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12 songs guaranteed to make Bob Dylan happy


Bob Dylan once said: “Happiness is not on my list of priorities. I just deal with day-to-day things. If I’m happy, I’m happy – and if I’m not, I don’t know the difference… Knowing that you are the person you were put on this earth to be – that’s much more important than just being happy.” Whether you agree that the contentment of belonging is more important than the carnal search for a smile, there is no doubting that the quote is another fine example of the experiential wisdom that Dylan has been extolling throughout his career

Outside of music, memoirs and rare movie performances, the folk phenom has also espoused the ways of this world on his always-entertaining radio show, Theme Time Radio Hour. Wherein each week Dylan curates a playlist for a range of specific subjects. To introduce his show on Happiness he began: “Today’s theme is something that the second paragraph guarantees us the pursuit of along with life and liberty. You guessed it, stick around and for the next hour we’ll be listening to songs all about Happiness. I can’t promise I’m going to make you happy but I’m going to do my darndest.”

Over the years, Dylan has indeed made many people happy, but he’s also made a few people mad too (Ie. People in power or those upholding Amish standards of folk at Newport Folk Festival). Thus, it seems befitting that he started with a track by Hot Lips Page, the flamboyant jazz soloist who lived by the same mantra Dylan has and David Bowie gave words to when he remarked: “Never play to the gallery. Always remember that the reason you initially started working was that there was something inside yourself that you felt that if you could manifest it in some way, you would understand more about yourself and how you coexist with the rest of society.”

Later on in the show, he looked at The Rolling Stones track ‘Happy’ from the 1972 album Exile on Main St.featuring Keith Richards on lead vocals. Written primarily by Richards in the summer of ’71, the rocker of the high seas remarked: “We did that in an afternoon, in only four hours, cut and done. At noon it had never existed. At four o’clock it was on tape.” However, Dylan muses that it took hours of tireless cogitating to get to that point. As Dylan states: “It just goes to show you, you leave people alone in a studio and you don’t really need anyone else. Look what Keith did there! Of course, he’d been up for about 4 days when he came up with it. But you have to suffer for your art.”

Perhaps a slightly more surprisingly cherished song of happiness for Dylan comes from the world of British punk. Buzzcocks were one of the first bands to take up the CBGB mantle of punk rock when it crossed the pond from New York, famously organising the Sex Pistols first gig wherein band members cavorting with half-dressed members of the public on stage, chairs and tables being utterly Chernobyled in a seeming mutiny against anything perceived as banal, and a Frenchman shouting to Steve Jones “you can’t play!” and the guitarist flippantly replying, “So what?”

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This anarchy is seemingly to Dylan’s taste, at least to some extent, as he chose to champion the song ‘Everybody’s Happy Nowadays’ as an ironic addition to the playlist. The song based on Aldous Huxley’s 1932 novel Brave New World fervently yells about the dangers of mindless contentment and medicated blessedness, in a way that David Byrne would soon master with unerring accuracy on ‘Life During Wartime’. The humorous irony to the song and its inclusion in Dylan’s list proves that bliss doesn’t have to be ignorant, and you don’t need a perfect set of circumstances to have a bit of an exultant chuckle. 

You can check out the rest of Dylan’s tracks below in our curated playlist. From showtunes penned by none other than Charlie Chaplin with ‘Smile’ and the beauteous tender stylings of Elle Fitzgerald on ‘I Want to Be Happy’, these are the songs guaranteed to make Dylan smile. Enjoy… 

12 songs guaranteed to make Bob Dylan happy:

  • ‘Feelin’ High and Happy’ by Hot Lips Page
  • ‘Love and Happiness’ by Al Green
  • ‘(I Wanna Go Where You Go) Then I’ll Be Happy’ by Jimmy Heap and the Melody Masters (Not on Spotify replaced with Peggy Sue version)
  • ‘Happy Home’ by Elmore James
  • ‘Happy’ by The Rolling Stones
  • ‘I Want to Be Happy’ by Ella Fitzgerald with Chick Webb and his Orchestra
  • ‘Happy’ by Jenny Lewis with The Watson Twins
  • ‘You’ve Made Me So Very Happy’ by Brenda Holloway
  • ‘Happy Rovin’ Cowboy’ by The Sons of the Pioneers
  • ‘Everybody’s Happy Nowadays’ by Buzzcocks
  • ‘Smile’ by Judy Garland
  • ‘Happy Trails’ by Roy Rodgers and Dale Evans with Frank Worth and his Orchestra