“Blowin’ in the Wind” is a song written by Bob Dylan in 1962 and released on his album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan in 1963. Although it has been described as a protest song, it poses a series of rhetorical questions about peace, war and freedom. The refrain “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind” has been described as “impenetrably ambiguous: either the answer is so obvious it is right in your face, or the answer is as intangible as the wind”.
In 1994, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. In 2004, it was ranked #14 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.
Origins and initial response
Dylan originally wrote and performed a two-verse version of the song; its first public performance, at Gerde’s Folk City on April 16, 1962, was recorded and circulates among Dylan collectors. Shortly after this performance, he added the middle verse to the song. Some published versions of the lyrics reverse the order of the second and third verses, apparently because Dylan simply appended the middle verse to his original manuscript, rather than writing out a new copy with the verses in proper order. The song was published for the first time in May 1962, in the sixth issue of Broadside, the magazine founded by Pete Seeger and devoted to topical songs. The theme may have been taken from a passage in Bound for Glory, where Woody Guthrie compares his political sensibility to newspapers blowing in the winds of New York City streets and alleys. Dylan was certainly familiar with Guthrie’s work and reading this book had been a major turning point in his intellectual and political development.
In June 1962, the song was published in Sing Out!, accompanied by Dylan’s comments:
There ain’t too much I can say about this song except that the answer is blowing in the wind. It ain’t in no book or movie or TV show or discussion group. Man, it’s in the wind – and it’s blowing in the wind. Too many of these hip people are telling me where the answer is but oh I won’t believe that. I still say it’s in the wind and just like a restless piece of paper it’s got to come down some …But the only trouble is that no one picks up the answer when it comes down so not too many people get to see and know . . . and then it flies away. I still say that some of the biggest criminals are those that turn their heads away when they see wrong and know it’s wrong. I’m only 21 years old and I know that there’s been too many . . . You people over 21, you’re older and smarter.
Dylan recorded “Blowin’ in the Wind” on July 9, 1962, for inclusion on his second album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, released in May 1963.