"The Times They Are A-Changin'" (The Times They Are A-Changin', 1964)
By Bob Weir
Back in high school, there were two things that I marked my days by. Every few months I’d get a new Beatles record, and every few months I’d get a new Dylan record. "The Times They are A-Changin'" has always been one of my favorites. I wasn’t a politico back then, but he managed to articulate in undeniable poetic terms everything I was thinking and feeling at the time.
The song has an open-ended kind of spirituality to it, equally about faith and reason. He was telling the government to lose their self interests. He was telling journalists to use a lighter hand. And when he sang, "Come mothers and fathers throughout the land, and don’t criticize what you can’t understand," he was locked into an eternal truth there. His main message seemed to be, “Use your head, and follow your heart, and above all, be open.”
His records helped Jerry and I bond when we first started playing together. We were kids when we met; I was 16, Jerry was 21. We went and saw Dylan in 1965 at the Berkeley Community Center when he was pounding out with the guys in the Band. He did his first set solo and then the second set with the Band, to the considerable annoyance of some “purists” who booed. That seemed to me totally contrary to what he was saying in his early songs, about being open.
Jerry and Dylan later became great buddies. They understood what it was like to be idolized beyond any reasonable standard. They became tight right after John Lennon was shot, so they were pretty much the only two guys who knew what it was like to be held to that standard. We toured with Dylan in 1987, and being in an improvisational situation, we developed a musical bond that a lot of folks don’t get to have. Sometimes we missed the wave, but when we caught it, it was a beautiful thing that made life worth living. If we could do it all over again, I wish we had played "The Times They are A-Changin'."