"Masters of War" (The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, 1963)
By Lucinda Williams
"Masters of War" is the best anti-war song ever written. It's so honest. That song, for me, set the standard as far as protest songs go. It's a really angry one, and I'm a really angry, outspoken anti-war person. "You that hide behind walls, you that hide behind desks/I just want you to know I can see through your masks" – it's a very effective song.
I still love to perform "Masters of War." I sang it right after 9/11, and I pissed some people off. Everyone was running around waving the flag, and they didn't understand what the song was about. They felt it was an insult. A friend of mine was in the audience at one of the shows, and someone stood up and said, "She shouldn't be doing this song." Then I got a letter from a fan who thought it was anti-American. It really surprised me. We need songs like this. It's the only song I can think of that deals with the guys behind the desk, the military-industrial complex – which we all know is happening. Nothing's changed. It's still the same story, with different names.
"Not Dark Yet" (Time Out of Mind, 1997)
By Marcus Mumford
"I Was Young When I Left Home" is my favorite Dylan song of all time. But of his later stuff, "Not Dark Yet" is the one I really love. It's quite a reflective song about when the shit hits the fan: "It's not dark yet, but it's getting there." He's just the most extraordinary songwriter. You can always recognize the emotions in the lyrics that he writes, but they're never obvious – the feelings are identifiable, but not cliché. And he's got so much stamina as a songwriter. He just keeps going, keeps churning out these amazing songs. That's how you do it, man. If you want someone to be your hero as a musician, I don't think there's anyone better than him.
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