Bob Dylan is an American singer-songwriter who emerged out of the early 60s folk revival to become an informal chronicler and reluctant figurehead of social unrest. He famously made the move from folk music to electric rock in the mid-60s, and has remained a major figure in music for five decades.
As the 1970s began Bob Dylan had got off to a dubious start, with two albums (Self Portrait and New Morning) that received generally negative reviews. They were followed by his 'wilderness years', as he released no albums of new material throughout 1971 and 1972. Two singles were released, and a greatest hits double LP found room for one of these ("Watching The River Flow"), another good new song ("When I Paint My Masterpiece"), and some re-recordings of older songs, but as good as these two songs were no doubt his fans were left wondering if he had simply run out of inspiration (interestingly the lyrics of these two songs actually tackled this situation head-on).
His next career move was a surprising one, as he was invited to write music for Sam Peckinpah's western film Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid. He wrote an excellent ballad about the titular character ("Billy"), and also got to appear in the film himself as the character Alias. A soundtrack album was released, based around different segments of the "Billy" ballad interspersed with instrumental music (mosly low-key acoustic strumming with suitable embellishments).
However a surprise was in store. The soundtrack also featured a new song which for Dylan was notable for its short-and-sweet format, with just two brief verses and a memorable chorus... "Knocking On Heaven's Door" turned out to be an absolutely beautiful recording, and was released as a single. It actually became one of his biggest hits, charting at #12 in the US and #14 in the UK.
He was still very much lost in the wilderness, but somehow one of his best-known songs had emerged from this strange chapter in his career. It would go on to become something of a cliché as it was covered by a myriad of artists over the years.
New Morning (1970) <|> Dylan (1973)
More from Bob Dylan