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Revisiting the End of Bob Dylan’s ‘The Times They Are A-Changin” Sessions

National Archives, Hulton Archive, Getty Images
National Archives, Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Sessions for Bob Dylan‘s third album, The Times They Are A-Changin’, began just a few months after the last tracks for his second LP, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, wrapped up. The tapes began rolling on Aug. 6, 1963, and finished on Oct. 31.

The sessions began with “Boots of Spanish Leather,” “Only a Pawn in Their Game,” “North Country Blues” and “The Ballad of Hollis Brown,” with the final one yielding “Restless Farewell.” During the three-month period, more than 20 songs were recorded, some of which would be held back for future release. Even though the album followed the same guitar-and-vocals path as Dylan’s first two records, a few songs featured the singer-songwriter on piano for the first time.

Classics like the title track and “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” were part of the October sessions, with the former still ranking as one of the ’60’s greatest message songs. It became a rallying cry for the generational divide rolling out across the nation in the early ’60s.

Meanwhile, the record’s final cut would point to a new direction in Dylan’s songwriting. Originally titled “Bob Dylan’s Restless Epitaph,” “Restless Farewell” finds the young artist looking beyond his seemingly instant notoriety. Other songs recorded during the sessions — including “Eternal Circle,” “Paths of Victory,” “Lay Down Your Weary Tune” and “Percy’s Song” — wouldn’t see the light of day until the Biograph and The Bootleg Series compilations years later.

Between the end of the recording sessions until just after the album’s release in January 1964, two of the most significant events of the decade would take place: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the arrival of the Beatles on U.S. soil. The Times They Are A-Changin’ never sounded more relevant.

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