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Music / The Times They Are A-Changin'

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"There's a battle outside/ And it is ragin'/ It'll soon shake your windows/ And rattle your walls/ For the times they are a-changin'..."

The Times They Are A-Changin' is the third studio album by Bob Dylan, released in 1964. It is one of Dylan's well-known albums, epitomized by the eponymous title track, which has become his Signature Song and a much-covered song over the years. The album is also known for the fan favorites "Ballad of Hollis Brown", "With God on Our Side" and "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll".

It is also notable for being the first Dylan album with all self-written material.


Side One

  1. "The Times They Are A-Changin'" (3:15)
  2. "Ballad of Hollis Brown" (5:06)
  3. "With God on Our Side" (7:08)
  4. "One Too Many Mornings" (2:41)
  5. "North Country Blues" (4:35)

Side Two

  1. "Only a Pawn in Their Game" (3:33)
  2. "Boots of Spanish Leather" (4:40)
  3. "When the Ship Comes In" (3:18)
  4. "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" (5:48)
  5. "Restless Farewell" (5:32)

The Tropes They Are a-Tropin':

  • Added Alliterative Appeal: "When the Ship Comes In"
    And the ship's wise men will remind you once again that the whole wide world is watchin'
  • Antiquated Linguistics: The word "A-changin'" in the title track.
  • As the Good Book Says...: "When the Ship Comes In" refers to Moses splitting the sea and Goliath being destroyed by David. "With God on Our Side" mentions Jesus Christ and Judas.
  • Ballad of X: "The Ballad Of Hollis Brown".
  • Belief Makes You Stupid: "With God On Our Side", where many people throughout history have killed people in the name of God.
  • Break-Up Song: "One Too Many Mornings", "Boots Of Spanish Leather".
    You're right from your side
    I'm right from mine
    We're both just too many mornings
    And a thousand miles behind
  • Cold War: "With God On Our Side"
    I've learned to hate Russians
    All through my whole life
    If another war comes
    It's them we must fight
    To hate them and fear them
    To run and to hide
    And accept it all bravely
    With God on my side.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The album cover is in black-and-white.
  • The Eeyore: This is Dylan at his most dour, as the majority of the songs are about injustice of one sort or another, and even the non-protest songs ("One Too Many Mornings", "Boots of Spanish Leather", "Restless Farewell") are bittersweet tales of regret.
  • Epic Rocking: The 7:08 "With God On Our Side".
  • Face on the Cover: Dylan's face in close-up.
  • The Future Will Be Better: "The Times They Are A-Changin'" announces a change in society. Which would turn out to be prophetic, as the tumultous 1960s rolled around.
  • The Great Flood:
    • Dylan uses the metaphor of a flood in "The Times They Are A-Changin'".
      And admit that the waters
      Around you have grown
      And accept it that soon
      You'll be drenched to the bone
      If your time to you
      Is worth savin'
      Then you better start swimmin'
      Or you'll sink like a stone
      For the times they are a-changin
    • He uses this imagery again in "When The Ship Comes In".
      And like Pharaoh's tribe
      They'll be drowned in the tide
  • Historical Biography Song: "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" is one of the activist variety.
  • Karma Houdini: William Zantzinger in "The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll", who gets off with only six months of jailtime for the murder of Hattie Carroll. De-constructed in "Only A Pawn In Their Game".
    But when the shadowy sun sets on the one that fired the gun
    He’ll see by his grave on the stone that remains
    Carved next to his name, his epitaph plain:
  • Lyric Swap:
    • Each chorus of "The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll" ends with "now ain't the time for your tears", until the last verse reveals that the murderer got off with a slap on the wrist and Dylan concludes "NOW is the time for your tears."
    • "With God On Our Side" is about being taught that each increasingly destructive war throughout history was won because the winners "had God on their side". It eventually ends on "If God is on our side, He'll stop the next war."
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: Hollis Brown is a dead broke man with five kids.
  • Miscarriage of Justice: "The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll", where the murderer of kitchen maid Hattie Carroll is sentenced to only 6 months jail, because of his wealthy roots.
  • My Country Tis of Thee That I Sting: "With God On Our Side" criticizes the American government and army for their genocide on the Native American during the 19th century and the bloodshed during the American Civil War and Spanish-American War. It also criticizes the Red Scare and the nuclear arms race.
  • One-Man Song: "Ballad Of Hollis Brown"
  • One-Woman Song: "The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll".
  • Pater Familicide: "Ballad Of Hollis Brown", in which the dirt poor farmer kills his infants because he cannot take care of them anymore.
  • Pep-Talk Song:
    • "The Times They Are-A Changin'" was perceived by many people in the 1960s as the call that society was going to change for the better.
    • "When The Ship Comes In", where the foes will "drown in the tide and like Goliath they'll be conquered".
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis: "The Times They Are A-Changin'" has become almost synonymous with Dylan and the revolutionary society changes of The '60s in general.
  • Protest Song: "The Times They Are A-Changin'", "With God On Our Side", "The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll", "Only A Pawn In Their Game"... this album is basically Dylan embracing protest songs altogether. (Only to largely abandon them on his next album six months later.)
  • Record Producer: Tom Wilson.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: "The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll" was inspired by a real-life hotel barmaid struck down by a wealthy white man in a hotel in Maryland (1963). "Only A Pawn In Their Game" is based on the murder of civil rights activist Medgar Evers.
  • Rule of Seven: "Ballad Of Hollis Brown".
    There's seven breezes a-blowin'
    All around the cabin door
    There's seven breezes a-blowin'
    All around the cabin door
    Seven shots ring out
    Like the ocean's pounding roar.
    There's seven people dead
    On a South Dakota farm
    There's seven people dead
    On a South Dakota farm
    Somewhere in the distance
    There's seven new people born.
  • Second-Person Narration: "Ballad Of Hollis Brown".
    You looked for work and money
    And you walked a rugged mile
    You looked for work and money
    And you walked a rugged mile
    Your children are so hungry
    That they don't know how to smile.
  • Slobs vs. Snobs: Played for Drama in "The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll".
    Hattie Carroll was a maid in the kitchen
    She was fifty-one years old and gave birth to ten children
    Who carried the dishes and took out the garbage
    And never sat once at the head of the table
    And didn't even talk to the people at the table
    Who just cleaned up all the food from the table
    And emptied the ashtrays on a whole other level
  • Something Blues: "North Country Blues".
  • A Storm Is Coming:
    • The title track.
      There's a battle outside
      And it is ragin'
      It'll soon shake your windows
      And rattle your walls
      For the times they are a-changin'.
    • "Boots Of Spanish Leather"
      So take heed, take heed of the western wind
      Take heed of the stormy weather
  • Title Track:
    (...) for the times they are a-changin'
  • War Is Hell: "With God On Our Side"
    But now we got weapons
    Of the chemical dust
    If fire them we're forced to
    Then fire them we must
    One push of the button
    And a shot the world wide
    And you never ask questions
    When God's on your side.
  • World War I: "With God On Our Side"
    The First World War, boys
    It came and it went
    The reason for fighting
    I never did get
    But I learned to accept it
    Accept it with pride
    For you don't count the dead
    When God's on your side.
  • World War II: "With God On Our Side"
    When the Second World War
    Came to an end
    We forgave the Germans
    And then we were friends
    Though they murdered six million
    In the ovens they fried
    The Germans now too
    Have God on their side.