Sing Books with Emily, the Blog

Blowin’ in the Wind, a Singable Picture Book

Posted on: November 14, 2011

“Blowin’ in the Wind” is an exceptionally wonderful Singable Picture Book:

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Blowin’ in the Wind
Words and Music by Bob Dylan
Illustrated by Jon J. Muth

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I like this sing-along instrumental, by the Acoustic Guitar Troubadours:
http://www.amazon.com/Blowin-Wind-Acoustic-Instrumental-Version/dp/B002KYQAOY/ref=sr_1_fkmr1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1320074559&sr=8-1-fkmr1
I like this one because it is nice and low and it is fast, so kids stay engaged and so grown-ups like me can’t delve too sentimentally into the song, but sing in an immediate, matter of fact way.

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Bob Dylan singing his song,

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zY_cM0_6vA

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This is the version I heard most when I was a kid, as sung by Peter Paul & Mary,

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3t4g_1VoGw4

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“No More Auction Block for Me,” sung by Odetta, is the African American Spiritual tune that Bob Dylan used for his song “Blowin’ in the Wind,”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYiVKhbOtcs

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This video includes the audio from Simon Sisters on The World of Folk Music, a radio show of Oscar Brand’s, October 6, 1960.  They sing “Wynken Blynken and Nod” and a french translation of “Blowin’ in the Wind,”:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xdi6h8v62E

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Peter, Paul and Mary sang “Blowin’ in the Wind” on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 26, 1963 during the March on Washington, not long before Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.

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Peter Paul & Mary’s performance of “Blowin’ in the Wind” at the March on Washington in summer of 1963:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9mdxSM19d4

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Bob Dylan’s website:
http://www.bobdylan.com/

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An informative and incredibly long wiki article about Bob Dylan with many details about his incredible life and achievements:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_Dylan

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A terrific wiki article about “Blowin’ in the Wind,” here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blowin’_in_the_Wind

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This article includes interseting facts about the song, including that it listed at #14 on Rolling Stones Magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Click here to read the Rolling Stones item for “Blowin’ in the Wind,”
http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/the-500-greatest-songs-of-all-time-20110407/bob-dylan-blowin-in-the-wind-19691231

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I learned from listening to Ann Hampton Callaway’s patter for “Blowin’ in the Wind” on the album BOOM, which she made with her sister Liz Callaway, that the song was based on an African American Spiritual.  This fact is confirmed in Rolling Stones Magazine, that Bob Dylan used the tune from the spiritual “No More Auction Block for Me” when he wrote the lyrics for “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

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National Institute of Environmental Health Services Kid’s Music Page for “Blowin’ in the Wind” includes a midi player instrumental sing-along:
http://kids.niehs.nih.gov/games/songs/favorites/blowingmid.htm

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I also clearly remember singing this song around the camp fire when “The Unit” (a free-form classroom experiment for 4th, 5th, & 6th grades at Fall Creek Elementary School in Indianapolis) went to camp in the early 80’s. In my memory it was played on guitar by our teacher Renee.

It is a great and timeless song, asking the unanswerable and important questions that are just as potent today as when he wrote the song in the early 60s.  These questions don’t have answers, unfortunately, but what to beautiful way to say that, that the answers are ‘blowin’ in the wind.”

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My thoughts about the book,

The first thing I noticed about the book, sitting there on the shelf, was the beautiful watercolor artwork by Jon J. Muth.  I almost screamed for joy to discover it was a song.  And not just any song, but “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

Jon J. Muth’s paintings are exceptional.  Each picture not only exquisitely illustrates the lyric on the page, but is a work of art in its own right. He has chosen some interesting symbols which carry a theme for the book:  A paper airplane, a red ball, and a red balloon.  All of these are toys, but all can float on air and prove at times to be elusive like the questions asked in the song.  I was glad, also, to remember that 1956 movie, “The Red Balloon.”

In a couple of his books, I’ve noticed his outstanding depiction of Birch trees. Mr. Muth has a way with the tall thin pole-like tree trunks, packed rhythmically in space and the papery peeling white bark backed in brown.

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Martin Scorsese’s documentary “NO DIRECTION HOME” offers some first hand comments from Bob Dylan for how he came to write “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

Dylan says of writing the song,

“I didn’t really know if that song was good or bad.  It felt right.  But i didn’t really know that it had any kind of anthemic quality or anything…I wrote the songs to perform the songs.  And I needed to sing it like that language…which is a language I hadn’t heard before.”

Peter Yarrow, in his introduction to one of the books in the “Peter Yarrow Songbook” series, writes about “The Folk Process” which is basically the process by which singers take folk songs and change them, make them new.  Each artist makes the song his/her own.  “Blowin’ in the Wind” is an example of Bob Dylan participating in the folk process, taking the melody from an existing African American Spiritual and adding his own, new lyric to it.  In the documentary “NO DIRECTION HOME,” Pete Seeger contributes an interesting comment about artists using this process at that time,

“The moment I became acquainted with the old songs, I realized people were always changing them.  Thing o fit as an age-old process that’s been going on for thousands of years.  People take old songs, change ’em a little, add to them, and opt them for new people.  It happens in every other field.  Lawyer change old laws to fit new citizens.  So I’m one in this old chain and one of hundreds of other musicians.”

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BLOWIN’ IN THE WIND
Words and Music by Bob Dylan
Music Adapted from African American Spiritual, “No More Auction Block for Me”

How many roads must a man walk down
Before they call him a man
How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand
How many times must the cannonballs fly
Before they are forever banned
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind
The answer is blowing in the wind

How many years must a mountain exist
Before it is washed to the sea
How many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free
How many times can a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn’t see
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind
The answer is blowing in the wind

How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky
How many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry
How many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind
The answer is blowing in the wind

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Website for Illustrator Jon J. Muth:
http://www.allenspiegelfinearts.com/muth.html

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Jon J.  Muth’s Bio on Scholatic.com:
http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/contributor/jon-j-muth

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Related Posts

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OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF BABES: A LYRIC FROM BLOWIN’ IN THE WIND AND CHILDREN WHO LISTEN

https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2011/12/11/out-of-the-mouths-of-babes-a-lyric-from-blowin-in-the-wind-and-children-who-listen/

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THE SINGABLE PICTURE BOOKS OF BOB DYLAN

https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2011/11/15/the-singable-picture-books-of-bob-dylan/

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Peter Yarrow and “The Folk Process”

https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2009/12/03/the-folk-process/

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Two Books Participating in “The Folk Process”

https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2009/12/04/two-books-participating-in-the-folk-process/

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Peter Yarrow Songbook Series

https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2009/11/30/the-case-for-singing-with-children-from-peter-yarrow/

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MARTIN LUTHER KING, Jr.

A list of SPBs celebrating the life, legacy and January 16 National Holiday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/singable-picture-books-honoring-the-legacy-of-dr-martin-luther-king-jr/

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