100 Greatest Bob Dylan Songs

From "Just Like a Woman" to "John Wesley Harding," we count down the American icon's key masterpieces

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32. "Chimes of Freedom" (1964)

The most ambitious song Dylan had written to date – a six-verse masterpiece in which a thunderstorm and its lightning flashes become a beacon that summons outlaws, outcasts, artists and "every hung-up person in the whole wide universe" – reportedly evolved out of a brief poem he'd written about John F. Kennedy's assassination in late 1963. Dylan's gift for internal rhyme and assonance flowered here, as did his knack for phrasemaking: "starry-eyed an' laughing," "midnight's broken toll," "chained an' cheated by pursuit." He first performed it in mid-February 1964, and recorded it that June for Another Side of Bob Dylan (after half a dozen false starts – it's tough to keep that many lines straight). By the end of the year, he'd dropped "Chimes of Freedom" from his set, but other artists picked it up and ran: The Byrds recorded it for their first album in 1965, and Bruce Springsteen made it the title track of a 1988 EP.

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