Bob Dylan’s “Bringing It All Back Home,” 50 years old on Sunday, has as strong a claim as any album of its day to be called the spark that ignited the music of the 1960s. The decade was, of course, almost half over when Columbia Records released it on March 22, 1965. But just as miasmic paranoia about government did not become the general mood until after the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald in November 1963, so lyrics with jagged edges, enigmatic visions of America adrift accompanied by dark, cynical laughter, were not common until Mr. Dylan’s surrealist poetry entered the mainstream of popular song.
One need only listen to the Beatles as the boyishness of “A Hard Day’s Night” gave way to the self-doubt of “Help!” and the inward gazing of ”Rubber Soul” to hear that pop music’s leading composers suddenly grew up between 1964 and 1966. Teen obsessions with love and jealousy were replaced by a deep...
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