Bob Dylan wrote “Blowin’ In The Wind” sometime in late March/early April, 1962. He used the song “No More Auction Block” – a Civil War-era, African-American marching song/spiritual – as his starting point. (Dylan was a big fan of singer/guitarist Odetta, one of the major artists in the American Folk music revival of that time. Odetta had included her rendition of “No More Auction Block” on her 1960 album, Odetta At Carnegie Hall.)
Dylan gave “Blowin’ In The Wind” its first public performance on April 16, 1962, during a hootenanny hosted by folksinger Gil Turner at Gerdes Folk City, a West Village, New York City music venue.
In early May of 1962, Dylan played “Blowin’ In The Wind” during “The Broadside Show” on New York radio station WBAI-FM. Folksingers Pete Seeger, Gil Turner and Sis Cunningham added their voices to his performance.
Broadside was a New York-based Folk music magazine founded in 1962 by the husband-and-wife team of Sis Cunningham and Gordon Friesen. Cunningham did song transcriptions for Broadside and her transcription of Dylan’s radio performance of “Blowin’ In The Wind” was published in the late-May, 1962, issue of the magazine.
On Monday, July 9, 1962, 21 year old Bob Dylan settled into Columbia Records’ Studio A in New York City for the third of the eight recording sessions that it would take to cut the tracks for his second LP. He recorded four songs that day that would eventually be released as part of that 13-song collection: “Bob Dylan’s Blues,” “Blowin’ In The Wind,” “Honey, Just Allow Me One More Chance,” and “Down The Highway.”
For “Blowin’ In The Wind,” Dylan played a steel-string acoustic guitar in standard tuning with a capo placed at the seventh fret. His left hand fingered open-position chords in the key of G major, his right hand picked out a Maybelle-Carter-by-way-of-Woody-Guthrie bass note/strumming pattern and he soloed at the end of each verse on a key-of-D harmonica mounted in his around-the-neck harmonica rack.
Listen for yourself.
On July 30, 1962, Witmark Music, the company that published Bob Dylan’s songs at that time, registered “Blowin’ In The Wind” for copyright.
Bob Dylan’s second album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan was released by Columbia records in May of 1963.
“Blowin’ In The Wind” backed with “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” was released as a single in August of 1963.
“Blowin’ In The Wind” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1994 and posted as #14 on Rolling Stone magazine’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” in 2004.