Few artists have impacted popular culture as writer Stephen King and the freewheelin’ troubadour Bob Dylan has. Together, they have peddled countless tomes and LPs and brought the often complex literary world into the wider public’s hearts and minds. While King has seen himself become a cultural phenomenon with his work, traversing medium and genre with ease, he is dwarfed by Dylan’s huge impact on the world, noted, most prominently, by King himself.
Bob Dylan is certainly one of the most prolific songwriters still active today. The iconic folkie was never one to rest on his laurels and has always been striving to put his best foot forward. Equally, a man who doesn’t know the meaning of standing still is Stephen King. One of the most potent and productive novelists of recent years, King has become the foreword in horror fiction among many other notable genres. With books like The Shining, Carrie and Pet Sematary, he carved out a career no writer can ever truly imagine. He is, without doubt, one of the most important writers of our generation.
An avid Bob Dylan fan, the writer, has often named the singer as his all-time favourite, even jumping to the singer’s defence when he was awarded the Nobel prize for literature. Some writers had taken offence to the award being sent out to a (largely unresponsive) rock star, to which King replied in a Rolling Stone article: “People complaining about his Nobel either don’t understand, or it’s just a plain old case of sour grapes.”
Within the article, King also shared the very first moment he heard Bob Dylan and the profound effect it had on him: “I must have been 14 the first time I heard Bob Dylan. I was sitting in the back of a car going home from a movie,” King said. “This is in rural Maine back when AM radio was big. There was a guy on WBZ radio out of Boston, and he had a show called The Night Express and played a lot of off-the-wall stuff. He played ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues.’ Hearing it was like being electrified. It was like this pressurised dump of lyrics and images.”
It’s not just that song either. Dylan has featured in many moments when King has had to pick his favourite songs, especially when he was invited on to the BBC Radio 4 show, Desert Island Discs picking ‘Desolation Row’ as both a part of the eight songs he would take with him and the one song he’d risk his life to save. Host Kirsty Young asks: “If the waves did crash on to the shore and washed away the discs and you had to run across the sand to save one of them, which is the one disc you would save?” King quickly replies, “The one disc I would save would be ‘Desolation Row’ by Bob Dylan.”
While many of the other songs selected in the programme are connected with lighthearted moments and seemingly fun times, selecting Bob Dylan’s ‘Desolation Row’ was connected with the troubling relationship he shared with his “sore subject” father. In the interview, he reveals that his father was a “home movie buff” and “wrote short stories he submitted to the men’s magazines,” but that he had only ever seen him “in motion” once in one of the movies and “I’m not even sure it was him,” as such, he says before selecting Dylan’s track “The next record is the place where my father, were he still alive, would probably be living, it’s Bob Dylan’s ‘Desolation Row’”.
It’s clear that Dylan was both the light and dark of Stephen King’s life, so it is fitting that he chooses to include references to the singer-songwriter in so many of his books. Below, we’ve got the full list of Bob Dylan songs mentioned in Stephen King books as well as a perfect playlist to go with it. Perfect background music for reading the latest King novel.
Bob Dylan songs featured in Stephen King books:
- ‘Tombstone Blues’ in Carrie
- ‘It Takes A Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry’ in Duma Key and Finders Keepers
- ‘Just Like A Woman’ in Carrie
- ‘Shelter from the Storm’ in The Stand
- ‘On the Road Again’ – The Dead Zone
- ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ in The Long Walk and End of Watch
- ‘From a Buick 6’ in Christine
- ‘Tangled Up in Blue’ in The Bachman Books
- ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ in The Tommyknockers and Rose Madder
- ‘John Wesley Harding’ in The Dark Half
- ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ in Rose Madder
- ‘Gates of Eden’ in Desperation
- ‘Visions of Johanna’ in Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah
- ‘Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again’ in Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah