It was Nina Simone who introduced me to the music of Bob Dylan. “Just Like a Woman,” “The Ballad of Hollis Brown,” “I Shall Be Released,” “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues.” In fact, it would be many years before I heard Dylan sing his own music; what a difference a cover makes. One of my favorite Simone spins on Dylan is his 1963 song “The Times They Are a Changing.” Simone covered this in 1969 on her “To Love Somebody” album.

This song comes to mind (Nina’s version) in view of President Barack Obama’s Middle East & North Africa speech and meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and AIPAC. The two-state (Palestine/Israel) “solution” entering a new phase within the context of the unknown outcomes of the “Arab spring.” Frustration that change can’t happen fast enough prompting people to lean on old familiar religious, ethnic, and cultural conflicts. Could these be more covers of the same song?

Simone took Dylan’s song in a completely different direction than the original. Dylan provided the poetry; Simone gave it a soul. In the liner notes on the back of the “To Love Somebody” album, Billboard radio and tv editor Claude Hall wrote:

“With another Dylan tune, The Times They Are A-Changing, she [Simone] graphically dramatizes the history of our times. The song emerges as a plea for all mankind, bound to shock, bound to innervate, bound to capture not only your interest but your fire, especially when the funeralistic organ thunders down the hallway of your mind.”

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled

There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’.
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin’.
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin’.
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’.