Study Guide

Like a Rolling Stone Introduction

Like a Rolling Stone Introduction

In a Nutshell

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

ArtistDylan, Bob
Year1965
LabelColumbia Records
Writer(s)Bob Dylan
Producer(s)Tom Wilson
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)
Learn to play
AlbumHighway 61 Revisited

Music Video

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Influences on Dylan, Bob

Chuck Berry
Woody Guthrie
Robert Johnson
John Lee Hooker
Alan Lomax
Pete Seeger
Hank Williams

Influenced by Dylan, Bob

Tim Buckley
T. Bone Burnett
Jakob Dylan
The Grateful Dead
The Mamas and the Papas
Bruce Springsteen
Neil Young

Like a Rolling Stone Resources

Books

Bob Dylan, Chronicles, Vol. I (2004)
Dylan's rollicking memoir drags you through his early career faster than Jack Kerouac drags you across the country in On the Road—and Kerouac's influence on Dylan's writing is evident throughout.

Greil Marcus, Like a Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads (2005)
Marcus' account of the song's development and significance is overwrought with adoration for Dylan, but you get the sense that the man can't help himself: He loves the song so much he wrote a whole book about it.

Mark Polizzotti, Highway 61 Revisited (2006)
This little book tells the story of the groundbreaking album with a bit of fanfare and a lot of detail. Highly recommended as a primer on the "Like a Rolling Stone" era of Dylan.

Albums

Highway 61 Revisited (1965)
Still hailed as Dylan's most groundbreaking work.

Bringing It All Back Home (1965)
This album kicked off the trio of brilliance Dylan is still famous for, with Highway 61 Revisited in the middle.

Blonde on Blonde (1966)
The third in the series builds on Dylan's new "rock and roll" identity, but it builds more meaningfully on the flood of lyricism that carried him away during this prolific period.

Images

Bob Dylan Portrait
This portrait captures the charisma that helped make Dylan into such an icon.

Highway 61 Revisited Album Cover
The iconic album cover has been studied so thoroughly that whatever theory you may have about its meaning, forget it: Someone else already thought of it.

Blonde on Blonde Album Cover
It's hard not to imagine that the blurry photo on the album cover immediately following Highway 61 is a message to fans about Dylan's identity—you'll never understand me, he seems to say.

Movies & TV

Don't Look Back (1965)
D.A. Pennebaker's original Dylan documentary gives a close-up, chaotic view of Dylan around the time that "Like a Rolling Stone" emerged.

No Direction Home (2005)
Martin Scorsese brilliantly puts together this documentary on the early career of Bob Dylan.

The Other Side of the Mirror: Bob Dylan Live at the Newport Folk Festival (2007)
Led by the tag "Bob Dylan plugged in an entire generation," this documentary is a close look at the 1965 appearance that so dramatically changed Bob Dylan's trajectory as a musician.

I'm Not There (2008)
Writer/director Todd Haynes gives us Dylan in six parts, each played by a different actor (or actress), in this challenging, audacious film.

Websites

The Official Bob Dylan Site
Dylan's official site is a great resource, with lyrics, media, and news.

Expecting Rain
A daily-updated fansite that deals with everything Dylan.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Bob Dylan
The Rock Hall of Fame gives a brief but pleasant and up-to-date overview of Dylan's decades-long career.

Video & Audio

Bob Dylan, "Like a Rolling Stone"
Here's the audio in all its Bob Dylan glory.

Jimi Hendrix, "Like a Rolling Stone"
Jimi Hendrix's beautiful, wild cover of the song inspired even Bob Dylan himself, who says he changed the way he performed it to be more like Jimi.

The Rolling Stones, "Like a Rolling Stone"
Who better to pay tribute to Dylan than the Stones themselves? The passion is definitely there, too.

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