Americana: 'The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan'

The work: "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan"

Why it matters: Bob Dylan's second album, released May 27, 1963, changed the nature of American popular music. It introduced protest songs, including "Blowin' in the Wind," "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall" and "Masters of War," to the mainstream. A political force, it galvanized the Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam War movements. Because Top 40 radio initially wouldn't play it, it helped inspire the rise of "alternative" radio stations, which aided the careers of many other cutting-edge artists of the era, such as The Byrds, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead and Mothers of Invention. Dylan's unadorned, unconventional singing voice changed forever the notion of what good pop singing can be, emphasizing honesty and passion over style. That philosophy influenced many artists, most notably Jimi Hendrix, who felt liberated to be a songwriter and a singer, in addition to being a guitarist, after falling under the spell of this album. More than anything else, the disc established Dylan as "the voice of a generation."

Where you can hear it: "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan" has remained in the Columbia Records catalog since it was released almost 40 years ago. It is available on vinyl, cassette tape and CD (with digitally-remastered sound).

On the Web: Details on the album, its complete song lyrics and music samples are available at