Very few artists have ever committed themselves entirely to a single favourite song of their own. While some band members are happy to comment on a variety of songs they may call their favourites, Bob Dylan has never been one to offer to much light on to his songs—over 500 of them. It’s made the idea that the freewheelin’ troubadour even has a singular favourite track as a bit of a preposterous. That said, we may have found some footage which suggests his favourite “magic” song.
In a 2004 interview, Dylan was talking about how his songs are conceived and suggested that, especially in his early work, he had very little conscious effort from him as an artist. Instead, songs like ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ “just happen” as he confirms the song took him around ten minutes to write. The conversation continues and highlights a song which may be in contention for his favourite.
Speaking about ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ in the clip below, he answers the myth-adjacent fact about the song: “It took you ten minutes to write that song, is that right?” to which a gruffly speaking Dylan responds with the utmost authenticity: “Probably”. As he continues to talk about the song and answer “where did it come from?” with another simple “It just came”. It’s part of what makes Dylan such a mercurial talent in the first place. But in answering the question he also suggests another song which means a great deal to him, ‘It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)’.
He’s asked, “Do you ever look back at your music and think ‘Woah, that surprised me’?” The singer looks his interviewer in the eye and answers: “I used to. But I don’t do that anymore. I don’t know how I got to write those songs.” When quizzed as to how that could be, he answers: “Well, those early songs were like almost magically written,” says the singer-songwriter before picking out one song and its set of lyrics for personal praise as he recites the lines from ‘It’s Alright Ma’, “Darkness at the break of noon, shadows even the silver spoon, the handmade blade, the child’s balloon.”
Written in 1964, the song is one of Dylan’s most remarkable moments on record. “Well, try to sit down and write something like that,” exclaims the singer. “There’s a magic to that and it’s not Siegfried & Roy kinda magic, it’s a different kind of penetrating magic and I did it at one time.”
The conversation continues as to whether Dylan could still produce a similar standard of song now and he responds: “No. Well, you can’t do something forever and I did it once. I can do other things now but I can’t do that.” While we’d disagree and suggest that ‘Murder Most Foul‘ one of Dylan’s latest songs is right up there with the same intense intellectualism, lyrically.
So, the truth of the matter is that Bob Dylan’s favourite Bob Dylan song is, like the rest of us, depending on a whole host of different factors—in fact, it probably changes more than the weather. But we’d bet ‘It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)’ is right up there with one of his favourites, it is certainly one of ours.