Amnesty International is a global organization whose mission is to conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights and demand justice for those whose rights have been violated. Amnesty uses the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as its guide. It is only fitting that such an organization would choose an artist such as Dylan to highlight as Dylan’s music has been a forceful voice for human rights and freedom over much the same span of time.
Here is a young Bobby D with fellow Nonviolent Revolutionary Joan Baez at the March on Washington, August 28th, 1963:
Bob Dylan is probably the most covered solo artist in history. His music has been covered by artists as diverse as Rage Against the Machine, the Grateful Dead and the Jerry Garcia Band, the Ramones, White Stripes, Johnny Cash, Pete Seeger, and the Clancy Brothers. Some of Dylan’s songs were made famous not by Dylan himself, but by other artists. Jimi Hendrix released his version of All Along the Watchtower about six months after Dylan released the original version on the album John Wesley Harding. Hendrix’s adaptation became a top 20 hit and was voted Rolling Stone magazine’s 47th greatest song of all time. Manford Mann’s version of Quinn the Eskimo reached #1o on the U.K. Singles Charts and was a top ten hit in the U.S.. The Byrds’ cover of Mr. Tambourine Man, which topped the Billboard chart in 1965, is credited in part with starting the genre known as folk rock.
Dylan himself has, according Rolling Stone magazine, “remained, along with James Brown, the most influential American musician rock & roll has ever produced.” His passion for civil rights has been expressed most succinctly in his music. His early songs were adopted by many in the civil rights movement. Songs such as The Times They are A’ Changin’, Masters of War, and most famously, Blowin’ in the Wind, could be considered a major part of civil rights and peace activism soundtracks. Sometimes Dylan’s lyrics were powerful appeals for nonviolence. At other times, they were potent calls to action and outraged observations of egregious abuses of power.
Two Presidents of the United States have stated that they were inspired by Maggie’s Farm: Jimmie Carter and Barack Obama. President Carter said, “I grew up as a landowner's son. But I don't think I ever realized the proper interrelationship between the landowner and those who worked on a farm until I heard Dylan's record, ‘I Ain't Gonna Work on Maggie's Farm No More.’ So I come here speaking to you today about your subject with a base for my information founded on Reinhold Niebuhr and Bob Dylan.” The fact that two Nobel Laureate Presidents are inspired by the work of Bob Dylan shows just how influential his music has been to the nonviolent movement.
On December 10, 1977, Amnesty International was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize of its own because, “Amnesty International fights for man's right to freedom of conscience, in other words, to a life in "internal" peace.”
Dylan fans everywhere are stoked that Amnesty International is recognizing Dylan's body of work with the release of this diverse collection of covers by such an amazing array of artists celebrating its 50th anniversary! Artists contributing to the compilation include Ziggy Marley, Sting, Steve Earle, Joan Baez, Sinéad O'Connor, Michael Franti, and Pete Seeger.... all Nonviolent Revolutionaries we hope to one day feature on this blog.
This is an excellent collection of music that funds an incredible organization. If you want to do your part in preserving human rights, purchase it.
Here are few of the videos featuring artists covering Dylan songs on 'Chimes Of Freedom':