Bob Dylan Was Going to Quit Music But Then Wrote One of His Biggest Hits


It didn’t take long for Bob Dylan to become a star, but it required a few very whirlwind and unprecedented years for the folk-rock icon to actually feel like he was doing something worthwhile and in control of his life and career. And if it weren’t for one rambling writing session and an experiment at the piano that led to his generation-defining hit “Like a Rolling Stone,” Dylan may have wound up as a blip in music history instead of one of the most influential and enigmatic artists of all-time.

Dylan felt ‘drained’ from his music

Dylan had just celebrated his 22nd birthday when his second album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, hit record stores. The record, a historic achievement in many ways, propelled Dylan on from the folk clubs of Greenwich Village toward national recognition. It also established a new kind of politically charged, rock-infused folk song. More success followed, with another big studio album, a prominent place in the civil rights movement and even a tour of England that made him a star in Europe.

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Still, Dylan wasn’t feeling fulfilled. He argued with Ed Sullivan and blew off the biggest talk show in the United States, got criticism (and accusations of smoking dope) for mouthing off during performances and felt alienated from the folk and political scenes that had been so central to his identity. Even with a slew of iconic hits already under his belt — including “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times They Are a-Changin’” and “Subterranean Homesick Blues” — he wasn’t even sure that he wanted to stay on his ever-rising trajectory.

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