epithet to throw at a Jew), and he just kept going. Why all the hype over one little song? Read on to find out.

About the Song

ArtistBob Dylan Musician(s)Bob Dylan (vocals, guitar), Mike Bloomfield (guitar), Paul Griffin (piano), Joe Macho Jr. (bass), Bobby Gregg (drums), Bruce Langhorne (tambourine), Al Kooper (organ)
AlbumHighway 61 Revisited
LabelColumbia Records
Writer(s)Bob Dylan
Producer(s)Tom Wilson
Learn to play: Tablature
Buy this song: Amazon iTunes
Try Listen and Learn (BETA)

Shmoop Connections

Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
Well, first of all, "Like A Rolling Stone" is not just a little ditty. Bob Dylan knowingly stood on the shoulders of literary greats ranging from Alfred Lord Tennyson to Jack Kerouac, closely studying their words. The song's attitude was all rock 'n' roll, but Dylan's penchant for writing long narrative songs ("Like A Rolling Stone" actually starts with the lines "Once upon a time…") was also directly motivated by long-winded poets like "Don Juan" author Lord Byron. Dylan had been the thinking person's folksinger, and with "Like A Rolling Stone," he became the thinking person's rock 'n' roller.

At first, no one accepted this idea, and his folk fans believed he had sold out by playing rock 'n' roll. He was up against his own reputation as the "voice of a generation." Everyone's fairly sure these days that "sell-out" wasn't quite the right tag for Bob Dylan, but people are still talking about "Like A Rolling Stone": why he wrote it, how he wrote it, and what it means are literally the subject of volumes.

On the Charts

"Like A Rolling Stone" peaked at #2 on the U.S. pop charts, remaining on the charts for 12 weeks but lagging behind the Beatles' "Help!"

The song charted in the top ten in Canada, Holland, Ireland and the UK in 1965.

Rolling Stone named the song #1 on its 2004 list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, although in 1989 they had listed it at #2 on a listing of the 100 Best Singles of the Last 25 Years. Hindsight might be 20/20, especially for Dylan fans.

Bob Dylan is #2 on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, once again second only to the Beatles.

Dylan was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...